We had a joyful occasion about a month ago: our only daughter Kathy had a baby girl. Since Julie was a midwife, she was there with Kathy’s husband, throughout the birth. Kathy had her baby at the Mercy Hospital Family Birth Centre, which was just wonderful.
I wasn’t invited to that particular party (and that was fine with me), so I waited most of the time in the Centre’s appropriately named Waiting Room. Kathy started proceedings at home and went to the Family Birth Centre after about 16 hours. She was admitted at about 9pm and had the baby at around 3pm the next day: a long labor (and lots of waiting).
The Mercy happens to be co-located with the Austin Hospital, my kidney hospital. The main food and coffee area is located on the ground floor of the Austin. I know it well after two long transplants and many stays for various illnesses and procedures over the last 20-plus years.
Several times during the labor, I nipped down to the cafés for a meal and the odd coffee.
The thing is, while I know and like the people very well, I can’t stand the place. Each time I walk in I am assailed by so many memories: emergency dialysis; plasma exchanges; catheters; kidney biopsies; explorations through every orifice (asleep and awake); overnight drips; butterfly needles into tiny veins that hide when approached; forever waiting for news; ranting, moaning, farting fellow patients; new wonder drugs; production line food and of course two iffy transplants.
So each time I went there my heart beat faster, and reality faded. As I walked into the Austin, I gradually slipped back in time. There I was back in my hospital clothes (T-shirt and jeans over pyjamas) taking a break from the drama upstairs: ordering forbidden food and drink; meeting friends and relatives; people (and patient) watching; pretending I was in a real world café, just taking a break from work; putting off the inevitable return to the ward.
It was always a relief to find myself back at Family Birth Centre, and not just to hear the latest news.
Well, the baby was born, and after what seemed like ages, she was named: Matilda (quite a delightful name); Julie and I are enjoying our expanded grandparental duties and all is going well.
As my life speed picked up, my trips back in time became a dim memory. Over the last month, a couple of people from my unit had successful transplants: one at the Austin, the other at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
All this was just sitting in my brain, waiting to be processed.
Four days ago I was on BigD, thinking about my nephrologist pushing me for a decision about a next (and final) toss of the transplant dice. Julie and I decided in June that we would have one more try, but I still hadn’t told him, though I saw him again only two weeks ago. I just couldn’t bring myself to make the commitment.
Then a thought struck me like lightning. My reluctance wasn’t just about getting another transplant. My new granddaughter’s birth helped me realise that I was freaking out about going back to the Austin and the kidney ward. I know that my experiences could have happened at any hospital, but I think that sometimes you can change your luck by changing your environment. Why not? Stranger things have happened.
So I have decided to shut that particular door, to drop all that history and start again. I have asked around and there are several choices I can make: all good hospitals with good transplant records. And I can stay with my current nephrologist, and keep some continuity.
I am arranging to visit the Head of Transplant of the first, as soon as I can.
It’s not that I have a good feeling about any of these transplant hospitals; it’s just that I don’t have a bad feeling about them.
It amazes me how seemingly unrelated events can combine to make what was invisible obvious, the way a lightning flash lights up the night.
I had assumed that another transplant was a big No. Now it’s a Maybe. I am actually a little excited.