Getting the Call: Heart Transplant & Uber

I am often asked, “where we’re you when you got the call for transplant?”

For months I was vigilant, perhaps hyper-vigilant with answering my phone. Nothing would prevent me from picking up an “unknown” call, not even the sacred space of the movie theater was going to cause me to miss the call for a heart transplant! When you get the call, you are expected to drop everything and go straight to the transplant hospital.
It was 3:45pm on a Tuesday and I was lying down at my parent’s house, just getting ready to take a nap. I often joked that napping was my new pastime that I shared with my Mum who was going through cancer treatment. Driving the 17 minutes from my sister’s house over to my parent’s house earlier in the day made me tired, but then again everything made me tired. My Mum was in her hospital bed and I lay a few feet away in her king-size bed, the TV volume was loud with her favorite true crime tv show. I saw the unknown number pop up on my cell and thought jokingly, “maybe this is the call,” and I couldn’t believe it when it was The Call!

My transplant doctor, Dr. Morlend, on the other end was excited to tell me that they found a heart for me. The call was short and to the point, both of us were excited and talking fast. I remember telling myself to go “into business mode,” because I had to be calm if I was going to get to the hospital. I was excited, I didn’t quite have the words. I had imagined this is what it was like when a pregnant woman goes into labor. I had a bag packed (with all the wrong stuff) and was mentally just waiting.

My first call was to my husband and all I said was “I got the call.” We had an agreement that we answered all calls and nothing went to voicemail. Since then I never answer my calls, much to my family’s annoyance. My husband was stunned into silence, and literally dropped everything. He was in a cold, noisy server room holding computer equipment in his hands. He later told me, he got off the call and turned to his co-worker and just put the equipment in his hands and said he had to leave, his wife was getting a heart transplant. He then drove three hours at over 100mph.

My drive to the hospital was much slower with my Dad at the wheel and my Mum in the front seat. I felt like a teenager again in the backseat going to the hospital with both of my parents. This was not the plan, but it was working.

I had once asked Bob, my brother-in-law, who works from home, that if I should get the call would he drive me. Since I lived with him and my sister, it seemed likely that one of them would be driving me (while the other stayed home with my nephew). Bob ever the jokester, told me that I should really consider Uber to drive me to my heart transplant, since he might be on a conference call! Ha! I laughed for days about this one…I mean, could you imagine telling your Uber driver that you need them to take you to your heart transplant!

One night we were all sitting around watching American Idol, when Bob pulled up his Uber app and told me that at that very moment there were 8 nearby Uber’s that could take me to the Transplant hospital, if I needed them. And since it was for Transplant, he said he would spring and upgrade me to the Executive Uber. Bob is a funny guy (you’ll have to read my not-yet published blog post about the night I woke up from a coma, because it’s hysterical and, of course, involves Bob). I digress, back to getting the call about transplant.

My Dad continued driving his usual speed: slow. It was rush hour traffic and this just made the drive slower-it was agonizing. When I asked him to speed up, he was stressed and asked me if I wanted him to drive on the shoulder and cut people off, as if this would be impossible, to which I told him “YES!!” Next thing you know, he was driving like Mario Andretti! We arrived safely and right at 4:59pm. The check-in was smooth and uneventful; this was just another day for the ER staff and admissions. However, it was an extraordinary day for me and my family.

I would characterize getting the call for transplant an extraordinary life experience. But if you ask me what I was doing at that moment, I would tell you that I was experiencing an ordinary life moment: nodding off for a nap while watching TV with my family, but isn’t that what it is all about? Being in the moment, being ordinary.

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