Monday, May 31, 2010

921. Donation update

So I think it's really going to happen. I went for the physical, a long but not unpleasant experience: about 20 more vials of blood and other bodily fluids taken, interview with a doctor, hundreds of questions answered on a dozen forms (hey, do I look like someone who might have had sex with a prostitute?! but I know they have to ask), EKG, chest x-ray, no-nonsense nurse flicking her fingers repeatedly into the crooks of my arms to assess the state of my veins. It was actually almost a fun way to spend the afternoon because I was accompanied through these various trials by two staff members from the local marrow donor program: S., a young nurse on her way to getting a degree in public health, and C. a sweet and endearingly chivalrous man in his 30s who refused to call me by my first name because "it just wouldn't be right." He also opened doors and offered to bring me food and drink every ten minutes or so. It's been a long time since I went to the doctor with anyone but myself, and so was a nice and nurturing experience. And after the nurse pronounced my veins in good shape (very important, otherwise I'd need a central line for the donation and would have to stay in the hospital overnight), they both applauded. Never before has the state of my veins elicited a standing ovation, nor will it probably do so ever again.

Then I waited a week and tried not to think about it, an impossible task. The following Tuesday I received a phone call: we're so sorry, some of your blood samples got contaminated. So I rushed back to the hospital to give more, and C. offhandedly (and politely) mentioned that a few of my results had been "flagged." But no need to worry. Of course I did, so he said a doctor would call to explain. A sleepless night followed.

The next day C. himself called to say that it was a mistake, my results were fine (and the doctor scolded him for suggesting otherwise). And, with that, I was pronounced fit to donate.

So now I wait a month and a half. It doesn't seem quite real, and I alternate between being certain I'm blowing the whole thing out of proportion (it's just a few hours out of my life, and plenty of others have done it before; I'm nothing special), and being completely overwhelmed with awe. It's not a miracle, which is even more of a miracle. This is what God does; this is how life is. We're all part of one another. I become mute and immobilized if I think about it for too long, like staring into the sun.

Last week I met with one of my amazing rabbis to see if he could help me find a voice. As I learned this spring, Heschel wrote in Man's Quest for God that silence is the highest form of prayer. So when confronted with these uncountable heaps of of gratitude and amazement, I thought at first that it would be OK to be unable to express. I waited for my silence to take me to a greater place of understanding. But it didn't. Instead I was adrift, like a cloud in a beautiful but way too big sky. This event fits in no category I've ever known. It needs a "container," offered the rabbi, and suggested specific Psalms and part of the Book of Job as texts to help illuminate the sensation of feeling both infinitesimal in a vast universe, and more joyful than there are stars. So bit by bit, a little each day, I will look for answers in those words, one set of metaphors illuminating another. And continue to pray that an unknown, unnamed woman can hold on until the second week of July.

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