So I sat down to get this blog back on topic and write about my new student, a little girl preparing for her Bat Mitzvah next fall—the first non-adult I've taught—and how brilliant and quick she is, with a beautiful, strong voice that belies her tiny stature, and an almost scary ability to remember tunes as soon as she hears then (or maybe all kids are like this, and it's just we adults who are a little slow?)—when suddenly:
A note! From my stem-cell recipient!
Of course the news was delivered via a cell phone message from the bone marrow people on Wednesday afternoon, same day and time as always. I guess Wednesdays are when they leave momentous messages. I'm at a client's office at that time, and answer only when I see that number on Caller ID—which for awhile was happening every week. This time the phone was in my bag, and I didn't notice the message until I was halfway back home. I ducked into a doorway and listened. Call me, said the woman who'd given me all the news since day one, and I'll read it to you before I send it to you! I ran the rest of the way and called, out of breath.
I had no idea my recipient could get in touch before a year had passed. I recall references on other blogs to letters received, but the chronology was vague; I assumed they came after a year. But in fact both donor and recipient can exchange notes at any time, as long as they remain anonymous, via the agency that facilitated the transplant.
It was a beautiful letter, full of thanks. My recipient is a real person, and my stem cells are now doing their work in her body. It actually happened; I haven't been dreaming these past 6 months; I have her voice, in writing, to prove it. She has a family, people she loves and who love her, and the goal of getting well in time to take part in a life cycle event next year. She received a transplant before that didn't work. I am her second chance and, in clear, strong handwriting that I saw today when I finally held the actual note in my hands, wrote that she couldn't find enough words to express her gratitude for my gift of life.
Ecstatic, astonished, overwhelmed, I exhaled the biggest ever sigh of relief... but a small part of me wasn't surprised. For some reason I always imagined her as having grown children and a big family, as the note implied, perhaps because I didn't want to think of someone so gravely ill as being at all like me, who have neither. Or that it was too sad to envision her all alone during this struggle. I had harbored a secret wish that she was nice and friendly, afraid of the opposite: that she coped with disease by becoming bitter, shutting off, and would never want to know me.
It's still very early, less than a month after the transplant. Bracha is nowhere nearly out of the woods, and all I know about her condition is that she has enough energy to write, which seems like a good thing. I'll get an official update in a few weeks, and then I'll answer the note. The next update after that will be in April, or perhaps I'll get a letter in reply. Even if I don't, I now feel like God has done God's job—and quite well, at that—for this phase of the adventure.