“Hurry up,” called my Dad in a rough and loud voice, following with the pounding of our family’s old mini-van horn. I had less than a minute to get myself out of the house. “I’m coming,” I replied. “Mom, why do I get stuck making the food for today’s picnic? Why can’t Lisa do it?” “You know your sister is far too young. Be nice to Lisa,” my mom replied.
Driving in my red sports car in the middle of nowhere, wind through my hair, music blaring loudly, I thought that this would probably be the last time I got to feel freedom like this. It was time for me to move on, and ever since my father had been arrested, I had been forced to. I knew what the future held for me if I didn’t make it on time for my meeting. If this meeting was successful, I’d be moving to the city. It was a small possibility to be accepted for an interview as so many doctors from all over the state were applying for the job in that hospital. I had been living in this small town far too long and it was time for me to leave my childhood memories behind.
In the waiting room, I missed that feeling of freedom, wishing I was back in my car. Hearing the sounds of the clock only dragged the minutes into what felt like hours. was startled out of my reflective daze when the administrative assistant bluntly stated my name. As I entered the room, a man whose smile reassured me that the deal was closed, welcomed me in. “After taking a second look at your documents, you do have an impressive history in the medical field,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am,” I stuttered, trying to pronounce his name. He politely interrupted me, saving me. “Call me John,“ he stated. He gave one of those smiles again and I knew from that point on my new life had started.
After so many years of working the late shift in the emergency ward, I had seen all kinds of people. No one had scared me more than the criminal who had been shot during a police chase. However, I was on call and ready to remove the bullet from the man’s leg. The operation had taken longer than expected and I was ready to collapse on one of the hospital beds.
“Hard night?” my Boss said. I spoke before thinking, “You have no idea.” What was I thinking? This was a man who had twice as much experience as me, and dealt with harder cases than I could ever imagine. “These nights are hard on all of us,” he said. “You need a break; you’ve been working really hard this last couple of months. Do you want to come out for coffee with me?” he asked. I was flattered and said, “Yes!” He smiled one of his smiles.
At the coffee shop I didn’t feel like talking because I kept thinking about that patient so long ago. “What’s wrong? Something on your mind?” John asked. “It’s a patient I once had, a criminal,” I said. “I don’t want to think about it and talking only makes it worse.” John said, “All right then, we don’t have to talk about it,” and changing the subject, he asked, “Tell me why you moved here? I mean didn’t you come from a nice little town? One day I want to live in a small town,” he finished.
A flood of my childhood memories poured in. I had forgotten my childhood and no one had asked me about it until now. Upset that he’d made me remember something I had tried to forget, I bluntly stated, “Childhood is something to forget.” He replied asking, “What is it about your childhood that you don’t want to keep memories of?” I reluctantly answered, “My Mother died when I was just nine years old. The police never said it had been because of my Father, but I figured out the truth. My Dad is in jail now and I lost contact with my sister once they separated us into different homes, with different parents, far away from each other. My sister was only five when they took her away from me. I was only nine. What could I have done?”
Then it hit me, I knew why I had been so shaken up when I saw that criminal so long ago. It had reminded me of my father. He had been a criminal as well and I’d wanted to help Dad because I loved him, but I couldn’t get the thought of what he’d done to my mother out of my head. A tear ran down my cheek and before I could reach for my napkin, John raised his hand towards my cheek and dried my tear. “Don’t cry,” he said, “I’m here for you.” He placed his other hand on my hand and smiled one of those smiles that made everything seem like it was going to be okay. I never expected that three years later we would be married.
John and I were very much in love, and after the birth of our son, my life became what I had always dreamed about. However, my health wasn’t what I wished it could be. While walking down the hall at work one day, a striking pain pierced my chest; I started sweating and breathing heavily. “Doctor, are you OK?” I heard a nurse ask. “Yes, I’m fine, just a little stressed out, that’s all,” I said. I fell asleep that night only to awaken to a place that looked similar to my dream, except I was positive that my eyes were open. I turned to my husband and said, “What’s happened, what’s going on? I demand to know what’s going on!“ After years of working in a hospital, you begin to sense when things are terribly wrong. I was very tired and although I wanted to get up, my body seemed to have me chained to the bed.
A doctor in the room answered my demands. He said, “You have a severe heart condition. It’s crucial that we start looking for a new heart for you.” I barely had the strength to wipe the sweat from my forehead. I could barely breathe and it wasn’t because of my sickness. From out of my daze I heard the doctor say, ”You have less than a month before your heart will....” “Go!” I shouted, “Leave the room!”
Much later I told my husband, “Don’t be scared.” My husband’s head rose from the side of my arm and he released his grip on my hand. He always held my hand for fear that I might leave him, but I always told him that I would never leave without saying good-bye. I finally wanted to give in to the battle the day I saw the look on my son’s face. “Mommy, when are you going to get better?” he questioned. My son brought me back to reality and away from my dreams. “Mommy’s heart is just taking a little longer, that’s all,” I explained. He placed his ear to my heart, and that was the first time I cried during that whole long month of waiting.
I knew that the doctors had done their medical practices properly because I could barely feel a heart beat inside of me. “John, we’re taking your wife to the operating room, there’s a heart for her,” the doctor said. “Liana, wake up,” John pleaded. Nothing but utter silence followed by a rush of the medical team’s actions.
I felt so different today. I had so much strength and life in me. I turned to my husband who had fallen asleep beside me. He opened his eyes and I said, “I almost didn’t get the chance to say I love you.” He replied, “Your heart told me.”
I quickly packed up my clothes from the hospital closet; today was the day I could finally leave. From the top shelf, fell a bunch of pictures. As I was packing, I overheard a couple of nurses talking outside my room. One said, “That case was a miracle. What’s the chance of finding a heart that matches her blood type?” The other nurse replied, “I heard that she received the heart from a young woman who died in a car accident.”
I interrupted the nurses to ask, “Would you by any chance know what the young lady who gave me her heart looks like?”
I didn’t realize that I was still holding the pictures in my hands until one of the nurses pointed to one of them. “You’re holding her picture,” she said.
I went back into the room and sat on the bed and looked at the picture again. I put my hand over my heart and felt the beating of my sister.
© 2004 The Richmond Hill Public Library Board