After a two year absence from Rochester, Jeanine and I find ourselves back at the Gift of Life Transplant House for another annual checkup. It has now been five years since my transplant, and about seven since I became noticeably symptomatic. The shuttle in from Minneapolis and these first few days have brought back so many memories for both of us about the journey we have shared and the time spent here. There are flashbacks to the many people that we have met, special moments we have shared, and the many miracles we have witnessed.
Within minutes after entering the GOL again we began making the familiar connections we have so often in the past. Patients and their caregivers, where they are from, how long have they been here, and what they are being treated for. And the word that came to my mind was "clarity". Life for people here has been stripped of its many daily aspects and interruptions of job and kids and bills and neighbors and lawn care...and the list goes on and on. Here their life has been distilled down to its essence and their life has become clear as they focus on getting diagnosed and getting well.
It is not unique to this place, although I think the stakes are somewhat higher. We have all had this experience of clarity, where life has become so in focus and simplified. I'm sure it is like that for women as they focus on caring for their newborn child. My brother-in-law Ed is experiencing that clarity now as he hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Athletes must feel the same as they focus on a big match or important tournament. Nothing else matters. Their lives become inspired by the single goal and purpose, and that goal gives each day a known direction and meaning. The rest of the world almost doesn't exist, at least for a brief time. Life becomes so much simpler and more meaningful.
You sense that when you walk in these doors, and in the people you meet here. Everything "out there" does not matter, at least not right now. It is all about that next test or procedure, addressing the meals and medicine needed for today, or getting in that walk that is needed to maintain some exercise. They all have clarity of purpose while they are here. You can feel the energy. You can sense the focus and direction. It is truly remarkable to be around this environment. The hope and determination to get well. The support given to one another. The shared bond felt towards one another.
Clarity. That is the word that comes to mind as I think back to how Jeanine and I were during those initial visits and stays here. But it feels different now. Its like the athlete after the tournament has been won (or lost). Its how my brother-in-law will feel when he finishes his incredible hike. Its how people here feel when their treatment is done or the surgery has been successful and they get to go home. Its like: "now what?" That event which provided so much clarity is now over. So how do I carry that sense of purpose forward as I go back to my old life? It is such an intriguing question. I sense that I am in that place now; that I am at a different place than so many of the people that are here right now who are immersed in the clarity of their current experience. Jeanine and I are in more of the "now what" phase as we have moved on and are trying to bring that sense of clarity and purpose to our lives outside of Mayo and the GOL.
I expect my tests this week to be unremarkable. I believe things have stabilized as far as the transplant, and I know that the amyloidosis has continued to progress. For us this week is about seeing some old friends, meeting with some of the doctors that have been so good to us, and remembering what is was like five years ago when we had such clarity.