Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith first.
— John Kabat-Zinn
You know that moment? That moment you realize that your life is going to change? Has to change? WILL change? One caveat, however, you don’t get to decide when it will happen – it will just happen. This is what it’s like waiting for a transplant. What follows is the story of my moment. Well, the day, actually. The day I got, what us transplantees term, THE CALL.
The day started off rather unremarkably….
I was at home in Victoria sitting at our dining room table not long after I woke up. (Cough. It was around 10AM …. A 10-12 hour sleep was normal, even with Vlad, I was still very sick…) I was having a cup of tea while on a Skype call when my cell phone rang.
I debated for a second whether or not to answer my cell phone. I was on a Skype call with a working group from the hospital who are looking into improving their patient referral process at the pacemaker/device clinic. (Yes, I know. I know. This is what I do on ‘Medical Leave’… committee work… #AcademicsNeverQuit) I saw by the number, however, that it is St. Paul’s.
Weird. I just talked to Jen. I’d better answer this, I thought while muting my Skype.
Hello? I answer.
Hi Jill It’s Jen. The voice on the other line said (Jen is my VAD nurse).
Oh, Hi again Jen. I’m on Skype with that working group.
Yes…. I think you want to take this call Jill. She replies.
One sec…. Let me get off I think you are more important. I say.
Uh. Yes… We might have a heart for you! She says with both caution and excitement.
What? WHAT? OK… My mind goes blank for a second. Then I focus on the only thing I can – getting off of Skype with the working group, naturally. #OhDear
I ask Jen to hang on then turn my Mic back on and interrupt the discussion going on…
Uh… Hey everyone. It’s Jillianne. I have to go. It’s my nurse on the other line. They might have a heart for me!
The team on the other end of the Skype call collectively inhale shocked breaths and exclamations. OK. You go! The moderator says. Congratulations! Not sure if they said anything else. I had hung up by then.
Hi Jen. I’m back. OK… So… what do I do?
Jen replies, Well we THINK we have a match but we are brining you in as a back up to someone else. We have an offer of a heart and we always bring in two people. The other person is a more difficult match so they are first priority. So this may be a dry run. I just want to prepare you.
I could tell she was worried I would get over excited.
No worries, Jen. If this is a dry run then I will know what to do next time. I respond.
How fast do you think you can get here? She asks.
We continue to go over some details about how I am to get from Victoria to Vancouver. Float plane, helicopter, ferry… Jen did her homework. She was listing off flight details.
OK. Wow! This is amazing! OK. OK. Breathe, Jill, breathe. I think
I will book the next available flight and let you know when I will arrive. I say to Jen, then I hang up. I immediately call Nick.
LOL. All business. You wouldn’t know I was freaking out inside except for my #CrazyEyes. Oscar worthy, I would say!
In true Victoria fashion there were NO FLIGHTS taking off on October 7th because of FOG. Yay Fall! They hadn’t cancelled the remaining flights but the attendant didn’t sound hopeful since it was already almost mid-day and no flights had left. So I called Helijet and their next available flight wasn’t until 1:45PM.
I called Jen back.
There are no flights leaving from Harbour Air but there is one at 1:45 on Helijet. They have been flying. I say.
So the 1:45 will get you to the hospital around… 3PM? Jen asks.
Yes that sounds about right. I reply.
OK. We can work with that. What if Helijet doesn’t fly? The ferry then? Jen asks.
Thats the last option, yes. The next ferry leaves at 1PM. I would get there probably closer to 3:30PM. I say, panic starting to set in
So, which one are you going to try? Jen asks.
Helijet. I reply.
So I got off the line and booked with Helijet. HeliJet said they were sure they were going to fly – they had been flying all morning. I told them my situation and said I HAD to get to Vancouver so if there was ANY chance that they weren’t going to fly I needed to know. They reassured me they were flying. So, I was booked!
What happened next? I called Jen back and confirmed. Then I called Nick back and had a small teary freakout on the phone. LMAO. Seriously. Can’t be all business all the time.
Then I called my parents. Told them to be ready. Just in case.
Then I called my Victoria girls.
I had to leave messages with a couple of them. So… there is audio evidence of my roller coaster of emotions on a voicemail somewhere.
I called my #BFF Tanya. She insisted on dropping everything to come and get me. She would not take NO for an answer. She arrived about 15 minutes later. We had about 2 hours before I had to go to Helijet so she kicked me upstairs and told me to go shower. Then she cleaned my kitchen, took out my garbage, cleaned my cat litter… basically did everything for me. Tanya is. The. Best. Ever.
