One year ago today, my family gathered in a waiting room at St Paul's Hospital while my sister lay on a gurney in OR. She was nervous, nauseated, and blinking back tears of fear, waiting for the anaesthesiologist to put her to sleep.
Dr Gourlay spent the next three hours removing her left kidney, while my husband was being prepped for surgery. We stood in a tight little knot - my mother, my sister's husband, my husband's parents, brother and sister - and watched the swinging door until the surgeon came through with the anaesthesiologist and the two surgical interns to tell us that Gwen's surgery was successful and they could proceed with the next step.
I said goodbye to my husband, and he went through those same doors, pale and shaking. We waited another three hours until beautiful, wonderful, celestial Dr Gourlay came through again to tell us that all was well - not only was Mr HalfSoledBoots successfully slashed, repaired, and closed back up, but the transplanted kidney had started working before he was even awake.
I spent the next seven days in an agony of sympathy as my husband recovered rapidly, hardly used his morphine, and regained colour he had been slowly losing for years as PKD ravaged his body - meanwhile my sister, two rooms down, suffered terrible pain and shock in the aftermath of surgery, as her body struggled to overcome the trauma of losing an organ.
I've been emotional lately. I've had lots of unexplainable and staggeringly uncharacteristic crying episodes, various aches and pains, and the complexion of a 16 year old pizza delivery boy. It was only yesterday that I realized why these things are happening...it's the anniversary of some of my darkest days. I have come back around to that place on the spiral of my life when I feared the worst for both my husband and my sister. I didn't know who to pull for - I remember making a joke to the surgeon at one point: "we've discussed it, and if you only have enough bandaids for one person, save Gwen."
Within ten days of the surgery, Mr HSBoots was at 65% function. Within a few months, Gwen was over 90%...her remaining kidney had increased its function to compensate for the missing one. Now, at one year, everyone is healthy, everyone is happy, and my life has changed in ways I never imagined it would. It came on so slowly that I didn't realize how sick he was until he wasn't anymore.
We changed our will so that if the children are not in a position to benefit from our estate when we die, Gwen gets everything. We bought her quite a few thank-you presents, paid her travel and accommodation expenses, bought her some spa treatments before the transplant, and at Christmas she made out like a bandit. And yet? we'll never do enough for her. There's no thanking a person for this gift.
Gwen, you changed everything. Along with your kidney you gave my children back their father, you gave me back my husband, you gave Sandra and David back their son.
God bless you.