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“Answer it, damn you Josh Kendal, answer already!” Lauren pressed ‘end call’ repeatedly on her mobile, just as the voicemail was about to start playing on the other side of the line. “Where the hell are you when I need you?!” She hit the redial button, knowing deep in her heart there would be no reply. “You will need to arrive with another person, preferably a family member, once you receive the call,” instructed the nurse during the patient briefing session, in what seemed now a lifetime ago. Josh was there with her. “I trust Doctor Zander already explained all that is involved in a heart transplant procedure; the need for you to arrive as soon as you get the call, the types of procedures: orthotopic and heterotopic, the possible complications, recovery time and prognosis. Do you have any questions?” “Yes, will my husband be allowed in the recovery room?” Lauren pressed Josh’s hand. He pressed it back twice in silent communication, signaling assurance. It was part of an intimate language they developed in their earlier years of marriage. “It was when,” Lauren contemplated, “he still loved me. Or did he really ever love me?” This question lingered in her mind for the past twenty years of their marriage. “Your husband, or another family member that will escort you, will be allowed in, once we see you are starting to recuperate,” answered the nurse. Lauren could wait no longer. The instructions were very clear about the need to come to the hospital promptly, as the donor heart would not last long. “If Josh isn’t here for me, there is always Jane.” Despite their rocky relationship, Jane, her older sister, was always there when Lauren needed her. Good old reliable Jane, her only close kin living around, after Lauren’s daughter got married and moved to the West Coast. “I’ll come pick you in twenty minutes. Be ready,” said Jane in a somewhat sleepy voice. After all, it was two past midnight. Lauren knew Josh didn’t really love her; that this marriage, at least in his mind, had run its course a long while back. She also knew he was cheating on her, and not just once. “God knows,” she thought, “he may be with one of his sluts right now.” Right now, right now when she is finally about to receive a gift that will change her life. After two years on the waiting list, and with time running out, finally a new heart. Well, not exactly new – slightly used, but definitely in better shape than her current one. “You’ve missed the birth of your only child, you’ve nearly missed her wedding, and now you are about to miss your wife’s heart transplant. Bastard.” One more redial. This time she waited for the voicemail announcement -- “This is Josh, you know what to do. Beep.” Lauren held herself back from opening with a string of curses. “If I don’t survive this, I don’t want my last messageto him to be hateful,” she thought. “Josh, the call came. I am going to the hospital for the transplant. St. Mary’s. I don’t expect to see you when I wake up. But go ahead, surprise me,” and then after a brief pause “I still love you, you know. Not sure why, but I do.” Driving to the hospital Lauren felt a strange calm settling in. Jane broke the silence first. “He still loves you. He just has his own way of showing it.” “No Jane, he doesn’t,” replied Lauren, “he told me so in as many words.” “Then why does he stay with you?” pondered Jane, “Henry left me when John was old enough to support himself. They don’t last in a relationship anymore, men that is.” “I don’t know,” replied Lauren, “I have asked myself this question numerous times. After all, our daughter is married. I don’t know why he stays with me. Much like I don’t know why I still love him. He doesn’t deserve it but I can’t help it.” “Well,” said Jane, “I still believe that in his heart of hearts he loves you, and not just becausehe stays in the relationship.” She paused, as if to consider her words carefully. The light changed to green. Janeadded “you know all the stress he has been dealing with in the past couple of
© 2011 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
years, with the failing of his business,the mounting debts.” She paused, “his affairs were his way of escaping it.” “Believe what you wish Jane,” replied Lauren, “I don’t buy into it.” An hour later, at the hospital, Lauren was being prepped. “What if,” she thought, “what if I don’t survive this? That should serve him right. Not being here for me. Or will it actually relieve him of me? Finally a way out without needing a divorce. Ha!” That was the last thought she remembered before slipping into the dark kingdom of anesthesia. Some hours later, a blurred reality. Lying in the recovery room, Lauren was slowly coming to her senses.A smiling nurse was speaking to her. Weak and sick to her stomach, Lauren couldn’t make out the words. She made an effort to smile back. Sounds came in and out. Her eyelids weighed a ton. But heck, she was alive! Sometime later it seemed like a foggy veil was being lifted; her speech came back to her. “Is my husband here?” was the first question Lauren muttered. “I am afraid not,” came the reply. Lauren closed her eyes and darknesssurrounded her again, blanketing a strange