SAY WHEN

I’m sorry to complain. I am grateful for this opportunity to stay alive, and to have the gift of a donated liver. Someone lost a family member, and in their worst moment of grief, they were able to think about someone they don’t even know, and offer me a new chance to raise my daughter as a single father. Of course I am grateful. Of course. But I am still a grown man. And I don’t like being treated like a fractious child, and scolded for no good reason by the nurse, who is in too much of a hurry to do a good job.

I know you are busy here at the hospital, especially in this clinic, and I really do understand. There are so many people, some transplanted, some on the waitlist, some getting sicker, or rejecting an organ, some finding out that have some other health problems so they are about to get kicked off the waitlist, some changing insurance, and some reacting to medicine, or finding out they got a new disease with their new organ. And all the while, suddenly an organ gets flown here in a box of ice and someone like me is rushed to the operating room and the doctors leave the clinic to do the surgery, and other people come in to cover, and the nurses are running around to try and make it all work. I do get it.

And yet still, I am a grown man. I am responsible. I am following the medicine regime to the letter of the law. I am going to the lab every time as required. I am drinking a lot of water, having zero alcohol, resting when I can, eating healthy, taking walks every day, writing everything down, taking my blood pressure, checking my weight, all of it. I have never been late to an appointment. I come early. I have never given this nurse any reason to be frustrated with me. And yet today, she scolds me. She shows her anger and her frustration, but is that my fault?

All I asked was to have the next appointment be on a Monday if possible, because that is my day off, and she lit into me.

“You are NOT allowed to work until WE say when! WE will tell you when you can work! The NEXT appointment is supposed to be the one where the doctors decide if you are able to work! YOU don’t decide when to work! THAT’s not the DEAL! That’s not how it works! You are not following PROTOCOL! WHO told you you can work!?!” She stood with her hand on her ample hip, looking down at me, instead of sitting down like the doctor and interpreter always do, so they can look me in the eye, like equals.

“Mrs. Nurse,” I told her. “I understand your position, but please take a quick moment to understand mine. I will gladly tell you who told me to work. Our mutual friend Necessity told me to work. I am a single father – my wife was murdered and left me our baby girl, which is why I left my country, or I would not be here to bother you. She is 17 now, and she is going to high school and working as many hours as she can, but she cannot earn enough by herself to pay our rent.” The nurse started to interrupt, but I held up my hand. And although we were both then speaking at the same time, the interpreter very kindly kept saying what I was saying to the nurse.

“I cannot live under a bridge with my daughter. She needs a roof over her head. She needs to be safe. My motivation for having the transplant in the first place was to provide for my daughter. Her teachers say she is bright, and she wants to go to college and become a nurse. Do you think if she becomes homeless right when she is taking college exams and applying for college that will help her? I have to work and keep her housed and safe.”

The nurse just rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time for this. I’m in five rooms at once! I’m gonna write a note and tell your doctors that you went to work before you were approved. Go talk to the scheduler about your next appointment. You can go now,” she told me and then walked out. Luckily, the scheduler was more understanding, and I got my Monday appointment!

Again, I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. I understand they have recalcitrant patients whom they may need to speak sharply to. But I am not one of them. I understand why the nurse is frustrated. But I was lucky to get my job back, and I don’t want to lose it. My whole point in getting the new liver was to work as hard as I can so my daughter can have a better and longer life than her mother had. Do you know my wife only lived one more year than my daughter’s age right now? That was not a long life! I know my wife is watching me, and I don’t want to let her down. I want her to see our daughter in college, alive and well. That is what I am living for.