( Intermediate Level )
Billy Ray looks back at his life, as he lies in the hospital bed awaiting a donor’s heart. “Why him?” he asks himself. He wasn’t the nicest person in life. He wasn’t successful. He was unmarried and recently lost his job due to his illness.
He knew that by receiving a heart another lost his or her life. How unfortunate for that individual but for him it meant a second chance.
He waited nearly two years for a donor. When he gave up all hope he received the long past due phone call. ” Mr. Gambino this is Nurse Smith. Dr. Abraham asked me to call you.”
“Please immediately come into Clark County Hospital. We have a donor heart for you. It will be here within the hour. We need to prep you for surgery. Do you understand Mr. Gambino? We finally have a donor heart for you.”
He arrived at the hospital within thirty minutes. He changed into a hospital gown and had an IV connected to his arm. He looked around and noticed he had a neighbor in the same room.
In the next bed was a young teenage boy. Billy Ray tried to have small talk with him but he was too frightened to carry on a conversation.
At the age of sixteen, Craig collapsed in PE class. The school sent him directly to the emergency room. His parents were notified to go to the hospital.
The doctors ran a battery of tests upon arrival. “Unfortunately, your son has a very weak heart. We call it hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It usually shows earlier signs.”
He, too, received the same good news Billy Ray did. “Please get to the hospital as soon as you can. We have a heart for your son.”
As the two lay in their hospital beds the sounds of nurses bustling around. Every so often they came in to take vital signs of each. Asked how they were doing and offered ice chips. “It wouldn’t be much longer,” they would say on the way out the door.
Nearly one hour passed. Dr. Abraham came into the room. “Hello, gentlemen. Today is your lucky day. I and Dr. Ingram will orchestrate your surgeries.”
“We have received the donor’s hearts and everything looks perfect. The nurses will be in shortly and get you ready. You will wake up with a new lease on life.”
The doctor left the room and the two looked at each other. “See you again soon buddy. I will be waiting for you.” At that moment the nurses came in and ushered each in their hospital beds to the surgery rooms number one and two.
“Mr. Gambino, just relax and take deep breaths and count backward from ten. You will wake up in four to six hours with a new heart beating inside you.”
The same thing was happening in the next surgery room. Craig was a little more nervous. His parents said they’d be just outside waiting for him.
“We love you” was the last words he heard from his parents. He started counting. “Ten, nine, eight, seven… ”
Each of their surgeries went off without any complications. They would wake up, in recovery, next to each other. Mr. Gambino’s took a little longer. Dr. Abraham had to massage the donor heart to have it begin to beat in its new recipient.
Each of the respective doctors came in to see their patient before they headed home for the night. Tomorrow Dr. Abraham would read a letter to each of them written by the husband and father of the donors.
They rested comfortably during the night. The nurses took turns taking vital signs. It was of great help having both in the ICU.
“Good morning, the doctors both agreed if you are up to it, we will set you up and you can try to eat a light breakfast. They will be in sometime this morning to see you.”
“Craig, your parents will be here in about forty-five minutes. They called earlier to see how you were doing. They stayed quite late and we sent them home to get some rest.”
Breakfast was finished by the time Craig’s parents arrived. Mom gave her son a huge hug and kiss. Unlike most teens, Craig hadn’t pulled away. He actually felt comfortable having his parents there.
Billy Ray had not one person call or show up to see him. He had pushed most away in the years past. He used to have friends and a girlfriend. One by one he eliminated them from his life. Why keep them around if he was going to die soon.
Dr. Abraham arrived just before noon. He looked over their charts and told each of them, “Everything looks wonderful. If this progress continues we can let you go home within the week, of course with limitations.”
“One more thing. I was asked to read this letter to both of you afterward. The donors were a mother and daughter who died in a terrible car accident where they both perished. It was the husband who signed the consent to donate their organs.”
He reached into his doctor’s coat inside pocket and took the letter out of its envelope. This would be the first time he would read it. He promised the husband he would read it so now he follows his wish.
“This is very unusual and I have never had to do this before. I saw how important this was to him so I gave my word I would read this to you both.”
He began to read,” I never, in my wildest of dreams, thought I would be writing such a letter. This is not how life should be. Saying goodbye to my wife and my precious daughter.”
“Actually, I do not feel as if I am saying goodbye but, in some strange way, I feel as if I will be saying, hello “
“I want to tell you a little about my wife first. She was a magnificent woman. She had a huge heart filled with love for everyone and everything. She never complained and was always willing to lend a helping hand.”
“My daughter was a curious one. She always asked tons of questions wanting to know how everything worked. She was eager to learn new things and loved to sing and dance.”
“As a matter of fact, they were on their way to dance practice when they had the unfortunate accident that ended both their lives.”
“I gave my consent to donate their organs in hopes that their spirits would live on inside the body of others who needed them the most.”
” For those who receive their hearts, I want you to know you have received hearts of gold. Filled with goodness and kindness. You were given a second chance to live. Please, treat them well.”
The doctor carefully folded the letter and returned it to its envelope. He looked up to see Billy Ray burying his face in his hands.
He finally knew what it feels like to love so much and to sacrifice more than he could ever imagine. From this day forward he would not live in self-pity.
He hoped to reunite with his friends and most of all his girlfriend who never stopped loving him.
Craig knew he would not be like others his age. He knew, though, he had a second chance to live life to its fullest.
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donor – adjective: the act of donating something. For example money, organ or time
unfortunate – adjective: bad luck or unlucky
small talk – noun: a conversation about unimportant or matters
hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – noun: a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick
bustling – adjective: moving in an energetic and busy manner
vital signs – noun: measurements of the body’s most basic functions
orchestrate – verb: arrange
new lease on life -phrase: continue living
ushered – verb: to show or guide
backward – adverb: opposite or forward
nervous – adjective: tending to be anxious
complications – noun: complicates, difficulty
recipient noun: a person or thing that receives something
respective – adjective: belonging or relating
ICU – noun: intensive care unit at a hospital where patients are needing around the clock care
limitations – noun: restrictions
afterward – adverb: later
perished – verb: suffered death
precious – adjective: of great value
magnificent – adjective: impressive
curious – adjective: eager to know or learn something
heart (s ) of gold – idiom: a kind and generous disposition
burying – verb: to hide
sacrifice – verb: to give or offer
self-pity – noun: self-absorbed unhappiness
reunite – verb: come together again
Question ( s ):
Have you or anyone you know signed up to be an organ donor?
Do you know anyone who is on a list to receive a donor organ?