Wow. Forty years ago today, I was one scared 15-year-old lying on a bed in a small pediatric dialysis facility at Einstein Hospital in NYC, about to begin my first kidney dialysis treatment.
The machine was on my left. Doctors and nurses were on my right preparing to put the needles in my arm for the first time that would connect to plastic lines, carrying my blood to the artificial kidney filter and returning it, cleaned, via the second needle.
“Don’t worry,” the doctor said, “this is going to feel like a bee sting,” as he prepared to give a Novocaine injection that would numb the area. “But I’ve never been stung by a bee!”, I cried. I shut my eyes tight. I couldn’t see past that moment. The treatment was beginning. I looked down at the pair of tubes draped across my chest going from my arm to the machine on the other side. The thought that those tubes were carrying my blood was too much for me to bear. I quickly said to myself, “Those tubes are red. That’s it. Those are red tubes.” And that, all those years ago, was how I managed to calm myself. Sometimes, swimming in the river of De-Nial is a very good thing.
That day, so seemingly dark, was the beginning of a miracle. The miracle of being given my life back, a life that could haven easily been taken so long ago. It ended up that transplantation was more like a Holy Grail, having tried it three times with no more than a few months off dialysis and so much hardship that was it felt like a descent into an abyss more than anything else. I have learned so much since then – through all the ups and downs. And I guess it can be distilled down to this: Keep looking toward the light. Even when dark is all that’s apparent. Keep looking toward the light. It’s there.
Rogers & Hammerstein expressed it best in their musical production of Cinderella, released in 1965, in the song, “Impossible””.
But the world is full of zanies & fools
Who don’t believe in sensible rules
And don’t believe what sensible people say
And because of all those dewey-eyed dopes
Keep building up impossible hopes
Things are happening every day….
I was only 5 years old when I watched this on TV for the first time. I stood there transfixed. And “Impossible” was an eye-opener to me even then. The notion of staying open to things that appeared impossible was an absolute revelation. I was not exactly being raised like that. Even then, I decided that I would set my mind that way. Certainly, there were long periods in the years to come, where that notion was clouded over. But I kept returning to it.
This notion of possibilities in the world, of not being constrained by the attitudes and belief systems of others. That’s their bit to deal with.
This week has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But I came back to was this song.