I was lying in a hospital bed. I tried toget up but was greeted with pains in my chest and abdomen.
“Hey, buddy,” a familiar voice said. I surveyed mysurroundings and noticed my father and older brother Spencer. “Youwant some ice?” my brother asked.
“Sure,” Ianswered in a voice that almost wasn‘t a voice at all. Iwasn‘t exactly sure why my brother was offering me ice, but Iwasn‘t exactly sure of my sanity either. The words“hospital”and “ambulance” weren‘t exactlycommon words in my vocabulary, but here I was in Children‘sMedical Center. The last thing I remember was being at my dad‘shouse and feeling rather sick after dinner.
Of course, I hadfelt sick after many dinners since returning from my church‘scommunity-service trip to Mexico. Apparently I had encountered some formof hepatitis there. Memories of frequent trips to the local doctor andsipping soup like an old woman returned to my memory. All of a sudden,two words came to mind: liver transplant. My psychological game ofdetective brought me to this conclusion: I‘d just had a livertransplant. But the big question remained: why did I, a 17-year-old whohad been perfectly healthy his entire life, have to go through anoperation usually associated with those who frequently indulge in thekiss of the bottle? My father solved that mystery: “Son, theyfound a rare virus in your liver that ended up killing it.” Well,that would certainly call for a liver transplant, I thought, wonderinghow close I had been to never waking up.
The day passed withsome slow improvements. The tube in my nose, which I realized had beenmy eating utensil for the past week, was removed and more familiar facesappeared. My twin brother and mother joined my father and stepmother.After a few conversations, I realized that my name had rolled off manypeople‘s tongues that week. I was shocked to hear that the waitingroom had held 50 friends and relatives during my operation, an apparentrecord at the hospital.
As the days progressed and my conditioncontinued to improve, I was fascinated with - and sometimes frightenedby - the story I learned about my brush with death. The part of thisstory that shocked me most, and of which I still haven‘t come togrips with, is that I was two days away from dying. I‘m glad Iwasn‘t awake to see my parents‘ tears as they gazed at theyellow face of their apparently dying son. I can‘t imagine whatthey must have been going through. Suddenly their son was the sickesthuman being, as far as liver failure goes, in the United States. What weall thought was a simple stomach virus had turned into acute liverfailure, and my family could only wait for the doctors to tell them theyhad found the missing piece to my body‘s puzzle: a liver thatmatched my blood type.
On August 17, my brothers had sat andwaited for our parents to emerge from the room with the doctor. The onlything they could do was judge by the expressions on my parents‘face whether it was good news. My parents emerged, declaring, “Wefound a liver!” and my brothers joined them in celebrating. Ifonly I could have been with them at that moment, but I was inhallucination heaven. Words cannot describe the crazy, phantasmagoricextravaganza my mind endured, but that‘s another story.
Within 24 hours, three families had decided to donate theirloved one‘s liver, another record at the hospital. Doctors decidedto go with the liver that belonged to a 17-year-old girl whoselife was tragically cut short behind the wheel.
On August 18around 2 p.m., I was wheeled into the operating room. My life was now inthe hands of two surgeons, Dr. Dawson and Dr. Roden. The waiting roomslowly filled with family members and friends. As I was under the knife,a waiting room telephone was the only source of updates. Every callbrought good news, and after being in surgery for over eight hours, Dr.Dawson stepped into the waiting room resembling someone who had just runa mara-thon. With a calm surgeon‘s voice, he announced,“They‘re getting ready to tuck him into his room; everythingwent well. The new liver appears to be working fine.” With that,an explosion of joy swept the waiting room with hugs, clapping and a fewhigh fives. Little did I know, as I danced in the fields of myhallucination-filled mind, that the support and prayers of so manypeople had made that celebration possible.
Now, back at thehomestead and eagerly awaiting my return to school, I reflect on whatcan only be described as a miracle. My body had been franticallygrasping onto the threads of life, and now two months later, thosethreads had gradually turned back into a solid rope. If not for thatfamily who donated their daughter‘s liver, I would not be heretoday. I owe my life to them, and the transplant team at theChildren‘s Medical Center of Dallas. Although that family losttheir daughter, they presented to my parents a second chance for theirson. With this experience came a new outlook on life, and a newappreciation for family and friends. Unfortunately, however, an eventlike this is sometimes the only thing that can bring us to a fullunderstanding of the importance and meaning of life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.