Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bright, Beautiful, and Full of Hard-Earned Life

For those of you who just finished watching NY Med, thanks. Thank you from the CF community, for being part of our never-ending awareness movement. Thank you from the transplant community for caring enough to tune in and to (hopefully) do your part by spreading the word about organ donation and the many beautiful lives it saves each year. And, of course, thank you from our small group of CF/transplantee friends (myself, Katy, Kristy, Allison, Kelley, and Jerry) for letting our amazing "cyster" Lyndsey into your lives for the past hour. I promise you that the best is yet to come from that girl.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't normally like watching medical drama -- reality, fiction, or anything in between. For lack of a better way to describe it, medical stuff done to other people still gives me a pretty sever case of the heebie-jeebies. I hear doctors in Europe are working on a cure for those, but until they find one I think I'll just have to continue reading books right through "House"and "ER" and any of the many incarnations of "Grey's Anatomy." I made a good faith effort to watch the short-lived transplant (melo)drama "Three Rivers" while waiting for my lungs, but decided to quit after a woman awoke from her lung transplant in a quiet, peaceful hospital room with nary a vent nor overworked ICU nurse in sight. Something told me I wouldn't be lucky enough to emerge from my surgery with new lungs AND perfectly applied eyeshadow, so why even bother?

But NY Med is an exception to my rule, and not just because it features my hospital/doctors/nurses/friends. I actually like NY Med for an entirely different reason, and one that surprised me at first. I like it because it actually seems, well, like a hospital. It shows the controlled chaos that never seems to exist in ER, where every doctor is apparently well equipped to perform every procedure bedside and will do so at the drop of a hat as long as he gets to yell "STAT!!" at least twice. NY Med shows doctors as who they are -- people! coffee drinkers! daytime talk show hosts who got their start on Oprah! -- and patients as, well, more or less as themselves, which is to say almost exactly like the doctors. There's a lot of coffee drinking.

I had my transplant the year before NY Med began filming at Columbia. My lovely cysters Kristy and Lyndsey were both right on target with timing, though, and both of them got to savor the fun of being followed by cameras as their health slowly declined (Lyndsey received her transplant first, ending the filming). They enjoyed the cameras because the crews were sensitive, interested in learning about CF and transplant, and generally nice people who wanted to treat them like nice people. And I think that's the difference between the awareness raised by this show about CF and organ donation and, say, the episode of Grey's when a man was forced to choose between receiving a lung transplant and breaking up with his infection-ridden, scary, fellow CFer girlfriend. 1) Lyndsey's story makes sense, and 2) it made the story first and foremost about her, and only secondarily about people running around the hospital calling out dramatic commands.

Look, most of us have been in a hospital. In my case, I've even inside THAT hospital. And I think all of us can agree that it's tough, when you're in there, to get the sense that anyone has any focus on you and your life beyond the walls of hospital. It can be difficult to make heads or tails out of fact that you walk into those doors a whole and complete person, and you exit them a whole and complete person. For the time inside them, however, you become a complex system of blood, muscle, organs, veins, and nerve endings that are all different except for the two things they share: they are in you, and they need to be fixed. You become someone's job in that moment, which is a way different thing than becoming their friend or their lover or even their enemy. Because jobs are typically passive things to be acted upon and completed, and the best jobs try their hardest not to mess things up any worse than they were when you walked in here. I'm always a little worried when I meet a doctor who laughingly tells me that he used to love George Clooney on ER. I feel like I need to shake his hand and then politely remind him that I am not a prop, I do not wear makeup into surgery, and, no, nothing needs to be done "STAT!" Thank you.

So NY MED gives us the chance not only to spread awareness of diseases like CF, or of the importance of organ donation, or even of the fabulous humor of Dr. Oz. The great thing about this show is that it also offers us a chance to spread awareness of all the many wonderful patients behind these scary diseases and larger than life doctors. It gives the real world some perspective on the tricky relationships that emerge when doctors know patients as people as well as a medical mystery, and the highs and lows that come along with those decisions. I'm grateful my hospital has that, grateful that you got to watch it, and even more grateful that the wonderful soul you all got to meet tonight was my lovely friend. Lyndsey, darlin', if we ever design a patient awareness ribbon for the much-needed "Patient Appreciation Day", I think it should be colored just like you are: bright, beautiful, and full of hard-earned life.

This post is dedicated, with sincere gratitude, to the all the organ donors and their families who made this and so many other miracles possible.


  1. second all the postings on your timeline. you always find the right words girlie. i heart you and your friends!


  2. My wife and I watched Lyndsey's journey last night. This was a great documentary. I'm so thankful for the wonderful doctors, organ donors, and families that make miracles possible. No doubt that Lyndsey seems like one kick butt girl!! Does she have a blog? Just curious to see how she is doing.

    I was glad to see how she embraced the news of the transplant! Something that will stick with me from this documentary is how she fights not for herself but for her support system her family her friends etc. This is a very common theme amongst us CFer's and I am glad that this was caught on tape. Without our support systems we would be different people.

    I hope things are going well for you with your new lungs and continue to live your dreams!

    I invite you to check out my blog as I am new to the blogging community.