I awoke to see the surgeon leaning over me.
“It didn’t happen,” he said. “We had to cancel.” Then he disappeared.
I was in a fog of anesthesia so I had no choice but to accept what he was telling me. My memory of where I was slowly filtered in. A nurse handed me a bottle of sore throat spray and wheeled me into another room.
My wife was there, also struggling to wake up from the drugs. We’d scheduled to have my kidney transplanted into her, and now we were learning that it wasn’t happening. At least not as we had expected.
Doctors came into the room, while the nurses finished fussing with our IVs and blankets. My parents were summoned from the waiting room.
“I’m really sorry about this,” the lead surgeon said. “We didn’t have a sufficient supply of blood from the blood bank and I didn’t feel we could go forward with the operation.”
I tried to understand the situation, and I got more than my wife did, who dozed through most of it. Thankfully, my parents were there and lucid. I could compare notes with them later.
View of Bromo Seltzer Tower from my hotel.
“We can reschedule for tomorrow, but I won’t be able to do it,” the surgeon went on saying. My parents grumbled about this, preferring–as we all did–to have things go as planned. We weighed the merits of coming back next week with the original team, or going with a new team the next day. Finally, we settled on a plan, thinking that we were already in Baltimore, all ready to do this, we might as well get it done now.
We were discharged for 24 hours. Thankfully, we had rooms only a block away. My wife and I roused ourselves sufficiently to walk back to the hotel, although I don’t really remember the walk. My parents told us to call if we needed anything, said they’d pick up the tab for the extra night. My wife and I went back to our room to sleep off the meds.
I texted a few key people–my sister-in-law who was watching our kids, friends who could spread the word–to let them know of the delay and then climbed into bed. The day moved about us as we rested. On the sidewalks below, people walked to and from work. Guests checked in and out of their rooms. The day moved to afternoon as we slumbered, with our hospital bracelets still on our wrists and gauze patching the IV holes.
We drank water, but food was of little interest. Our last full meal had been the night before, with my parents and mother-in-law in the hotel restaurant. It was good but I didn’t enjoy it much, feeling as it did like a last supper. Now, the only thing that sounded good was a granola bar; my wife had a bag of chips. Our systems must have been in low gear from the sedatives. It saved us the trouble of ordering a meal.
The day seemed in low gear too, and I decided to step outside and get some air. My wife continued to snooze as I left the room and walked out of the hotel.
It was on the warm side of normal for an August day in Baltimore. The city was preparing for the Grand Prix car race that was scheduled for Labor Day weekend. A racecar sat on display in the hotel drop-off area.
View from the hospital.
“This is your car, right?” I joked with the bellman on duty.
“Yeah, I wish!” he said.
I walked slowly on the sunny sidewalk. People passed me going both directions. There were a mix of tourists and folks going about their weekday routines. I wondered if anyone noticed my hospital bracelet. They certainly didn’t know that a few hours before I’d been deep in anesthetic sleep waiting for my kidney to be removed, only to learn that it wasn’t.
I had a strange feeling like I’d come to meet destiny but destiny was a no-show. What was I supposed to do now?
Of course, I knew that the whole thing would begin again tomorrow, but until then, there was open space.
I walked a few blocks toward Camden Yards, passing the Grand Prix barriers that were being placed along the race route. More hotels, and then the stadium was in front of me. The Orioles were not playing that day, but during summer, Baltimore is never more than a few hours away from the front end or back end of another baseball game.
Photo: Natalie Litz on Flickr
I decided I’d gone far enough. It was time to head back to the hotel, to prepare for what still lay ahead.
This happened about a year ago, when we were in Baltimore, Maryland, to have the transplant operation, some details about which appear here.