I was so flustered I didn’t even bother packing a bag. I just grabbed my backpack, my meds, Vlad’s accoutrement and we got in her car and drove to HeliJet.
My stomach was flipping like crazy. I just kept telling myself.. This is probably just a dry run. Relax.
Here’s us at the HeliJet terminal. #Wrecked
I said goodbye to Tanya and hugged her like there would be no tomorrow. That was REALLY hard to do.
I walked out onto the tarmac where the helicopter was along with the other passengers. The other passengers were all dressed in business suits – like they all worked for IBM or something…. then there was me in my most fashionable yoga gear. #Classy
I told the pilot to fly safe because I was going for a heart transplant. I got a look of surprise from the pilot and more than a few of the other passengers.
Really? The pilot said. That’s Awesome! Haven’t had one of those before! I climbed up into the helicopter releived that I was actually on my way.
That was the longest 35 minute flight of my life.
It was, however, beautiful. I could go all poetic on you and explicate about the softness of the clouds as we rose above them and how it was matched only by the intensity of the sun on the backdrop of a vibrant blue sky. But it was really like everything was more intense, more detailed, more surreal. Like the gold monogrammed initials on the cuff of the guy’s shirt sitting next to me. Who does that? #RichPeopleThatsWho
We landed at the HeliJet terminal on the east side of Canada Place, right on the harbour. The last time I landed there was back in March when I was lifted by Air Ambulance from the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria to Vancouver for my LVAD. This time I was giving Vlad back to his maker and receiving an even more precious gift (I will not say more about my feelings about this just yet as I need to figure them out and make sense of them before I can even begin to articulate their meaning in words).
As I stepped out of the helicopter onto the tarmac in Vancouver there HE was. My Nick – ready, with a cab waiting and all my extra parts for Vlad I had in Vancouver. I immediately felt more relaxed. I always feel safer and stronger when Nick is close. I know I was still nervous as hell but I could handle it. Nick was with me.
In the cab, I talked his head off the whole way to St. Paul’s Hospital. Good thing it was only a 10 minute drive. LOL. #ChattyKathy
Nick was, ofcourse, capturing all of this on video… so, yes, there is video evidence of my insanity sitting on his hard drive waiting to be edited.
At 3PM exactly we arrived at St. Paul’s Hospital and made our way up to Ward 5A. 5A is the Cardiac Medicine ward where most of the patients are like me – in heart failure… There are ALOT of us.
Currently 1% of the Canadian population are in heart failure although not all are diagnosed – Around 100,000 of those are living in BC alone with as many as twice that undiagnosed. Most diagnoses occur as a result of an ER visit OR… in my case SEVERAL ER visits… #sigh (http://globalnews.ca/video/1559596/urgent-call-to-approve-heart-failure-drug)
</End Education Break>
Most of the nurses on 5A all know me..it’s my hangout, my “Cheers”. It’s almost like they scream “NORM!” when I walk in. Yes. I am that much of a fixture on that floor.
They ushered me into the Patient Lounge which they closed for the occasion and setup a bed. Nothing but the best for a regular customer #MembershipHasItsPrivledges
The Charge Nurse came in and explained how the night was going to go. She explained that they were going to prep me as if I was going to have my transplant even if the heart ended up going to the first listed patient. So… a couple of hours pass following a scrub-down, gown change, nail polish removal (because, you know, I didn’t have time at home #PanicButton), and several blood vials later…
My doctor, My Mad Hatter, came in with nurses in tow.
“The heart is yours!” He exclaimed.
I could tell he was trying to hide his excitement. I jumped up and hugged him. What he said after that was a bit of a blur. Something about them taking me into surgery around midnight, meeting with the anesthesiologist, do I have any questions….? Uh… I should probably ask Nick to fill in the rest. What I do recall was that a short time after My Mad Hatter left with his entourage, I turned to Nick and said…
“They are going to take out my heart!”
You know that moment. That moment when you realize that your life is going to change, WILL change? They say things like that happen when you least expect it, they happen in the blink of an eye.. at the stroke of midnight… But what if you KNEW it was going to happen at a particular time and place. It’s an unimaginable thing to wrap your brain around – never mind your emotions. To top it all off, you have to place your life completely in someone else’s hands – figuratively and literally. A leap of faith is putting it mildly.
So, how did I feel upon learning that I was to get a new heart in a few short hours?
I was, and still am, Thuderstruck.