Day 19 -
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anais Nin
The Morning of May 26, 2018 came very quickly. And started very early. Adolfo and I talked and tried to laugh a bit before we finally got some much-needed sleep the night before. I had a 4:30 wake-up call to take another anti-bacterial shower before surgery, which was tentatively scheduled for 9. My family was told that if they wanted to see me before surgery, they needed to be there at 7.
We had some time in my ICU room before we had to head down to the surgical floor where I would say “see you in a bit” and they would say “enjoy your nap”. We laughed. Everyone brought jokes, per usual. In our family the only thing we argue about is who is the funniest or the least stubborn. I’m not saying I’m both. I’ll let you be the judge of that. They wore the shirts that they made for the big 20. When I celebrated 20 years with Keely’s heart in March. “Kari. 20 Years of Life. 20 Years of Heart.” As I lay in Adolfo’s strong arms in my hospital bed, I looked across my room at this amazing group of people. My mom, my two dads, two of my brothers, one dear friend-turned-sister-in-law. They are solid. Loyal. Constant. I was missing one of my sister-in-laws, and my baby brother lives in California, but the get-up crew was there. We decided not to have the kids come up. They stayed at home with my niece, Stylee (happy 18th birthday today, Sty! I love you!) and played and were distracted from the reality of what was happening with me at the hospital.
The time finally came. The time that I had to do the next hard (read: impossible) thing. I was left with a brief moment with just my loving man and I. How do I head into surgery knowing how badly it will hurt when I awake? And knowing there is a chance I won’t awake. I just do. And I did. I shed a few tears as I kissed him. I felt the weight on his shoulders. The questions. The worries. The what-ifs. The man who saved my life in more ways than one. Than man who loves me so much I’m tattooed on his body. No, not my name, or my smiling mug, but my heart. Hearts. A few weeks before, he and my brother and sis-in-law got anatomical hearts tattooed on their arms. I mean, they like hearts, everyone’s got ‘em, but it was for me, and this act of love spoke volumes to me. Still does. Adolfo also got a simple heart on the back of his arm that matches mine. That’s some good love, folks.
I hadn’t been sedated yet as they wheeled me into the operating room. It was the first time I had seen the inside of this kind of operating room, yet it was obviously not my first time. Before they administered the relaxing medicine, I asked for a moment. I looked around the room. I gave thanks for the machines, for the cold, sterile environment, and then I looked each person in the eye and said thank you. Thank you for being part of this team that is going to save my life. Thank you for coming in on a Saturday. And then I asked them, when they removed Keely’s heart from my cozy, loving chest space, please look upon it with love and gratitude. Please tell her thank you, on my behalf, for giving me life, for giving me the chance to fall in love, so much love. To be a wife, and a mama. For over 20 years. And then I asked them to, on my behalf, welcome my new heart. To please tell it that I have made a space for you to live again, as you have made a space for me to live again. To hug and hold my family again. To create and to grow and to more than anything, love. To love big. To love bigger than one or two hearts ever did. With this new heart in me, I was going to live and love like never before. With this huge request, I gave some hugs to the staff, and I snuggled up on my little table, and went to sleep.
My family sat in the waiting room waiting for the first update, whenever that might be. They didn’t know what to expect, but were hopeful. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how it was going to go, the things that would happen, that I would have to endure, before it was all said and done. It was time to surrender any fear or doubt or worry about any outcome. What was to happen during surgery was out of our control, nothing we could do. Surgery began, and soon it was time to begin my painful journey from bud to bloom, and I was ready.