After the phone rang incessantly for two hours he finally turned it off. According to the boys they did the same thing to the phone at home. Emmy had a physical therapy session and then was so tired she slept the rest of the night. Stephanie slept most of the night as well. Brett took the small couch and slept like a baby for the first time in two days with his girls safe by his side.
During rounds on Sunday morning there was no new information except that both were holding their own. Stephanie was subjected to a physical therapy session on Sunday right after Emmy. Both were so tired and drugged with antibiotics and pain medication, that had it not been for visitors stopping by he would have been quite bored. Mr. Woodson, several of the teachers from school, Maisy and her parents, and Kim and the boys all stopped by and kept Brett company.
Monday morning came early as the doctors started with rounds early hoping to get a jump on the day. The girls refreshed from an entire day of dozing woke early. Stephanie felt a lot better. The surgery seemed to have alleviated much of the pain in her leg. Both of their fevers had broken during the night and the nurse that had checked on them seemed to think they were on the mend.
While the noise in the hallway started about 8:00 they didn’t see any medical personnel until after 10:00. Food services had delivered breakfast. Emmy had progressed to a liquid diet yesterday and was allowed juices and a little milk along with the seemingly ever-present Jell-O. Stephanie had a normal breakfast but ate only a little feeling guilty eating in front of Emmy.
At 10:08 there was a knock on the door and Dr. Wallace and Michelle entered. “So how are we doing this morning?” He checked both of their breakfast trays to make sure they’d eaten. “Mrs. Miles, you didn’t eat much. Are you feeling OK?”
“Yes sir, I just wasn’t very hungry.”
“Emmy, good work with yours. I know it isn’t much but we need to proceed slowly. This afternoon we’ll run some tests and if your stomach seems to be handling everything we can step you up to a soft diet to get the rest of your digestive tract moving.” Emmy just nodded.
Then the poking and prodding began. He spent about ten minutes with Emmy before moving to Steph. Hers was much quicker and much more painless. “Mrs. Miles,”
She interrupted him “Just Stephanie please.”
“Stephanie today the physical therapist is going to make sure your up and walking on it. We need to make sure there’s no scar tissue developing in the muscle.”
He looked through the charts. “Now you all have both been fever free for three hours. So today will we a watch and see. Stephanie if you stay fever free and everything looks good we can release you tomorrow and we will switch you over to an oral antibiotic. That you’ll take religiously for ten more days to make sure we wipe out whatever infection remains.”
“Emmy, my dear, we have more to discuss. You’re going to be here for a couple more days at least. That kidney isn’t bouncing back quite as quickly as we might have hoped. Today we’ll do your first dialysis session. They will explain everything to you and it won’t hurt at all. We’ve got you scheduled for 2:00 this afternoon with Lynn who is my favorite.”
“ The physical therapist said you were tolerating everything nicely. I know it hurts like crazy but the more work you put in now the quicker you get out of here. OK?” Emmy nodded.
“Now, bigger picture I’ve got a lot of news to share this morning. We pushed you guys to the end of rounds hoping that we’d get some calls back on the donor registry and maybe even your genetic testing. Michelle heard back from the registry a little while ago and at this time they won’t list Emmy. The cancer is just to recent.” The entire room seemed to sigh. “In all honesty I’d have been surprised if they listed her. This is something we can revisit at a later date if we can’t find alternatives.”
“So that was the bad news. Good news is your still a candidate for a living donor. There were no waiting donors listed that matched but then Michelle got a call from the lab doing your testing. I’ll let her tell you.”
Michelle smiled. “Well Friday morning when I sent everything off I made a call to a friend that works at the lab told her the situation and asked if there was anything she could do to rush this through. She said absolutely and she would run everything herself. Saturday she called and said she’d gotten some funny results and thought maybe something had gone wrong so she was running them again.
“This morning she called and said nothing was wrong with the initial test that she’d gotten the same results again. She emailed me the reports this morning. Brett was not a match to Emmy, but there are two patients in Kentucky that he is a match to, if we can put together a donation tree we might find a kidney for Emmy that way.”
“Now for the amazing and weird part. Stephanie she ran your test twice and both times found that you and Emmy are actually a perfect genetic match.” Stephanie’s eyes went wide.
