Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tales from the Porch

    We have settled in to that old familiar routine here at The Gift of Life House.  We have been here four days now, and as always, it is a profound and expanding experience being here.  There is definitely a difference staying at the original house rather than the new one where we were last summer.  While the new one is more contemporary and spacious, the old GOL house is warm and cozy.  Whereas the new one has a dining area that is 80 x 20 and all spread out, the old house has 3 smaller dining areas each with about five tables.  It simply invites conversation as opposed to fostering privacy.  And the same is true of the Porch, which to me is like an entity unto itself .  There is only one porch at the old house as opposed to three at the new one, so here you meet and greet everyone throughout the day and get updated on the daily events and tests.  As always there are incredible stories of life, success, and disappointment.

     Yesterday I ran into Justin.  He is the man that I mentioned meeting last year from Corvallis.  At that time he and his wife were in the midst of a 10 month wait for her lung transplant.  In seeing him I assumed she had had her transplant and they were back for follow up.  No.  Still waiting!  The have been here 22 months now waiting for a lung.  For whatever reason they simply can't get a match for her.  Can you imagine?  I mean, this is a nice place and all, but 22 months with no end in sight is mind-boggling to me.

     The most incredible story I heard this week was from John who lives in New York.  His wife has a very rare liver disorder where it deprives her body of oxygen due to some problem in the blood vessels.  Like so many people here, she was two years without diagnosis.  She finally went to the Yale Hospital, and the doctors there were also unsure and recommended Mayo.  But how to get her there?  She is bedridden and on oxygen.  She can't even sit up without being oxygen deprived.  John looked into a medflight:  $25,000.  He looked into hiring an ambulance to drive her there:  $15,000.  Then the Dr. from Yale calls him with a plan.  He tells John to rent a van, and the doctor himself and a respiratory thereapist  drive with he and his wife to Minnesota.  They drive straight through, and 18 hours and 32 tanks of oxygen later they deliver her to the hospital here for the treatment she needs.  Then the doctor flies himself and his assistant home.  What a saint.  She is here and struggling, but now they have a diagnosis and it looks like they are on course to strengthen her to the point where she can survive the surgery for a new liver.

     There must be six or seven different liver patients here this time.  Two have had their transplant and are doing well.  Several have been waiting weeks, if not months, for theirs.  So many here are walking that fine line between life and death each day.  Will I get diagnosed in time?  If so is there a treatment?  Can I get a transplant?  When will the organ come?  And with all of that is the guilt of knowing that the answer to their prayer for an organ means someone else, somewhere, has lost their life.  But if you value and appreciate open and honest talks and conversation, this is the place to be.  There is no bullshit here.  Wounds and emotions are wide open here, and it is an environment of total honesty and support.  Everyone, particularly those in good health, should have the chance to stay here or volunteer here for a few weeks.  It makes you a better human being.  And if you are ever looking for a worth while cause to donate to or support, think about donating to the Gift of Life.  There are truly angels at work here every day.  Rick

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