and my brother is on his way to Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland to receive his new heart. It's not quite 4 a.m. here on Whidbey but there was no chance I was going to go back to sleep after that phone call, so I'm up pouring nervous energy into a blog post.
The cats are bewildered---what the heck is she doing up? Why has she fed us, though we're grateful? Is she okay? Is she going to turn on the heat? Is she going to let us out? Why is she not making that funny-smelling stuff? Is there something wrong?
My brother is almost nine years younger than I am and had his first heart attack when he was 30 years old. Ever since that time (25 years or so) he has struggled to cope with heart-related health concerns and a month ago passed all the contingencies to get on the transplant list.
He's a big guy, 6'4" and bulky, though not fat, so we all knew it was going to take an extra-large heart to sustain him. It doesn't feel very good to pray that some strapping young man will die accidentally so that my brother can live, so I could only pray "please, God, help Buz find a new heart", with the knowledge lurking that our joy will mean sorrow for someone else.
My brother is a fine man, generous and loving, with his own quirks and particularities, just as we all have. His journey with heart disease has been rough. He's had two open-heart surgeries, one which reshaped his flabby heart muscle, removed calcification, and gave him three years of improved health. That was three and a half years ago. Last fall his remodeled heart ran out of steam and the subsequent surgery implanted an LVAD, a left ventricle assist device, which would keep his heart beating at a rate that would give him some quality of life, but the implications were clear: this was just a stopgap, he had to have a new heart.
What a birthday present! Any time the phone rings in the middle of the night, one's alarm systems blare, but I've been expecting the call and my mind jumped there, not to any assumption of doom somewhere else. I'm so grateful, God, thank you so much.