Last Monday was the two year anniversary of my surgery.  On October 9th, 2015 I had a shunt put into my liver that connects the portal vein with the hepatic vein to bypass the liver in the event of Cirrhosis and hypertension in the liver.  TIPS is the jargon for this procedure.  This surgery was kind of a hail Mary pass by my Doctors in order to to bypass a dicey liver transplant.  Thankfully, it worked.

It occurred to me on that it had been two years on that day but I didn’t really spend much time thinking about it.  In fact the only thought that crossed my mind was “ONLY two years have passed”?!?  That was a year I desperately wanted to put in my rear view mirror.

Fast forward to Thursday.   I missed a call while I was out running errands and upon returning home, listened to the voice mail.

“Hello.  This is Austin from General Hospital and I’m calling to set up an appointment for your liver ultrasound as it has been two years since your surgery.  So…if you could call me back….ummm, Jen.  Wait…Jen?  JEN (insert last name here)?!?  Well, I’ll be damned“.

I had two “special procedures” technicians who were assigned to me each time my belly was drained and that happened seven different times so as you can imagine, the three of us developed a bit of a rapport.

It was clear as soon as he read my full name that he knew exactly who I was.  His message went on and his tone went from cautious recognition to gleeful surprise.   It occurred to me then that ole Austin hadn’t been betting on seeing me again.  Fair enough.

Austin’s sweet voicemail reminded me of just how awful it really was.  I would imagine that technicians like him see my type of case often enough.  I know they were all somewhat surprised of my age and gender given the condition of my leather liver.   I wonder how many folks make it?  I wonder how many get help and move on?  I wonder how many get their lives back?  I wonder how many don’t make it, like my best friend Ben.  I imagine the odds weren’t in my favor and Austin was well too aware of that.

Hearing the genuine happiness in his voice put a lump in my throat and took me back to a time when a lump stayed there.  A time where I laid in a hospital bed with tears streaming down my cheeks into my ears as I stared up at the ceiling unable to make eye contact with anyone for the soul crushing humiliation and shame that I felt.  After all, I had done this to myself.

Back to Austin.  I’ve replayed his message about 132 times and now I’m incredibly joyful that in three weeks I’ll walk into that hospital with the biggest cheesiest grin you’ve ever seen and give Austin a big fat hug and tell him how grateful I am for him, the surgery, and my life now.

In person.


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