Hi there! Long time no type. Let me reintroduce myself. My name is Greg and I am a heart transplant recipient. (In unison: “Hi, Greg.”) Sorry about that. I wrote this and forgot to post it. Oops.
The thing is, and it is no excuse really, but the backside of this transplant has not really been newsworthy. And I like it like that! Remember, boring is good. I feel that there was so much to talk about when I was in the hospital because there was so much happening on a daily basis. I know that I have mentioned this before recently and I apologize for being redundant but it is true. For me to type the trials and tribulations of what socks to wear with which outfit, or admitting my lack of fashion sense when it comes to figuring out what color shirt looks best with dark jeans or a particular sport coat, just isn’t exciting for me, let alone for you, and this is MY life. Scoop of chocolate, scoop of vanilla…I’m not going to waste your time.
To sum up the last few weeks, my recovery is still going strong. It is crazy to watch myself type the fact that my recovery is still ongoing but it is. I am a couple of weeks shy of six months removed from transplant and I am using the word recovery. Through sports, or life in general, I have accumulated many an injury. We all have. However, typically the injury heals within a certain timeframe. Be it a cut, a fracture, a muscle strain, a tweaked back, whatever; it heals relatively quickly. This is beyond my comprehension at this point though. My incisions are healed over and mentally I should be good to go now, right? Wrong. Of course wrong or you wouldn’t be reading this, silly. I will get the elephant out of the room by saying that I have not been admitted to the hospital in over a month so that’s always a plus. My last biopsy result continued the string of “0”s solidifying the fact that there has been no signs of infection or rejection.
Even still, I have not recovered just yet. My issues continue to be inside my body at this point. Nothing too serious, or at least not serious enough to be admitted (knock on wood), but enough to necessitate continual follow ups at Tufts. I am really thankful that I live so close. The ability to take the train, or drive, and be at the hospital within 30 minutes is so much better than driving two, three, or four hours…one way. Without boring you too much, I have routinely been getting blood draws on a weekly basis to monitor my white blood cell count (still) as well as my kidney and liver functions. Some weeks one level is higher, the next something else is too low. As a result we have just been adjusting my medications and dosages, a little tweak here and a stoppage or an addition of a new med there. Again, nothing too serious but enough to keep face time with my transplant nurses and become buddies with those in the blood draw department. New friends – yay!
Yet through all of the needles and gauze that seem to be attached to my arms lately, I have begun to move on to the next phase in this journey. How you ask? Well, let me tell you. In the past I have briefly noted my desire to help my brother coach two of his sons on the ice at their hockey practices. I can happily say that I have jumped (figuratively) from behind the glass in the stands onto the ice. It has been a long time since I have been on ice in this capacity but it feels oh so good. Minus the fact that my skates haven’t been sharpened in 20 years, my body has transitioned seamlessly. The ice has always been my sanctuary. Whether I was nine years old, in high school, or today. Once I step out onto the ice, every thing goes away. My troubles, my worries, even my aches seem to disappear. I cannot describe why but I can only imagine it is the same feeling that an artist gets when walking onto a stage or a football player feels crossing the sideline. I become one with the ice and nets. The smell of the rink, the locker rooms, my equipment, the ice, it encapsulates all that is good in my mind. Nothing else in the world matters to me at that point. For me to be able to share this emotion with my brother again, and now my nephews, is a direct result of that wonderful gift that I received from the donor family six months ago.
I’m not sure if it is the drugs, the time away, or what, but I am also beginning to get the itch to return to work, to volunteer, to do something, to be more active. This is where uncertainty resides. I’m not sure if I am cleared to go back to work because my blood levels and medications are not yet stable, or if I have the mental or physical stamina to work every day. Man, does that second half of the sentence sound bizarre to me. And I’m not sure if I can be around people consistently with my white cell count so low. Would this just be an invitation for a virus to infect me? I would imagine that all of these scenarios are a possibility as is the possibility of working again. There are so many unknowns that it can be frustrating.
These unknowns are the reasons why I am such an advocate for “traditional” injuries. Give me a cut, a break, a pull, anything physical. With these I know there will be pain but with a simple stitch, a staple, or some dirt thrown on there, the pain will subside and I will move on. These intangible transgressions are throwing me for a loop. But at the end of the day, I cannot do anything about them other than live my life accordingly. Sometimes that means having the will power to not eat that last sodium enriched delicacy. Sometimes it means drinking more water over the course of a week than a fish. Control the controllables. I can follow the guidance of my nurses and doctors but, ultimately, it is my body, that is unlike any other body, that will do what it wants and how it wants.
This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of my admittance to Tufts Medical Center and the transplant journey that Andrea and I took on head first. It has been a long adventure with many ups and downs along the way. Over the course of the year, I have rekindled old friendships and I have made new friends. I have experienced good and bad things that I could never imagine before. I have missed holidays and other significant dates on the calendar. I have experienced things that I can only shake my head at and chuckle. Strangely, I don’t think that I would change any of it though. Everything happens for a reason. Each day that passed by while I was in the hospital made me stronger. It made me look at the world differently. It made me appreciate even the smallest of gestures. It made me realize that there really is good in the world. It may take a few layers of the onion to be peeled back but it is there. People are good. People want to be good. People have every intention of acting on wanting to be good. Some days it works; some days are better than others; but some days the dragon wins. Regardless, wake up, get your ass out of bed, and do good.
With this all said, Andrea and I have decided that after one year this is an appropriate time to bring this blog to a close. We have shared our thoughts, emotions and actions with you for the last year in this space. However, as Chuckie Miller said to Cindy Mancini in Can’t Buy Me Love, “You think you shut me up?” Oh no, my friends, you do not get away that easily. I will continue to blog how I am doing mentally, physically and let you know what craziness I am up to in a new space. As far as I know about the internet (insert joke here), this blog will always be here to serve as a reference of what we (Andrea, me, you and everyone else) underwent. It’s stories, your reactions, the song parodies, the raw emotions that have been shared will forever be archived in this space. A life altering event like this will never and could never just disappear from anyone’s minds. Obviously, Andrea and I will forever be connected as the main players in this little saga but, hopefully, this chronicle will not be soon forgotten in your minds either. And if along the way we were able to convince just one person to become an organ donor through our fairytale (haha) here, than it has made all the difference to us. I have no magic words to help bring this blog to a conclusion but I hope to have a better ending than Seinfeld. We want to say thank you for spending your precious time with us along the way, for allowing Andrea and I to come into your lives, to hopefully demonstrate just how precious life can be, and to hopefully promote organ donation without doing so in an overbearing way. I will not say good-bye for I will turn the page to a new blog, new adventures, new troubles (good and bad), and I hope that you will accompany me along the way. So until we meet again, please raise your glass – to good health. Cheers! Sláinte! L’chaim! Salute! Salud! Cin cin! Santé!