A typical Thursday afternoon. It was fairly nothing weather, not raining but not sunny. I had managed to haul myself out of bed and away from the computer in time for my friend’s arrival. We sat and chatted, watched rubbish on TV and she cooked lunch whilst I rested. Whilst discussing the politics and moral dilemmas featured in the highly thrilling daytime soap doctors, we were rudely interrupted by my phone going. Dutifully my friend lept up to retrieve said phone and raced it to me. My heart skipped a beat, Harefield’s number was flashing up. “Hello Emily? Where about are you?” I confirmed I was at home and with someone, whilst inside desperately wanting to demand to know what she wanted. “We may have some organs for you.”
In true Emily style I promptly burst into tears and was able to say anything vaguely useful or coherent to a)the somewhat confused coordinator and b)my increasingly alarmed friend. I managed to babble that I would leave as soon as possible and hung up, wailing instructions at my friend to phone A at work and tell him Harefield had rung. I phoned my mother, who panicked and turned to my sister asking if she should drive. Bewildered my sister confirmed this would indeed be a sensible thing to do right now and they set off in the direction of my house.
I had regained some calm at this point and an excited energy was filling me. My friend and I raced round the flat (as fast as tubing and lungs would allow) gathering together essentials, filling the oxygen cylinder and putting them by the door. As we paused for breath the phone rang again. The minute I saw Harefield’s number I knew it was bad news, they don’t ring twice. The coordinator confirmed my suspicions the minute I picked up; the donor family had changed their mind and withdrawn consent. The wall I was staring at became blurry as I swallowed hard and tried to accept this news like an adult but I was absolutely devastated, this chance had been taken away before it even began. I mustered up a few words of thanks to the coordinator and sat down in tears. At that moment my mother arrived, so I quickly explained the bad news through my now somewhat noisy sobs. She was brilliant as always, took it all in her stride and whilst hugging me tightly gently reminded me that somewhere someone was going through the greatest torture imaginable having just lost their loved one. Once I had calmed down we phoned Harefield back just to go over what had just happened. I asked if there was any chance the family might change their mind again and the coordinator said it was highly unlikely, and anyway the retrieval team only had until 5 to get the lungs.
As we sat in a daze, reflecting on what had just happened, my dad and Abby arrived and A confirmed he was leaving work anyway and would be home shortly. Frustration building, I disappeared into my pink sanctuary (also known as the bedroom, A really is a patient man allowing me to pick the paint colours) and sat and blogged my vexations. Having done so and feeling slightly better I rejoined my family in the lounge, where my mother suggested we go shopping as we now had a full cylinder of oxygen plus wheelchair just waiting to be used. I voted against the suggestion because it was still only 4pm and I couldn’t bear to leave the house till after 5; even though the coordinator had said there was virtually no chance I just felt it would be tempting fate.
At approximately 4.30pm the phone rang again. “Emily are you sitting down”. Untruthfully I said I was even though the minute I had seen the number on the screen I had leapt onto my feet and started pacing around by the fireplace. “The family have changed their mind, the retrieval is going ahead and we need you to get here as soon as possible”. This time I was calmer and managed to finish the conversation in a normal manner before heading straight for the door.
As we drove down the motorway I began to feel waves of anxiety rising, the adrenalin causing my heart to thump wildly and my oxygen was as high as I dared have it without risk of it running out before we got there. I demanded my mum and Lucy talk about something to try and distract me so inexplicably a long debate about past holidays – where we had been and what year – started, and we relayed fond memories of frolicking on the beach under blue skies and sunshine. We reached Harefield in good time and quickly settled on the ward, joined by my dad Abby and A some minutes later. Back on high flow oxygen with no danger of it running out I was much calmer and we sat and chatted whilst bloods and temperature were taken. I showered in surgical scrub (which was pink woohoo!) and donned a highly attractive pair of paper knickers and a hospital gown. On return to the room I was greeted by the surgeon who was reading my results. He explained my temperature and white cell count were both slightly elevated so he was waiting for my CRP (inflammation markers) result to come back before deciding if I was well enough for the operation. The minutes dragged on, we all sat and attempted to chat normally but I am fairly sure everyone’s attention was focused towards the door. The surgeon returned confirming I had a CRP of 16. This was a stonkingly low result for me (they were dancing around 100 the last time I got a call) which I explained pleadingly. After a few minutes contemplation he spoke “I think we should go ahead”. Suddenly I realised what he meant, the organs had been checked, they were ok, this was actually going to happen.
I had half an hour to prepare myself before going down to theatre and spent the time with my mobile glued to my hand, phoning a few people, speaking to various relatives, and texting one or two others. Wrist bands were attached, rings removed and consent papers brought in to be signed. I also realised at this point I had never legally verified my will, so scribbled down my parents as executors and got two nurses to counter sign it as witnesses. In what seemed like no time at all the trolley appeared at the door and I was on my way to theatre. I parted from my family with as purposefully loud and confident “see you later” as I could muster, before I was taken through the double doors and into the operating theatre.
To be continued.