senseof relief. Just before slipping back to sleep she felt her new heart. It was beating stronger than ever, double the stroke, bestowing comfort, as a gentle lover, as Josh used to when stroking her hair during the first years of their relationship. When Lauren woke up again, a man in a white coat was standing by her bed, accompanied by a nurse and an intern. He looked vaguely familiar. “Mrs. Kendal, can you recognize me?” As her sensesstarted coming back to her, she could make out the features of her surgeon, Doctor Zander. “How are you feeling?” “Well, I am…feeling…” she answered with a faint voice, forcing a smile. The doctor smiled back a sympathetic doctorish smile. “Good, good. Recovery will take a long while. This was discussed with you some time ago. But all in all the surgery went smoothly. Really well. You were lucky to receive a heart in such an excellent condition. A perfect match. We actually ended up performing a heterotopic procedure, keeping your own heart and connecting the new one to it.” The nurse was taking her vitals while the doctor was examining some charts. “It was a decision we made once we started the surgery. Even though the donor heart was in good shape, it is a larger heart than yours, and there is still a chance it will fail; so we kept your heart as well, which is the common strategy in such cases.” Doctor Zander put his hand on hers. “Now rest.” “Doctor?” asked Lauren. “Yes?” “Is my husband here?” The doctor hesitated for a moment, considering his words. “Yes. Now rest.” Somehow Lauren felt he may not be telling her the whole truth. But listening to her new heart, again, that senseof gentle comfort, harmonious rhythm, prevailed. She fell asleep. Next time Lauren opened her eyes, Jane was by her side, dark circles under her eyes. “How are you feeling dear?” she asked. “I don’t know,” replied Lauren, “obviously not great but I do feel my heart in a way I have never felt it before.” “Are you wondering who is the donor?“ inquired Jane. ” I hear its common for people who receive donor organs,” and adding a moment later “it’s only natural.” “Right,” said Lauren, and after a brief pause, “now where in hell is Josh?” “I have no idea,” replied Janequietly, and then with an increasing edge of anger to her words “I haven’t seen him. I did try to call him several times but he just doesn’t pick up. If he finally left you, he picked a hell of a time. I am starting to believe I was wrong about him. The man has no heart.” Realizing the awkward context of her words, Jane
© 2011 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.
quickly added “no pun intended…” Lauren smiled widely and started breaking into a laugh, only to convulse with pain as the movement caused by the laugh was not something her body was ready for. Doctors and nurses came and left, checking vital signs, marking charts, and smiling kindly at her. Lauren was finally moved to a private room at another section of the hospital, still connected to various monitoring devices, I.V. and various paraphernalia. A nurse told her that her vital signs are good, she is getting stronger. Janewas there most of the time, with a few breaks to take care of things she needed to take care of. Josh never showed up. When speaking with her daughter over the phone, she had no idea where her dad was either. Her heart told Lauren something is awfully wrong but there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it, expect for asking Janeto file for a missing person report with the police. The day Lauren was to be released from the hospital, Doctor Zander came to see her. “Lauren, you are doing well. We are going to release you this afternoon.” Lauren sensed a tinge of concern in his voice. “There is something I need to share with you in private,” said the doctor, and, turning to Jane“would you mind?” “No, not at all.” Jane left the room. “What is it?” asked Lauren, her voice steady. “It’s about your husband. There is no easy way for me to tell you this. It’s his heart we transplanted into you.” For a moment Lauren thought she didn’t hear him well. “Excuse me?” “Yes,” said the doctor, “I was waiting for you to get stronger but you need to know.” “What? How? Why?” Lauren, resembling a ghost, felt as if all the blood had been drained from her body. “I don’t have many answers,” said Doctor Zander quietly, “all I know is that your husband checked into the ERearlier the day you had the procedure done. He complained about a stomach virus. When the ERdoctor came to see him, your husband was no longer alive.” Doctor Zander paused as if collecting his thoughts, and continued “your husband left behind very specific instructions that his heart be donated to you, and you alone. Apparently he ran some tests ahead of time and was a good match. This is all I know.” The nurse alerted the doctor to Lauren’s monitor, showing an alarming irregular beat. “I hope when you wake up, this will settle in,” and nodding at the nurse, “we will need to sedate you now. We just couldn’t take the chance of you hearing about this without medical supervision.” Lauren was about to say something but the bliss of sedation kicked in to a symphony of two hearts beating as one.
© 2011 Ronen Divon, All Rights Reserved.