Brother, can you spare a kidney?
Over the years since college – don’t ask how many – my dear friend Laurel and I lost touch with another dear friend, Robert. It was much more easily done in the days before updating your Facebook status to “changed my underwear” was part of the morning routine. As I remember it, it was a friendship characterized by joy and an obscene amount of laughter and the sense of well being that comes from being exactly who you are and knowing that is exactly why you are so loved. So the loss was felt deeply by both Laurel and me, and we often wondered what had become of our friend.
How we were reacquainted, through the most ridiculous series of coincidences, is a story in itself.
I was in my coworker’s office and happened to glance at his computer when a name jumped out at me from his email inbox – the name of my long-lost college friend. I insisted my coworker email him asking if he knew me. He was reluctant – he barely knew Robert. They had been in a wedding together some 15 years earlier and had only seen each other once since then. It was at a dinner party a few nights earlier, and the host, the friend whose wedding they’d both been in, had sent an email to all his guests apologizing for his drunkenness.
Eventually my insistence overcame my coworker’s reticence and concern that he was abetting a stalker, he emailed the fellow party-goer, who was my missing friend after all, and we were all reunited. And while it wasn’t exactly as though no time had passed, I think we all had the sense that things were the way they were supposed to be – that we had been put in each other’s path for a reason, that our friendship had meant something, would continue to mean something, and that the ever-impetuous universe had seen fit to put things right.
So when Robert went awol just a few months later, I was a little pissed at him.
Robert, who, in childhood, had lost a brother to Wilson disease, a hereditary condition in which copper builds up in your tissue, had been living with the disease himself all those years. We knew this in college – he was on a low copper diet and couldn’t chocolate or nuts or shellfish, along with some other things. But at the time, it seemed like an abstraction to me. I didn’t really get that if the disease was not closely managed, and sometimes even if it was, Robert’s life could be at risk
Long story short, Robert had gone awol because his liver failed, and just like a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy, one arrived via helicopter at the eleventh hour, and was transplanted—presumably between verbal banter and broom closet sex— and Robert was saved.
But while Robert’s liver was born again, his kidneys were passed out in the gutter. Salvation was fleeting and the threat of damnation continued to loom undeservedly large. And, because getting out of the organ line is like getting out of line at the DMV– you have to start all over again at the back– Robert put his name at the bottom of a very long list of potential kidney recipients and started going to dialysis. Four days a week.
Laurel, being both big-hearted and practical, thought this was complete nonsense, and she resolved to do something about it. And that something was to give Robert a kidney.
It seemed fated—that there was so much chance involved in their reconnection—but really, they probably would have reconnected in some more mundane way, like through Facebook, by now anyway. And I know it wasn’t a cavalier decision on Laurel’s part. She weighed the risks vs. rewards. She talked to her doctor, to her husband. But in the end she knew in her heart that it was the choice for her.
A date was set. Friday, January 7th. Laurel flew out to LA for some pre-op bloodwork on Monday and went back home to Las Vegas for a couple of days to wrap up loose ends at work and spend a quiet evening or two at home with her trying-very-hard-not-to-be-freaked-out husband before Friday’s surgery.
Wednesday afternoon the call came. The pre-op bloodwork showed Robert’s antibodies were up. Way up. And because the antibodies couldn’t keep it in their pants, the transplant was postponed, with just two days to go.
Can you imagine the disappointment? For both Robert and Laurel? For the many people who love Robert—his family and friends? And the relief for the many people who love Laurel and don’t know Robert? And for those of us who love them both? Disappointment, relief, guilt at feeling relieved.
So here’s the deal, here’s why I’m so disappointed in the universe right now— Robert needs a kidney and Laurel is actually willing to give him one, and as their friend, I want for them what they want for them. And I’ll just say it— I want it for me, too. So, in the name of Dionne Warwick and all the saints at the Psychic Friends Network, could the stars puhleaze just align on this already?
This story doesn’t have an end. The final chapter of Robert and Laurel and the little kidney that could, if the only the antibodies would, is yet to be written. The next installment is due in five weeks, after Robert undergoes some antibody therapy. Whatever happens, I hope it’s what they’ve imagined for themselves. And what I’ve imagined for them. Because the world could really use a healthy Robert in it. And more Laurels. The world needs them both.
And so do I.
Posted by Eileen at 3:52 PM