Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we were in Virginia, four hours from home, taking afternoon naps. The phone rang, “Mr. S., this is R., a transplant coordinator for Johns Hopkins, I want to let you know that we have a donor for you.” “What?! You mean you have a set of lungs?,” questioned Jody in confused astonishment. “Yes, how soon can you get here?” And so began the madness.
On paper we were three hours from Hopkins. The transplant coordinator relayed this information to the surgeon who said it was okay, and to come as soon as we could. We quickly explained to our girls what was happening and why we needed to leave ASAP (we had discussed this with them before when we talked about transplant). We then grabbed a few things on the way out, and left in a hurry. It was 3:15 pm. We were in complete shock! Jody had only been active on the list for a little over a month, and we never anticipated getting “the call” so soon. We had also been told that more often than not the call comes in the middle of the night, so we never even gave it much thought that Jody could be called for transplant in the middle of the afternoon. We also envisioned being home (or near home) when he was called so it would be easy to have family come to our house to watch our girls so we could go. Instead, being four hours from home there was no one to call to come over. The girls had to go with us and we had to coordinate someone to meet us at Hopkins to take them home (they would not be allowed in with us because they are too young). I feared Jody going to the operating room while I sat in the parking garage with our girls, waiting for someone to get there to take them.
The drive to Hopkins was stressful in that we hit rush hour traffic (we couldn’t have planned a worse time to get the call if we tried). Every half hour or so we checked in with the transplant coordinator, updating her with our location and traffic conditions. She would then text the surgeon with that information, but we were always instructed to, “Just keep coming, but drive safely.” The closer we got to Baltimore the worse the traffic got. We were bumper to bumper, going 10-15 mph. We joked about creating our own Hollywood car scene where we drive recklessly up the shoulder, in and out of traffic, drive up a few cars to jump over a few more, etc. (you’ve all seen those movies, you know what I’m talking about, right?). Obviously this wasn’t a realistic option for us. It felt like everyone around us should have just known, that we were in a hurry, and that Jody was on his way to the hospital for a lung transplant. At one point I even thought about creating a sign to hold up and fill the other drivers in on our need to move, and move quickly. As traffic continued to crawl, Hopkins actually mentioned the possibility of sending us a police escort and/or the chopper. Suddenly I envisioned myself saying goodbye to Jody in a median along the side of the road, with traffic rushing by, as he climbs up into the chopper and is flown off to the hospital and taken to surgery. I couldn’t have dreamt this up if I tried; it really was beginning to sound like the plot of a good Hollywood movie.
Thankfully, the surgeon always felt our arrival time was doable so additional help to get us there fast was unnecessary. We finally arrived at Hopkins at 7:30 pm, and the hospital never looked so good. I dropped Jody off at the main entrance and drove our minivan to the garage to park and hand the girls off to my Mom who thankfully was ready and waiting. Rather frantically I threw some things in a bag, and headed in to meet Jody wherever he was taken. I was just about to cross the bridge from the parking garage into the hospital when my phone rang. It was Jody. The (donor) lungs were no good. This was the possible “dry run” they had warned us about. Both disappointment and relief filled me. Fortunately my Mom hadn’t left with our girls yet so we all met Jody near the entrance and sat down for a few minutes to de-stress and process the information.
It’s hard to understand why this dry run had to happen, but it did prepare us for when we get the call next time. I’m grateful to a picky surgeon who won’t allow Jody to accept less than the best lungs for him. And to speak to the quality of physicians we are dealing with, he (the surgeon) offered to pay for our gas and buy us supper.
Clearly, this was not the donor, or the lungs for Jody. Regardless, I hold this family in my prayers as they have experienced the painful loss of a loved one. I also continue to pray for Jody’s actual donor and ask you to do the same. Please also pray that the timing of Jody’s transplant (and when we get the call) will be perfect, and peace will be flowing. We really don’t need another Hollywood movie scene when the call comes again. Yesterday had us on quite an emotional roller coaster, but I’m thankful for this practice run so we have an idea of what to expect next time, and how to be better prepared.