The line of titanum stiches – 31 to be ridiculously precise – begins right above the groin and works its way up in a direction resembling California’s Pacific border. About 5 ½ inches long, I was surprised to learn that was all the space that was needed to first remove, then insert a new kidney. Not quite the simplicity of a tonsillectomy; nor could a gallon of ice cream work as a pain killer. But the doctors who performed the procedure had more than the collective experience of a relief pitcher finishing off a 2-1, pennant-clinching game. Think Mariano Rivera with a surgical mask.
It’s been three weeks, and my indoor plumbing is operating at near-peak efficiency. For this, once again, the doctors have my thanks. But of greater importance is the party of the second part, the person who gave up that life-saving body part.
Earlier this year, March if I recall, my doctor told me my 15 years of diabetes had caught up to my not-so-religious degree of body maintenance. So like a car that can only tolerate so many miles without an oil change, I had an alternative – a new kidney or a likely lifetime of dialysis. The second option was nasty; the first was scary.
But I saw Eddie and told him the story. I needed a kidney. We have no other siblings. I needed one of his. His decision came faster than that of a person deciding what sort of topping they’d want on a pizza.
We both endured a number of tests, none of which you’d care to endure to kill a few hours. Just because we were brothers didn’t mean his kidney wouldn’t be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. We were a perfect match.
A few months passed. I did spend three months on dialysis, a walk in the park considering that many of the men and women enduring four hours three times a week with hoses emanating from their arms had been doing so for years; many, quite likely, would be doing so for the rest of their lives. Dialysis would have almost certainly kept me alive through June, for my son’s high school graduation. But college in four years? Marriage? Grandchildren? I wouldn’t have placed those bets.
Entered the hospital three weeks ago. The operation went off without a hitch. No muss, no fuss. Once again, the doctors turned in an all-star performance. Needless to say, slept through the five-hour procedure. Given the opportunity – not likely, certainly – I wouldn’t have minded staying sound asleep for the next two weeks. But we both emerged alive and well (sort of). I was hurting, big time. Eddie, too, but, thankfully the recipient in these procedures is subject to more pain, which is only fair. These days, my definition of a good night’s sleep is three hours, but I’ve grown an affinity for the MLB Network. Overnight today included a profile of the nine greatest stadiums in baseball history. Fenway was No. 1, as if there was any doubt.
As for No. 1 in the real world, my brother is the reason why I can anticipate attending my son’s college graduation and his wedding and bouncing one or two or six grand kids on my knee someday. I’ll probably have to be cautious about the knee part, though. A knee replacement is in the offing sometime in the next few years. But compared to recent events, that’s a head cold.
Strangely, for years, my brother and I were always on opposite ends of everything. Opposing basketball and wiffle ball and ping pong teams. He’s rooted for the Yankees, Giants, Islanders and Nets; I’ve leant strongly to the Mets, Jets, Rangers and Knicks. And I’ve been as angry as when his teams won than I was happy when mine won. Why? Damned if I know. Last time I recall the two of us rooting for the same team was the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Well, in the last couple weeks I’ve found myself not rooting for his teams, but not seething when they won. Can’t see myself buying a Nets t-shirt or a Giants cap, but it’s not inconceivable. I will have to draw the line somewhere, though. Root for the Yankees? I mean, really….