“I’d say you’re going to need a third transplant.”
…a third transplant?
A THIRD transplant?
A. THIRD. TRANSPLANT.
I’d like to say I sat shocked, stunned. That I was silenced.
But the truth is we’d been circling around sentences like this for weeks.
When this sentence came along, now back in June this year, my kidney function had deteriorated so much that our thinking and wondering about the end was already here. The end was literally and metaphorically hovering in front of us, all around us, taking up the air. It was here in the influx of medical appointments. In the increased hospital time. In the new treatments and what were the final, hopeful efforts to retain what kidney function I did have left. It was here in all the days when I would wake foggy, my head throbbing and my body unable to keep anything down.
So it was already here, waiting for us, for our acknowledgment. One day someone had to speak of it.
It was good it happened the way it did.
It was one of my oldest, closest friends – my former nephrologist – who got me through it all the first time around. He looked at me grim but smiling. He plucked those three words that were hovering, right out of the air.
In speaking of it, confronting it, he made me realise I must somehow confront it too.
That we must confront it.
This is all happened almost six months ago now. My kidney function – my second transplant – failed in June. Since then, I have been back on dialysis.
According to theories of grief and mourning, acknowledgment of loss is precipitated by acceptance. Recognition of what is gone or left behind overcomes the pull and power of denial to bring a certain relief. Slowly, the capacity to confront one’s new reality comes too. In doing this, in confronting what may seem impossible, we supposedly adapt. We integrate our loss into what life has meanwhile become.
To the untouched parts of my mind – still in-tact after twenty-three years of kidney failure, dialysis, transplant, dialysis, transplant and now dialysis all over again – this seems simple enough.
But in reality, where we are on this classic cycle of mourning and grief and loss and recovery remains a mystery.
There are so many unknowns. One in particular.
How can I be back on dialysis, after just three years — and when my donor and I were, we know, a perfect immunological match?
How can I be back on dialysis, when I always said it would be “never again”?
How can I be back on dialysis?
We don’t yet know if I will be able to receive that third transplant. Those three words certainly still haunt me. But, as challenging as they are, maybe they offer hope. Although just one part of my life and my days – a life that I still and will always believe is far luckier than not – they tell me why I am here.