This story is by Debra Campoli and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Mummy, I met a very nice boy who is my friend.” smiled Emily.
Emily Mathers, just five years old, explained how much fun she had with her new friend as she was having her morning breakfast in her hospital bed. She was a sweet petite child with curly blond hair.
“When did you meet him? Yesterday, when Mummy had some errands to run?” asked Marylou, Emily’s mother.
Giggling Emily said, “No silly, at night when no one was here. He held my hand and we went for a walk down a very long road and he showed me his skateboard. He did tricks with it! Then, we came to some mud and he said we have to go back now.”
Marylou explained that it was a very nice dream, but Emily insisted she went out with her friend when nobody was around.
“It was real mummy!” as Emily nodded her head up & down.
Knowing that her sweet girl was bed-ridden needing a heart transplant very soon, she just smiled and hugged her. She was happy that her daughter could think that she was just like everybody else when in fact time, was not on her side. Her doctors gave Marylou the worst news yesterday that Emily had maybe 3 weeks before her heart gave out completely. She was at the top of the list for transplant surgery but finding a viable heart for her little body was realistically next to impossible.
The days were so long and sorrowful for Marylou because she kept vigil at Emily’s bedside both day and night for months now. She was out of work on a special dispensation due to her daughter’s illness and not having any other family to help. But now, knowing that her little angel would be leaving her in a few short weeks, the days seemed to fly by faster and faster.
Marylou went to the hospital’s chapel a few times a day while Emily was sleeping. She prayed that GOD would save her child so that she could grow up and have a wonderful life. Yet, she felt guilty asking for her child’s life when it meant that someone else had to die in order to save Emily.
A few days later, Emily told her mom that her friend visited her again. She explained that he told her that he was GOD’s friend and that he and GOD loved her very much.
Taken aback, Marylou froze with goose bumps rising up her arms and neck! GOD’s friend? Emily only knew the child’s prayer, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’. She had never explained any religious information to her daughter because she felt Emily was too young to understand the concept. But she, herself, had prayed silently over Emily practically every waking minute.
“Em, your friend, what is his name? What does he look like?”
“Well, I call him boy. He has long brown hair like you Mummy, and blue eyes like me, and a brown dot on his cheek.”
Emily was going downhill fast. The weeks went by and the doctors exhausted every option in their power to save poor Emily. She was literally days, maybe hours away from death.
Exactly 3:30 pm a nurse ran in the room to tell Marylou that they were sure they had a heart! It was from Alabama and they were in New Hampshire. The heart was being harvested in Alabama’s hospital at this very moment! Dr. Klein would be in shortly to brief her.
Marylou, with tears running down her face, hugged and kissed her emaciated baby girl. She whispered to her that she will be getting all better soon!
Dr. Klein came into the room with the biggest smile his face could make. “Your prayers are being answered Marylou. The surgical team is being called in and briefed and will be ready as soon as the heart arrives. The Transplant Association is taking care of all the arrangements. There is a 6 hour window to get the heart here. Emily will be prepped and ready before her gift arrives.”
The harvest team had to drive 15 minutes to the airport to be able to catch a flight from Alabama to Chicago to New Hampshire. There weren’t any direct flights that went straight through with no stop over. They had 2 young interns bringing the special cargo. One was a decorated Medic who had been in the headlines for his heroics during an explosion that killed many soldiers in Afganistan. Full of anxiety worrying about the time, the interns had to take that flight because the Transplant Organization couldn’t find any other options.
The flight was almost at Chicago when the plane was alerted that they had to circle with at least a 45 minute delay due to wind shear.
Fifteen minutes to airport after a 40 min harvesting of the organ with another 2 1/2 hours to Chicago and now another 45 minute delay?? That makes at least 3 1/2 hours since the heart was removed! There was only 2 ½ hours left until the heart would no longer be viable. Dr. Smith, the hero carrying the transplant, decided something had to be done or they were going to lose this opportunity. From the air he decided to call in a “promise” that he was given by a well known and respected senator on Capital Hill. He got through to him and explained the emergency that was needed to expedite this transport or a little 5 yr old girl would literally die without the heart being delivered in time.
Within ten minutes, the commercial aircraft was diverted to a military airbase that was only 50 miles away. The captain explained to the passengers that they carried life saving cargo for a young child. Therefore, since time was of the essence, they were asked to do this humanitarian diversion immediately.
The plane landed and as the doctors got off, clapping and cheers of encouragement rang out from the passengers. They were ushered to a military jet that took off with a time frame of 11 minutes from the landing of the commercial airline to the boarding and take off of the military jet.
The numbers on the timer glowed red. It continued to count down on the viability of the harvested heart as it was safely tucked in the medical igloo. There was only 2 hours left. It was miraculous to have gotten this far with all the problems. They surely needed Divine Intervention to get to their “finish line” with this precious gift.
The military pilot came over the speaker to the doctors and said that they were pushing through on emergency airspace that had been ordered by the White House. They would be arriving at a military base which will get them onto a helicopter that will take them to the hospital – with 24 minutes left for the heart.
“The hospital staff will be waiting and everything is set in place. I, myself, feel honored to be part of a life-saving mission, especially for a child. We will be setting down in 8 minutes.” explained the pilot.
Before the interns could believe it, they landed, were ushered onto a copter, and were already being lowered onto St. Joseph’s Hospital’s rooftop landing base. They had made it! The igloo was handed off and rushed through the halls to the Operating Room where the child lay with her chest cracked and ready. They had made it with little time to spare!
Hours went by so slowly that Marylou thought she would pass out at any moment from the stressful anticipation.
Finally, Dr. Klein came into the waiting area. “It’s looking good Marylou! Everything went so perfectly. I had to double check and triple check because it just seemed so effortless compared to so many other transplants. The rest is now up to Emily and”…the dr. pointed up.
“Thank you so much Dr. Klein!” while she sobbed and hugged the doctor tightly. “You saved my child…how can I ever thank you enough?”
Emily’s recovery was amazing. For the first time in years, her face was full of healthy color and her eyes were a clear vibrant blue. Life was looking wonderful! Marylou’s prayers were answered.
Somewhere in an Alabama newspaper was an article about a 13 year old boy who while riding on his skateboard, fell and cracked his skull. He died in the hospital but went on to help many people with the transplants that he gave.
There was a picture of the boy. He had long brown hair, big blue eyes, and a beautymark on his left cheek.