June 24, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
(This story has a happy ending.
I’m telling you now so you’ll know, because at certain points in the telling it might start to feel like a story that doesn’t end well, but don’t worry, it does.)
I know a guy named Jake. We’re not close friends; I won’t make the guest list at his daughter’s wedding. We’re acquaintances. But Jake is the sort of acquaintance that makes you grin proudly when you say, “I know that guy.”
He’s an audio technician, a sound guy. He does the stage tech at a rock bar where I’ve gone to see some great performers. He’s constantly moving, switching out microphones between acts, making sure everyone’s instruments sound right in the mix. He’s also toured with some pretty significant bands, doing the mix for all their concerts.
He’s one of the people that life just seems to happen to with more intensity. Looking at him, you think, “That dude must have some stories to tell.” With long hair, covered in tattoos, and dressed all in black he looks like the sort of person that overprotective mothers would self-righteously steer their children away from.
And they’d be wrong to do that because Jake is a pay-it-forward kind of guy. He is a generous, kind person who genuinely cares about people. As a rock & roll veteran he has seen people when they’ve been in some pretty dark places in life. A couple of times, it may even have been himself in those dark places, I don’t know, but he knows a thing or two about the rough patches in life and how to come out the other side intact.
Without hesitation, Jake would stay up all night to talk a stranger off of a ledge, literally and figuratively. On Facebook and elsewhere he has made a standing offer for anyone to call him at anytime, day or night, if they feel close to the edge and are considering ending things. I suspect there are now-grateful people who have taken him up on that offer.
In many ways, Jake is the kind of person that we like to think we are but secretly know that we fall short of the mark.
Some time ago Jake met Kim, the love of his life, his partner of the heart, his significant other. The thing is, Kim had a bad heart. I don’t mean she lacked the capacity for love and compassion. I mean physically, she had a bad heart. I think the proper medical term is “Dodgy Ticker.”
A little while ago, Jake organized a fundraiser to help with costs while Kim’s name sat on a transplant waiting list. The event was called “Have A Heart For Kim.” I wasn’t able to make it to the event but I understand it was a great success, with donated raffle prizes and incredible musical performances. Recently Jake announced plans for a second fundraiser in August.
This week, Tuesday afternoon, they got a phone call; a suitable donor heart had come available. Off to the hospital they went, bundled in nervous expectation and fear-tinged joy, with Jake posting situation updates on Facebook when he could. After all of the appropriate preparations, Kim underwent surgery. Understandably, it’s a lengthy procedure but all went well and the operation was a success.
Without getting overly graphic, consider this for a moment… Doctors performed an operation on a human being that involves removing the thing that keeps her alive and replacing it completely with a different, stronger version of that thing, all while not letting her die.
That is amazing.
We get complacent with technology and the wonders of our twenty-first century world, but the fact that this can be done is simply amazing and needs to be acknowledged. Science is awesome.
Throughout Wednesday and Thursday Jake shared on Facebook details of Kim’s steady recovery. The ICU nurses were impressed. Breathing tubes were removed. Kim woke up and smiled. She said that she actually felt warm for the first time in her life. (Think about the significance of that.)
Someone on Facebook commented on a photo of Jake and Kim, suggesting that he could shave off his beard for her. Jake replied that Kim likes the beard “…but maybe she’s had a change of heart.”
It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to use that pun in that context and I’m impressed that Jake took advantage it when he could.
I don’t know Kim. We’ve never met. And like I said earlier, Jake and I are just acquaintances. But I think about the uncertainty of being on a waiting list for a heart transplant, never sure if you will outlive your time on the list. Under that cloud, just having the courage to smile every day is an incredible thing. Viewing the situation from the outside I may be reading too deeply into it, or I may be underselling the significance. I don’t know.
But I imagine the joy and happiness they are feeling now, as Kim recovers, and I am glad for them. The good guys won.
Wednesday morning, after getting a post-op thumbs up from the surgeon Jake went home, exhausted, to try to get some some sleep. Prior to putting his head on a pillow, he shared this thought on Facebook:
“… just before I lay down for a few hours before my shift this afternoon, I just wanted to pass my condolences along to the family of the person who lost their life yesterday, but also to thank them from the bottom of my heart for their, and their family’s generosity that gives my girl Kim (and who knows how many others) a new lease on life ❤ “
It’s a very personal decision, but I can think of no rational reason not to be a registered organ donor. In Canada, the website beadonor.ca will redirect you to the donor registration for your region.
Please, think about it, talk to your family about it, and make a decision that is right for you.
And as always, try to be nice to each other.