The room was dark. There were no distinguishable sights or sounds. It felt like the beginning, when the earth was formless, the creation story I’d heard over and over as a child in Sunday school. Somehow I’d fallen into the formless void, the black nothingness. I couldn’t tell you where I was or who was there with me, all I knew was that I was there.
I. Was. There.
The last thing I remember before that moment was waiting to be taken into the OR. I’d already crossed the sterile line, through the double doors into the place where I had to do this alone. There was no one to carry me across the threshold, no one to sit beside me and hold my hand as I crossed over from one life to the next. It was only me, alone. I stared at the ceiling and tried not to cry. I concentrated on the sounds of the nursing shift changeover, with the morning nurses shuffling in with their hands full of coffee and the night nurses with their tired eyes grabbing their bags and heading towards the door. Back out of the land of transition, back into the world of the living. Something about waiting in that OR felt like sacred and holy ground. I kept waiting for someone to walk through the doors that I knew, for someone to come and talk to me to relieve my fears, but every moment I waited pressed into me the fact that I was alone for this part.
From what I know now, I was taken from that waiting room to the operating theatre. I was given a liver transplant, reconstructive surgery, a second liver transplant, all within a 4 day window. The liver ultimately inside my body now didn’t belong to my brother, like we’d all originally planned, but had formerly lived inside the body of a stranger who lived across the country from me. I spent weeks on a ventilator, fighting for my life in the subtlest and most obvious of ways.
And then I remember waking up. For all intents and purposes, I was alone for this part too. I had to carry myself over the threshold. I had to cross over all on my own, from one life to the next. The act of healing is a solitary journey. Doctors and nurses and loved ones cared for me but in the end this work was the kind I needed to do alone. And so I woke up, in this formless nothing, and I don’t remember much except that I felt new life stirring inside me. There’s no good way to describe it except for I felt like I was alive again. Right where my liver rests, I could feel what felt like a glowing, amber light that cradled my body from the inside out.
The 23 years I lived with Glycogen Storage Disease — a rare condition where my liver was missing the enzyme needed to turn glycogen into glucose — everyone always told me it didn’t hurt. My body wasn’t in any physical pain from the missing piece of my liver, that only the effects of this deficiency caused trauma. I believed them, after all they were the professionals and I was only a child. I didn’t know what it felt like to be in a body, didn’t know that this constant level of resonance and vibration wasn’t normal. But when I woke up after that surgery, my body still buzzing from all the pain killers and medications they had given me, I knew right away they had been wrong. There had been pain, I had distinctly felt the lack of that existed inside of me up until this point. And I didn’t feel it anymore. I woke up and without even knowing the outside world existed, I knew I existed. I knew I was alive, and I felt light and nothing hurt anymore.
It was like death, but better. It was rebirth.