In just a few hours I head back to the hospital for a re-do of all those blood tests from last May, just in case I met up with a nasty mosquito during a recent weekend trip down the Amazon. (Not.) Assuming all is well, my first of five Neupogen shots will be on 9/24; I'll need to leave second day Sukkot services early in order to get to the hospital on time. After five days of injections, my stem cells will be practically leaping out of my bones, and hopefully not causing any discomfort in the process.
The next three shots were to be given at my home by a VNS nurse. Inconveniently, I have plans to be elsewhere on 9/25. I usually stay close to home on Shabbat but this was a special occasion, in the works for awhile. Someone else could give me the shot, which is subcutaneous and not intravenous (i.e., the kind of needle you stab yourself with in the arm or thigh, like a diabetic does with insulin), but that person would first need to submit credentials to the donation center and be thoroughly vetted. Of course this makes sense, but is also a big pain. The other option, which a few dear doctor friends convinced me is perfectly feasible, is to give myself the injection. Needles give me the creeps, but I opted to go this route after a dozen phone calls failed to identify a suitable injection-giver. They'll teach me how to do it at the hospital, and send me home with a cooler full of drugs and gel packs. One of the friends I'll be with is a doctor herself, so can supervise.
Or I might decide to skip the event, which will require stamina and some running around, and just lounge around at home that weekend. I have 11 more days to decide; it wouldn't be the end of the world, and would probably be the spiritually saner course of action. I was originally set to read Torah on the second day of Sukkot, too, but some people far wiser than I suggested I focus my kavannah on the impending donation rather than on vowels and trope. To be honest, I haven't been able to focus on much of anything for weeks. I've cranked out some less than brilliant work, paid bills, gone to the gym, all the usual stuff. But a good chunk of my brain is floating in a fog somewhere above. Often it feels real, other times utterly impossible and I wait to wake up, but then it's real once again and all I can do is smile and marvel, or sing. Rosh Hashanah couldn't have come at a better time.
The other day I wondered if this is how parents or pregnant women might feel, a mixture of awe and a massive sense of responsibility. (How I wish I could ask my mother; oddly, coincidentally, I am now the same age as she was when she had me.) But then I decided it fell into a category all its own. Unlike a child, we are both responsible; the recipient of my stem cells chose to place her trust in a complete stranger. I can't imagine a braver act. Maybe I'm reacting as a surgeon or cop might, or that guy on the trapeze who catches the other guy by the wrists after he flies through the air. There is no way to sufficiently rise to the responsibility of embracing so much trust. All a person can do is keep living and breathing and doing her best, and God will take care of the rest.
On the way to services the other morning I passed by a big, scary-looking man walking an even larger scary-looking dog. The dog was also armed, in case they were not imposing enough, and held a log, the trunk of a small tree, in its jaws. Man and dog trotted past, and I gave them a wide berth on the sidewalk. And then they were gone, no harm done. I think that's how the donation will feel: some shock, excitement, a little fear, and then--done. Meanwhile, I finally fixed the alarm clock in my bedroom to display the actual time after years of keeping it set to seven minutes ahead, or maybe it was six, which I thought helped stop me from being late and forced me to rush, since I could never be sure of the actual time. But in reality I just subtracted six or seven and went about my business. Now, instead, I will be forced to focus on the present moment alone.
I am so moved by your decision to do this. Thank you for chronicling the experience a little bit here.
For what it's worth, I have long been terrified of needles, but during my pregnancy I had to give myself a subcutaneous injection of blood thinners daily. It's not as awful as it sounds, I promise -- and knowing that you're doing it in order to perform a mitzvah for someone else makes it hopefully easier, too.
staying present...a gift for yourself in all of this. may you continue to experience blessing fully in each moment as you yourself become a source of blessing through your generous heart (and bone marrow).
The needle is subQ...no worries. Really it's a piece of cake.
g'mar hatima tova
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