Sunday, May 5, 2013

When Your Fiance Gets a Transplant -- Ben's View

Hi Readers! Jewel, here. I'm resting up, but my wonderful fiance is taking over blogging for me for a bit.  Enjoy, and I'll see you soon :)

4:30 A.M.  I am woken by the sound of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”   I dozily realize that Jewel has elected to start the most important day of her life, to date….with a song about a white rapper and the trials of battling in the ghetto.

I consider for what must be the millionth time how strange my fiancĂ© is, but then brush it off along with the sleep in my eyes.  It is a cool morning so I am grateful for the warm water in the shower.  I contemplate how this may very well be the only relaxing thing I do all day long.  My thoughts are interrupted by Jewel requesting that I hurry up.

Breakfast is not in the cards for us this morning.  Jewel isn’t allowed to eat or drink so I figure the polite thing to do would be to not gorge in front of her. 

We arrive at Inova Fairfax Hospital by 6:00 AM.  Several members of Jewel’s family are already there, including some out-of-towners.  They greet us as one group of zombies greets other--mostly with grunting and awkward shuffles.  We settle into our seats in a spacious waiting room.

Jewel and her father are called into the back for processing.  I am struck by a strange parallel between a hospital wing that specializes in organ transplant and a slaughter house.  I push it aside and follow at Jewel’s heels.  Her father, Dallas, is accompanied by his wife, Waltina.  

Jewel heads to prep room “R”.  This tiny rectangular room might as well be a torture chamber.  For the next two hours, six different nurses come in to perform various tasks.  One takes her blood pressure.  Five minutes later another has her sign some consent forms.  A third asks her about her medication history.  Yet another asks if she has a living will.  The experience is peppered with Jewel’s whimpering:

“Ouch.  That IV needle really hurts”

“I’m really nervous”

“I’m very cold and thirsty.”

“I’m scared.”

Each sentence she speaks pangs me.  Her words are so heavy.  I cannot remember the last time I ached with sadness.  I barely spoke at all.  I feared that if I opened my mouth or even made eye contact with Jewel that the dam would break and I’d begin sobbing uncontrollably.  I feign interest in some medical equipment hung on a wall and struggle to hold up appearances.  I’m supposed to be strong for Jewel’s sake-- to inspire confidence and make her feel at ease.  But this day the only “support” I could muster was to not crumble to pieces.  If Jewel’s mother had not also made her way into the room I question if I would have been able to do it.  

Jewel asks me if I am sick.  She tells me I don’t look well.  Apparently, I’m not faking being OK very well.  I’m cautious to not make anything more than very brief eye contact for fear that she will see my eyes glistening with moisture.

I am afraid Jewel will die.  ‘No operation is without risk’ one nurse had said.  This fact has been drilled into me for the past year.  I’m convinced this is the last time I will see the love of my life.

And like a flash they inject Jewel with some drug that begins to force her eyes shut.  Half-assed goodbyes are exchanged.  No kiss.  No “I love you.”   Not even a, “I’ll see you soon!  Good luck!”



Four hours pass. Amy (the post-op nurse) introduces herself.  She speaks:


Jewel is still in surgery.  There must have been some confusion but I’m here to clear that up for you.”

Really?  REALLY?!  You led with ‘unfortunately’?!?!

She explains that only Dallas is in recovery.  A previous nurse had earned a collective sigh of relief from Jewel’s entourage by informing us that both she and Dallas had successful surgeries and were in the recovery area slowly coming out of anesthesia.

The anxiety begins to creep back into me.  I’m already sore in my shoulder and neck from being so tense earlier.  What’s another few hours of wondering about the welfare of your future wife?  We thank Amy and she skips away.

Two more hours pass.  I’ve found distraction in answering technology questions for Jewel’s family and responding to the flurry of emails and text messages coming through both of our phones.  I am in the middle of responding to a text message when a nurse appears in front of me telling us that the surgery was a success and both patients are in recovery.   I may see Jewel in about 30 minutes.

I am escorted to the recovery area with Waltina, Jewel’s mother.   Jewel’s area is a mess of tubes, machines, and IV bags with long, complicated words printed on them.  Another nurse pokes Jewel in the head and she wakes up.  Her eyes struggle to focus and then she locks on me.  The word “Hi” limps out of her along with a tiny smile.  I repeat the sentiment and beam back at her.

“Am I healthy?” she asks.

I smile even brighter than before and kiss her on the forehead.

“Yes, Jewel.  You are”