Sunday, February 9, 2014

Things Remembered

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
~C.S. Lewis

I was staggering about in my company's "pantry," the employee lounge that's filled with free coffee and tea dispensers and rows of snacks that would rival any 7 Eleven and Whole Foods check-out counter.  I needed gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, then a pack of Gushers and of course a straw for my covered cup of hot water.  I dipped in between pairs of people standing around, talking about their days up to that point, and football. I carefully stepped in between a man and a woman--a woman who, with concern in her voice, was asking "How are you?  How was dialysis today?" 

I had already walked away from them to put my stash on my table. But I did what a very nosy Jewel would do and walked back up and stood very close to the couple, pretending to grab a pack of barbecue Pop Chips.  I pretended to grab other things too, like packets of sunflower seeds, another bag of gluten free cookies, while sneakily pulling tidbits from this man's and woman's conversation.  Like a cat, I was waiting for my time to strike, to jump in and show him our commonalities.  To show him that even though he is a middle aged, white man and I'm a young, black woman, that we share something.  We both know what it's like when our bodies fail us. We both know what it's like when someone tells you that you need something, and you don't have any control over when or how you'll get it.  

Several more "fake" trips up to the grocery aisles of my job's employee lounge, the man and woman finally end their conversation. And I take my shot.  

"I'm sorry but...did you just say you were on dialysis?"

From the moment the question left my mouth, we were engaged in such a lively conversation you would have thought we were old friends.  Anyone walking in would have said, "Wow, they seem to have a lot in common.  They must know each other well."  The truth was that I didn't know him before that day.  Yet somehow, after I asked my question and he answered, it was as if we knew a whole lot about each other.  

We exchanged disease explanations and kidney functions.  I gave him some tips on getting a donor set up as quickly as possible.  I told him about my transplant.  I told him about my doctors and my hospital.  We made plans to have lunch together.  

Ten months ago, I was walking around in that same pantry, grabbing what was probably my fifth cup of coffee for the day.  I was exhausted. I looked exhausted.  Dull. Bored.  Unhappy.  Ill.  And some might say lifeless.  And I would walk into work every day wishing that I wasn't there.  Or even wishing that someone could just just know automatically what I was going through so I wouldn't have to explain it to them.  That way I wouldn't have to answer a billion "Are you OK?" questions throughout the day.  No, I'm not OK, was what I wanted to say all the time.  But I didn't say that because, when you have a chronic illness, sometimes it's just not worth getting into with someone who might not even be able to relate.  

I hope that I was that person for my new friend from the pantry. I hope that I was the person who can relate.  The person for whom you don't have to explain everything to.  I hope that I was the person who just gets it already.  

I wonder if he knows that he was that person for me.  I'm nearly a year out of transplant and technically, I don't have kidney disease anymore.  It was still such a blessing to meet someone who just gets it without me having to explain it to him.


My new friend from work has kidney disease and is currently on dialysis.  
Like me, he needs a kidney transplant. 
 If you or anyone else you might know is interested in becoming a living donor, feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me at jeweledwardsdc@gmail.com.