Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No Greater Love

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.


Jo said...

She sounds absolutely wonderful - and your post made me weep :)

chris said...

What an amazing story of Love. Thanks for sharing that - not a dry eye in this house!

Sandy said...

I remember...oh how I remember this day. The agony of waiting, and then waiting some more; the pain of watching all of you and knowing I could nothing BUT watch...and pray; the blinding, fierce joy of realizing that everyone was going to make it, and be well again. All week I've been thinking about last year, and how surreal it all was - how slow, dreamlike and ponderous, and yet so frantic, flurried and wild. I wish I could be there and give you a big squeeze. Love you

Kate said...

Oh Shan. You leave me speechless. Celebrate fiercely.

Gwen said...

Thanks, Shan.

lizbon said...

"There's no thanking a person for this gift."

- Touching does not even begin to describe this post, or the story behind it.

Karen said...

A full round of hugs to all. So many of us were emotionally involved with this whole amazing miracle - altho the Knitting ones of us - were certainly removed(physically and well.. we're not family!)... and yet it still felt like it was happening to one our own - and so it ALL mattered a lot.I have still kept your e-mails from that torturous scary and ultimately wonderful time and fell estatic that all of you came through with flying colours - and now 1 year later - it is a celebration of life for all.Is it raining? where is all that water coming from - oh! it's me!! Cheers
Have a wonderful celebration time together.

amanda said...

Thanks for sharing, you are lucky to have such a wonderful sister.

Jenny said...

Okay, I thought Gwen's post brought me to tears...this one brought me to sobbing tears!
Thanks for sharing this lovely tribute!!!

Sue H said...

How wonderful that someone close to you was a match. I can fully understand what you must have been going through at that time, and how the anniversary will bring it all back. Thankfully it was a successful and happy result.
For me, today (31st May) is the anniversary of my baby brothers death. 20 years ago, when he was just 20.
My cousin's husband died several years ago from complications of PKD. They didn't even know he had it. Their son has been diagnosed with it......15 at the time, he's 19 now. So far, all is well. He takes medication to keep his blood pressure down, but he has 8 cysts in one kidney and 5 in the other.

KingJaymz said...

Some experiences in life go beyond words and articulatable emotions. What a tough thing to have to remember (I can understand the stress and other emotions that accompany that), but what a blessing it turned out to be.

MiShun said...

Shan that was truly beautiful. Nice seeing you by the way. I hope your trip home was good.