Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When a Kidney Calls

I got a call yesterday that I'd been waiting on for a long time.

They just didn't say what I'd hoped.

I was driving a car full of kids (and I do mean FULL) to the local indoor pool for a swim.  Since said kids were all spending the night at my house, I was doing what I could to tire them out.  My phone started ringing, which the Bluetooth in my car picked up, but unfortunately my phone was all the way in the back of the car, so I couldn't really see who was calling - just a phone number I didn't recognize.  I had that moment of indecision - should I pick up or not? - but worried it was one of the kids' moms I answered.

"Is this Catherine?"


"This is John from the Donor Alliance. Is this a good time?"

Again - moment of indecision.  Chances were they were calling to ask if I'd make a speech or something, but my gut wasn't so sure.

"I actually have kids in the car right now.  Can I call you right back?"

"Sure.  I'll be here for the next two hours."

After getting the kids settled in the pool area, I stepped out so I could watch them through the window.

"Donor Alliance, this is Ashley."

"Ashley - I'm returning John's call."

"John in PR or John in Aftercare?"

"Oh.  I don't know."  Yup.  Speech.

"One moment and I'll check with both."

Cue elevator music.

"Hi this is John in Aftercare."

My stomach flipped.  I'd written to Brad's organ donors twice, never hearing from any of them and part of me desperately wanted to.  The other part was worried about how emotional that might be; it could be the best thing that's ever happened to me, connecting me with a living piece of Brad.  Or it could send me spiraling back down a hole I've finally climbed out of.

But before I could really dwell on either scenario, John continued.

It seemed that I'd received a letter (for those of you who don't know, you have to correspond through the Donor Alliance until both parties agree to exchange personal information, protecting the privacy of both donors and recipients.) and John was calling to warn me before he sent it to me.

The letter was from the husband of one of Brad's kidney recipients; his wife had died from an illness unrelated to the transplant.  John just wanted to let me know before I found this letter in my mailbox.

After thanking him for his sensitivity, I ended the call.  I stood there, watching the kids play in the pool through through the window, and tried to process what I was feeling before I went in and tried to act human again.  And one word kept popping into my head.

I felt cheated.

I didn't realize it up until then, but I think a part of me expected all of the people who received Brad's organs to live forever.  They weren't supposed to die because he already did.  He gave them some perfectly healthy stuff and I think I was expecting them all to outlive me.  Or something.

I don't know.  Whatever has been going through my head since that call makes absolutely no sense.  But the quickest way I can sum it up is that I feel sad.  I feel like another part of him has died (which, technically it has).  I'm disappointed.  And, once again, I wish things could be different.

As I type this, it occurs to me that this isn't all bad news.  After all, this kidney recipient just passed last year.  Which means she had seven extra years she wouldn't have had without Brad.

In my mind, those years were filled with love, laughter, family, and friends.

Brad would have liked that.