“What does that mean?”
“First it means that you could donate a kidney to Emmy and it would be, genetically, a perfect match. Meaning her body should easily accept it. Second and my friend ran this twice it looks like Emmy and you are related. She believes that Emmy’s mother was probably your sister.”
Emmy’s eyes were wide as well at this news.
Brett was shocked too. “Stephanie could it be the baby your Dad talked about?”
Tears were forming in Stephanie’s eyes “I don’t know.” She was still unable to process all of this.
Brett looked at Stephanie “Its possible.”
Stephanie looked at Michelle. “I was an only child growing up. My mom had trouble conceiving so my parents had me later in life. My Father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during my senior year of high school and he went fast. The stress of it all was too much for my Mom and she died of a heart attack while I was in college. Then toward the end when he was in the nursing home and I’d go visit he would talk about the baby. At first I thought he was talking about me, but then stuff didn’t make sense. He would tell this story about how my mom had given birth to a baby girl while she was in high school and how her mother had made her give it away. I just thought it was the Alzheimer’s, but what if he was really remembering something that had happened and they never talked about it?”
Michelle smiled “Given the test results I’d say Emmy’s mother was that baby and that you are really Emmy’s next of kin.”
Emmy was still shocked at what she was hearing and just sat there listening.
Stephanie couldn’t wrap her head around everything. “So no matter what else, I can donate a kidney to Emmy, and she won’t need dialysis?”
Dr. Wallace who couldn’t stop smiling answered “Yes. If Emmy’s kidney doesn’t improve you would be a perfect donor for her. Certainly explains why she looks like she could be your daughter.” Stephanie looked at Emmy and smiled. Now there was an explanation for why everyone thought she was. Stephanie was Emmy’s aunt.
“Dr. Wallace, do I have a choice on whether or not to take it?” Emmy’s question shocked everyone.
Brett most of all “Emmy why wouldn’t you want it?”
She hesitated “Its not right. What if something happens later and you need it? Or what if Jake or Tyler need it? Dr. Hatcher said that I may have been genetically predisposed to this type of cancer. If we are related you might get it, or the boys, and they would need your kidney. This is way too big of a deal to just go handing your kidney over to me.” Dr. Wallace and Michelle were shocked by the child’s clarity and selflessness in the situation, but Brett and Stephanie were not. Emmy didn’t think that she was worth receiving such a gift.
“Dr. Wallace do I get to make the decision?” She was a little more forceful this time.
He was unsure what to say and looked to Brett and Stephanie for help. Stephanie sat up in the bed. “Emmy, we won’t force it on you. But you need to know that you are our child too and we will do whatever it takes to keep you with us. You understand that right?” Emmy nodded, knowing that no matter what she would never accept Stephanie’s kidney, nor would she allow either one of them to donate one to someone else in order for her to get one.
“Dr. Wallace said dialysis could be a long term option. So we will just hope that mine heals and if not dialysis.”
Dr. Wallace had no way of knowing what kind of past this child had lived through but he was amazed by the mature way she had handled everything so far. “There is still a chance that mine will heal right?” She looked at him with those big blue eyes.
“Yes there is a chance, but I have to say right now its only functioning about 60%. If you kidney does not regain any more function you will need dialysis several times a week.”
Brett didn’t want to ask but had to know. “Without a transplant how long can she live like that?”
“Average life expectancy is 5-10 years but some have lived well on dialysis for 20-30.”
Brett turned to Emmy with tears in his eyes “You’re 12. That might put you through high school, if you’re lucky to your 30’s.”
“Dad, its OK. If that happens it will be the best 5-10 years of my life.” And with that Stephanie climbed out of the bed and gently wrapped her arms around her daughter.
“No decisions right now OK?” Emmy nodded against her chest.
Dr. Wallace watched as Michelle wiped a tear from her cheek and they gathered up their things and left the family alone.
Emmy gently scooted over and let Stephanie climb into the bed with her. Brett pulled Stephanie’s IV pole over and helped her get situated. After a few moments of silence with everyone lost in their own thoughts Emmy spoke. “So that means you’re really my aunt?”
“I guess so.”
“Is it ok if I still call you Mom?”
“I’d love that. Is it OK if I still call you my daughter?”
“I’d love that too.”