On Monday November 28, 2016 Danny listed for a double lung transplant with Johns Hopkins Pulmonary Program. In many ways it felt like this was the beginning of the journey, but the reality was we had already been walking for awhile. Transplant first officially came up as an option that Danny would be preparing for in January 2010, six months before we were married and one month after our engagement. We joined our lives knowing this was the future. The months and years following that recommendation would take us on many journeys and teach us more lessons than I could have ever imagined. Even with all of those previous experiences, even when we had a false alarm of thinking we were listing in 2012-2013 and needing to move to North Carolina (at the time Danny was being seen at Chapel Hill), even with the past few months that told us the time was coming, and even when there were moments when we were frustrated being stuck waiting for some sort of action – this day felt pretty monumental and like a shock to the system.
Going into Thanksgiving we knew what the next week held. The feeling of imminence hung around heavy on listing day, even though we were pretty confident it was going to be a longer wait (and why we
procrastinated) and it resulted in a reaction that was different for each of us.
Danny needed to get away. Sitting at home knowing this day had come….feeling his phone hold the possibility of life changing news whenever it dared to ring (and believe me those first few calls Danny received, or I heard come in on his phone did make you hold your breath), he just had to find a distraction, so he choose one of our favorites: the movies. Danny headed into the dark coolness of a theater to escape into a world of make believe, hiding away from his new reality. Luckily my brother Sawyer, was off that day and could go with him. The perfect company as someone who won’t ask a million questions about how he feels or what he is thinking, and loves a good movie. This was Danny’s way of accepting it – jumping with his eyes closed.
Me? Oh well, not quiet the same reaction. Now of course this was not my surgery, I was not listed for new organs, and I would not be heading under any unknown knives. But I was facing a mountain of my own. That first day felt heavy and I found myself realizing that anything I did as part of my routine could be the last time I do it before surgery (shower, day in the office, night in our bed) and my mind would wander. Will I always feel this way? Every time my phone lights up with Danny’s name across the screen, will I wonder if this is it? Am I currently doing something I should write instructions for while I could be out of commission for a bit? For me – I could not escape – my mind would not let me and my anxious self would not settle down, so instead I wrote.
That evening I took to my laptop and clicked away while listenig to music blaring and letting the tears roll down my face. For me, I knew the only way I could deal with this was to just face it, and more importantly feel it. Allow myself to jump head fisrt into the emotions and do my best to capture them, identify them, appreciate them, and hopefully begin to find peace through acceptance. This was happening and the better I did at processing it, the more ready I would be to move forward. So I let myself roll with it. I placed myself squarely in the middle of our life (literally on the couch in the middle of our home), observing this bizarre moment and telling myself no matter what the outcome, I owned this turn of events and accepted everything it meant for my life now and the life I would be leading.
And so it truly begin – the journey and the realization that we both were living this life that presented different experiences and totally unique ways of dealing with it. This trend would continue throughout this process. We are separate individuals with our own way ways of reacting, and different ways of managing. In so many ways this is so obvious – of course we are going to have different reactions, we have different personalities! But for anyone who is married or shares an intimate parts of your life with family and friends you know that logic doesn’t stop you from wishing everyone would act just like you! Why can’t all people be organized like me? Or why in the world would you ever try to fight the outcome and not just go with the flow? It is so dang gone frustrating that people don’t choose to accept things the way I do…. the world would be a better place if only. Or so I thought….
We have been married for seven years this upcoming summer and it was not until this transplant that both Danny and I learned to appreciate how our partners opposites help to enrich our lives and survive this difficult time. With all that we have faced I have finally come to value letting go and just going with it. The day Danny asked me something and I responded with “well, I don’t have a plan – I figure we will just go with it” – he was shocked. When I asked Dan the details of a doc visit and he responded with “ummm…. I can’t remember…. I guess without you there to take your good notes my Dad and I aren’t that good at capturing all the details” – my heart felt as loved as if he would have said your the most beautiful person in the whole world. All of our married life I think we spent a lot of time assuming the other person’s approach was inferior to our own and would ultimately end in mistakes or disaster. How wrong we were.
Listing day brought out very expected responses from each of our personalities. And I was proud of each of us that we opted to let the other person do their thing. In previous years, it would not be uncommon for me to want to shake the answers to all my musings from Danny – “how do you feel?” “What do you think?” “Are we always gonna feel this nervous?” …. And for Danny to look at me with frustration and confusion “Why do you have to dive into every little emotion?” “Do you have to share everything?” “Isn’t this our private life?” This was such a huge day that was pregnant with so much emotion we both instinctively knew to let the other person have what they needed to cope. We were able to appreciate that it wasn’t our way of choosing to respond, but in our heart of hearts we understood and respected our spouse.
That understanding paved the way and opened our hearts for the transformations that would later come throughout this season of life. Not easily and not without lot of hurt, emotion, pain, anger, sadness, fear and letting go….. but we would come to not only appreciate the other person’s reactions but see how we each benefit from them. The day we listed was a day that changed our life forever – in ways we could not even know. As we continue through this process Danny has become forthcoming with all the information he knows and acknowledges the details he doesn’t have. This stops my 99 questions and helps me feel prepared (and thus comforted). For me, I have come to appreciate that answers aren’t always required and sometimes you can get further by letting things play out. If I want to pour my energy into obsessing – how about obsessing about being on time. This has brought some relief to Danny’s ears and he has been surprised that suddenly he is the one holding us up. Isn’t God pretty amazing? Look at how he has used this time to teach us about ourselves, more about each other, and deepen our mutual respect and love. If only I had any clue on that day in November….
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!