THE BROKEN I
The doctor's words rang in hollow tones as I listened in disbelief. "Valve
malfunction", "tissue decay", "aggressive disease"...I would need a heart transplant. There
was no medication, no therapy, no cure. I must have looked bewildered because he kept
asking me if I understood. I understood his words, yes, but they couldn't possibly be meant
for me. That slight pain and fatigue I'd been feeling certainly couldn't mean all that. I was 23!
I was going back to school to study creative writing in the fall. I had finally figured out what I
wanted to do with my life and now he was telling me it might end soon.
The nature of my illness put me high on the donor list, a fact that my doctor kept
using to try to encourage me. But as the weeks went by and I grew weaker, the situation
seemed less and less hopeful. Pretty soon I was confined to my bed. My mother bought
me a laptop computer so I could still do some writing. As I sat there staring at it, unable to
get out of bed for more than five minutes, I began to get angry. Not just mad, but a deep,
damaging kind of anger that would not go away. I seethed for days, contemplating the
injustice of it all. I cried and beat my fists against the bed until they hurt. Nothing helped,
until one afternoon when a still, small voice rose above the anger. I remembered something
my pastor had said a long time ago. "Don't let a negative experience get the best of you; let
it bring out the best of you." Easier said than done, but it made me think. Was this how I
wanted it to end - cursing and tears and self-pity? Slowly, the anger began to take another
turn. It began driving me instead of oppressing me. Not caring who might hear, I shouted,
"Devil, you can't silence this voice that easily!"
I turned on my new computer and began to write. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I
wrote until I fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard. Words flowed like they never had
before. And when the anger came, I wrote more, taking out my aggression on the keys. My
mother gently reminded me that it was a computer, not a $1200 punching bag. So when I
saw that the "I" key was barely working, I eased up a bit.
Time passed and I grew weaker still. Finally, I was admitted to the hospital. I slept
a lot, dozing in and out as my family took turns sitting with me. At my request, they brought my
computer in just to have at my bedside. It had become my security blanket. Mornings melted
into evenings and I knew the end was near. One day, I stretched my arm and my hand landed
on the keyboard. I missed it so much, but took some comfort in feeling it beneath my fingers
again. As I felt the "I" key loose on the keyboard, I remembered how many times I had pounded
it, venting all my frustrations. It was "I" this and "I" that. And now it was broken. The "I" was
broken... and I was broken, too. I never made the connection until then. In the same way that
key barely functioned, I barely functioned as well. I had to smile at the irony. I was broken
physically, mentally, even spiritually. Maybe this was where I needed to be for healing to take
place. Drifting off to sleep again, a sweet peace covered me like I hadn't felt in a long time.
Later that day, I could feel my mother's warm breath in my ear. "We have a donor,"
she whispered. I thought it was a dream at first; I'd had so many like that. But as they were
wheeling me down the hall, I knew this dream had become a reality. I awoke two days
later in quite a bit of pain, but able to take a deep breath again. Soon, I was back to writing,
no longer out of an angry heart, but a joyous, grateful one - one that was growing stronger as
I was growing stronger. I never fixed the broken "I". It reminds me of the two-fold transplant
I received and how, in more ways than one, I'll never be the same again.
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