It was my cell phone.
And it was Karen.
My parents didn't know that. They just watched my face.
"Emily, hi, it's Karen."
"Hi." I knew what she was going to say. There was no other reason for her to call at 8:45 on a Sunday night.
"I think we have a pair of lungs for you."
I don't know what my face did, but I think I tried to keep it blank. Or at least calm, given that everyone was looking at me.
"OK." (my vocabulary was astoundingly, um, limited)
"We don't have them here yet. Dr. Galantowicz went to go harvest them, so we're not sure. They're from out-of-state. I'll call you back in a bit and let you know when to come down, since you live so close, OK?"
"Don't eat or drink anything else. Keep your phone close. I'll call you back."
We hung up and I just sat there, staring at the small electronic device that had just given me the best news of my life. The news that would save my life.
Everyone was still looking at me. I looked up. "Um...we've got organs, kids."
My whole family was in the room. I don't remember what they did, but I think one of parents asked, "Um, what ? Now?"
"Not now. They're in Minnesota. They're going to look at them."
"But they're for you?"
"Yeah. They match."
"Well what are we supposed to do ?"
"Nothing. Karen's going to call back. It's not totally definite yet until Dr. G looks at them."
Then people started to move. my parents went upstairs to start packing a bag. I went to the piano and Mel and I began to sing hymns or silly songs, loudly. I don't remember what Bryan did. We sang for awhile, including, bizzarely, "The Bear Went Over The Mountain." (don't ask. Really.)
Karen called again around 11. "Things are going slowly," she said. "Just hang tight. I'll call you again when I know more."
We said a rosary after that, the room dark, illumniated by a few lamps. My brother watched a sports highlight tape. I went upstairs to try to pack a bag, not sure what to bring. Something's Got to Give was in my DVD player, and I watched Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson stumbled around her Hamptons house in a thunderstorm before I gave up on TV. I was too keyed up.
I threw some random things in a bag, and then we just had to wait. And wait. Until Karen called back around 12:45 a.m.
"OK, you can come down now. Head to the Emergency Department and we'll go from there."
"WE're going, people!" I shouted, as everyone headed for the car. It was so strange, all of us piled in my mom's Civic, Dad driving, at this hour on a Sunday night. Obviously no one was going to work the next day. I-70 was totally clear of traffic, and it was a gorgeous night. I held tightly to the doorjam and stared at the sky.
We got into the loop by the ER entrance, and as I got out the car, my father kept driving, running over my foot in the process and catching it at a bizarre angle. "Um, stop!" I said, as Dad realized what he was doing.
"Are you OK? The last thing we need is a broken foot," my mom said, scolding Dad.
"We're good." I grabbed my bag and headed for the desk.
"Hi, I'm Emily DeArdo, my doctor should have called down," I said as I came in, as I have so many times before.
The nurse sorted through the papers. "What are you here for?"
I closed my eyes briefly and laughed. "Um, I'm the lung transplant..."
Her eyes went wide. "Oh! You're the girl! OK!" She found the paper and hustled me into a room in the ER, where my vitals and weight were taken and other preliminaries were done. You want to get through the ER quickly? Get a transplant.
Transport took me up to 4AE, the last time I would be on this floor, since after transplant we always went to the Heart Center/ Post-TX floor to avoid the CF germs on 4AE. This would also be the last time I'd had the nursing staff that had taken care of me for the past 12 years.
The floor was silent, as befit the hour, and the only light came from the nurse's desk. As I came up, no one was quite sure what to do with me, since I was the first tx. They didn't have to give me anything, I was already accessed, thanks to the port, so I was shown to a room. I should've showered. If you are ever on a tx list, SHOWER before the surgery. Really. It'll be a loooong time before you can shower properly again.
I thought I would be on pins and needles, and in fact had warned Karen and Dr. G that I would be. But I was amazingly calm. I even managed to sleep a bit. Bryan and Mel sacked out in the multi-purpose room which was next door.
Karen popped in a few times, telling us what was going on. There were several delays on the Minnesota end, so the time for pre-op kept getting pushed back. Fr. Mark came up, heard my confession and prayed with us. I slept some more. Finally, at 6:45, transport and Karen came to take me and my parents down to pre-op. I said good-bye to Mel and Bryan and down we went.
I'd been in pre-op before, and I wasn't the only one; there was a little boy, dressed in the yellow flannels appropriate for his age, watching TV. I was blind by this point, since my glasses were gone, but it was OK. We didn't talk much. I had, while waiting at home, written out instructions for a funeral and letters to almost everyone I knew, just in case. I told my parents where they were. When facing a long surgery, it seemed like a good idea, and you never know. I've always been a pragmatic sort.
At 7:00, Karen came in and I was taken away...and I don't remember another thing until I woke up in the CICU two or three days later.
How the Left organizes and operates
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