Friday Night Story


It happened in record time, apparently. An acute transplant rejection usually takes seven days or more, because it usually takes that long for the T cells and antibodies to recognize that something screwy has happened; my new kidney exploded in half that. Which in a funny way means that I’ve got an exceptional immune system; it also means my immune system is trying to kill me.

I got lousy kidneys from my father, so I suppose it was sort of cosmically right that I gave him one of them back. But he died of lung cancer anyway, because he was too stupid or stubborn to quit, even after we lost grandma. I spent most of my life trying to be smarter than those around me, not smoking like my dad, not drinking as heavily as my stepdad, and not lobotomizing myself with weed like my brother.

But it seems like I should have just done whatever I felt like, because my remaining kidney was determined to give out; maybe I should have made sure dad willed my other one back to me.

It’s been four days since the kidney started to fail. I didn’t even receive a phone call from the transplant surgeon; that might have been just as well, because the new doctor was a rejection specialist, smarter, and nicer, and (though medically irrelevant) much cuter.

She spent that first night with me, discussing my options, talking over my treatment, and my fears. And in the morning, she staid for my first hemodiafiltration. Okay, when you describe it, it doesn’t sound romantic, or special or even personal, but it was. And she just got me, without trying or having to ask, she just showed up with her tray at lunch and asked if she could eat with me. She stayed all the way until dinner, so we just shared the tray the nurse brought, and she held my hand and told me she’d looked into it, and she thought she might be a match. And it felt like something, I don’t know.

But in the last day or two she’s pulling away. She hasn’t said anything, but I can tell. It’s in the little things, like how much less time passes before she checks her watch. Or the amount of time she’s started spending with other patients. Or the fact that she ends every conversation by telling me that I should be able to perform hemodiafiltration from home, and I’m otherwise stable, so I can check out at any time.

And I want to leave. I’ve been struggling for the words to tell her how much she matters, how much I’d love to take her ought for a real meal, or how much I’d enjoy making her breakfast. I’ve put it off so long, I don’t know if I can leave without the perfect way to say I’d love to be a part of her, or for her to be a part of me; but I’d settle for one of her kidneys.

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