There it was. My new room. This one had windows. Big windows. It had a bathroom. More importantly a bathroom I was now able to use by myself!
They had packed me up and moved me out of the ICU. I had been in the basement for almost two weeks. Now I was on the third floor and had windows. Pretty fancy. That’s like only two floors away from the penthouse hospital suites, right? I was moving on up in the world.
For some, this may have been a positive move towards recovery. For me, it was the beginning of the unknown. The beginning of the sudden intermission in my life. It’s like they put me on hold. I was patched up enough that I could be put on hold. I was one of the lucky ones.
I met my new nurse. I remember a lot of that day very well. I got the impression the nurses on the floor had been excited to meet me. It was a weird but nice feeling. My nurse was working at getting me set up in my new room and getting to know me. They were all trying to make sure I was comfortable.
It wasn’t long before I used that fancy personal bathroom of mine. This means it also wasn’t long before I was scaring my nurse. They wanted some samples, so they asked me not to flush. I obliged. Just as I was settling back onto my new bed, wondering if anyone had died in it, my nurse came out of the bathroom visibly freaked. She couldn’t hide how freaked out she was but she tried. She started asking questions as tenderly as possible. “Laura have you… do you know about… are you menstruating?”
I can only imagine what my face looked like when she asked me that. I remember thinking “No, that’s just too much, I can’t, no, I can’t, how would that even???” I was so freaked out I didn’t even have time to be embarrassed. My thoughts were flying around my head like a tornado. Then I was very confused. I didn’t know how to answer. I feel like my whole life people have been asking me questions I can’t answer and I’m constantly just a ball of confusion. What I didn’t realize at that moment is that she didn’t know I couldn’t answer. She didn’t know that I didn’t know what that would look like yet. But thankfully, she figured it out real quick.
She didn’t stop being freaked out but was freaked out for a different reason. What startled her was that my pee was red. Like red-red. She had realized, based on the horror on my face when she asked, that I was actually extremely dehydrated. Turns out I hadn’t been super well cared for in the basement. Higher floor, better service? Let’s hope so.
There’s a part of that day that I don’t remember. It must be my brain protecting me. If I can remember what I just described above, then what happened next must have scarred me even more. A doctor came in. I didn’t have any parents or adults present. Just me and him. I don’t remember him at all but he apparently told me I’d need a heart transplant. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know I wasn’t going home. I didn’t know how sick I was. I didn’t know that hearts just break like that. I didn’t know mine couldn’t be fixed. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t understand how a heart could be replaced. I didn’t understand how easily people could toss around the word transplant as if it wasn’t one of the craziest, grossest, saddest, scariest, and most traumatizing things that someone could go through. I still don’t understand.
When the grownups found out, that doctor got banned. Better service indeed.
It was a big day for all of us. My parents found out I needed a transplant. I found out too. I moved, changed machines, entered a whole new atmosphere that now included sunlight. People were swirling around all day. I wasn’t what they were used to. Not just because I was young but also because I was lugging around some pretty fancy tech. They didn’t get pre-transplant patients every day.
I don’t remember my parents being around much that day. In fact, I don’t think they were. That’s how I ended up alone with that doctor. My mom was around but I didn’t notice her much because it was so busy. If I had, I would have thought she was upset because of the whole transplant thing. That’s reasonable. I wasn’t that into the idea either. But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t it at all. There was a reason my mom isn’t in my memories as much on that one day. It’s because, on that day, my heart wasn’t the only one that was broken. On that day, the 14th day of June 2001, my grandpa’s heart broke too.
To be continued next week.