Thursday, May 24, 2012

Something to declare

For the first time in three years and seven months, I left the country at the weekend.

One passport facilitated this, and will facilitate all future trips, in legal terms; but it is the other passport that will give me the world.

It was just a short hop across the water, to London. But my word, the butterflies! And the spontaneous smiling that started a good 48 hours before I even picked up my boarding pass.

It was the thought, you see, of just waking up and being somewhere. And with such ease.

By coincidence, the bus I take to the airport passes through Beaumont, the suburb of the city where I had my transplant almost five months ago now.

Looking in at the rooftops of the hospital, a whole host of memories collided in my mind's eye. Arriving there, leaving there, laughing there, crying there.

The image also of walking up the flight of stairs at the end of the ward two days after the operation, hanging on to the arm of my physio, flinching and trying to get used to the feeling of a new organ inside.

Life never stands still. I thank God for that.

There were some nerves shifting inside me, of course. That I might eat something funny and become unwell over there, or that the airport security people would wrestle my medication from my hands, and I'd have to turn back, defeated.

But they didn't take any notice of me. I guess few enough suicide bombers appear at the departure gates, grinning manically.

I always relish the take-off. It is an action that encapsulates nicely the sum of my commitment issues - the thrill of escaping, of being out of reach, with an awesome force behind you.

Up in the clouds, I had a window seat. I considered that at this great height, I must be closer to my donor in some way. Not in a religious or spiritual context, but just by virtue of being up here, away from the sad events that ruin lives below, closer to all that is mysterious and indescribable above.

I have been to London a number of times, but not in several years. The destination, in truth, was unimportant. This was all about the symbolic, the emotional, the next step in the rebirth and rehabilitation from sick to well.

I was free to be a carefree daytripper; free to annoy my travelling companion by constantly declaring "To the Tower..!"

I did subsequently change the phrase after we had completed our tour of the digs where Anne Boleyn passed her final hours before Henry VIII did her in.

"To the tube..!" however turned out to be no less irritating.

Free to have bananas for a healthy breakfast, and wine at dinner, and ice cream for dessert, before bed in a hotel where my luggage consisted of one girlie suitcase, rather than a coffin-sized case for one dialysis machine.

There was a lot of walking, and while I always had the fitness for exercise, now I have a body of limbs that aren't starved for energy, the evil that was anaemia banished.

We knocked to see if the Queen wanted to come out to play, but she wasn't in. I thought she might let me use the bathroom, for this is the one difficulty with being in the community of the recently transplanted.

The number of public toilets I now am forced to visit. The things I have seen. I could write a book, and perhaps I will.

We flew home Monday night, having also visited the Tate, where my lovely friend declared all art to be "bollox"; having seen 'Chicago' on the West End; and having passed our favourite hour of the trip, running fingers over the spines of second hand books on South Bank by the Thames.

It is the first stop on what I am calling the Freedom Tour 2012. Next stop is Paris. Then I think I'll take myself over to the United States in the Fall.

There are thoughts in my head also of EMIGRATION*. Of leaving this place for a while, for a change of lifestyle to match this changing of the guard with my organs.

What good this miracle if I don't feed it with adventure, with sights unseen, with strange accents and sunsets on the other side of the world?

We shall see, we shall see.

*I managed somehow to spell this incorrectly when I posted initially. Unforgivable. Not least because my thesis for my Masters degree was on the subject of 'Immigration'. It even had it in the title. There must be a stray toxin or two in my brain still.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Dear Mr Prograf,

Firstly, kudos to you on the science bit, and on creating an anti-rejection wonder. I'd say you drive a fierce nice car now, but I hope that back at the beginning, it wasn't all about the money, and the genius in you wanted to advance pharmaceutical brilliance.

You did good.

But let's talk about the hair loss that your drug causes.

You see, in all my imaginings of my post-transplant days, I saw showreels of myself tripping and giggling my way across cities and continents with hair.

I did not foresee the daily exodus down the plughole in my shower. Increasingly now I fear the moment of having to wash or brush my hair because of the frightening number of strands that come away in my hands.

It makes me sad, and I truly had enough of that before.

I know the medics say it should "settle down" once my body adjusts to being immuno-suppressed, but if that takes much longer, I am going to have to endure taunts from the meanies on the bus.

"Here, is that yer one Gail Porter?"

Worse still, someone may compare me to Sinead O'Connor, and I am neither bipolar, nor the mother of a handful of children who are all half siblings to each other, and whose living room is a bit crowded come Father's Day.

Please do not mistake this grumbling for ingratitude. I love, love, love my kidney, and I will never stop counting myself as a lucky one.

Luckier even than Dolores McNamara. Euromillions? Oodles of euro in the bank is no fortune compared to mine.

But it really would be terrific if I could have a working kidney and hair.

Some are comforted by the theory that the hair loss is down to your body trying to heal. That it diverts all the protein and the essential minerals towards patching up your wounds, and away from nourishing your tresses.

I'm not buying it.

So Mr Prograf, get thee to a lab, and sort it out. Pronto.

Keep the parts of your elixir that kidney needs to stay healthy. Lose the elements that are turning my scalp into the hair follicles' version of Pol Pot's killing fields.

Good man.