Dorothy's lungs give up
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
A Change of Heart [Case Histories gathered by William Novak]
Dorothy, a short, friendly-looking woman with dark hair, was the only other member of our group to have had a heart-lung transplant. But although this made for a bond between us, our post-transplant experiences were totally different. While my physical recovery had been close to perfect, Dorothy had experienced serious problems with her new lungs right from the start. But throughout her long ordeal, she was positive, courageous, and optimistic. In Dorothy's situation I might have felt jealous of me, but although this was the kind of group where jealousy and other awkward feelings could be expressed safely, Dorothy seemed to feel only love and support, not only for me, but for the others as well.
Because the problems were confined to her lungs, Dorothy was able to experience her new heart as benign. In one particularly vivid dream, she travelled through her own blood vessels, a voyage she described to us in glowing terms, like a National Geographic special.
"This was my way of getting away from all those needles and tubes in the hospital," she said. "Nobody else could go there. When I reached my heart, it was red and pulsating, soft and beautiful. It's a great feeling when you're in there and you know it's you, and that your heart is really working."
Dorothy had been told that her donor was a man, and when things went wrong she thought of her new lungs as still belonging to him. She felt betrayed by her donor because his gift had failed to improve her health. "I probably should feel grateful," she said, "but when something goes wrong, I want to say to him, 'I thought we had a deal! If your lungs had been better, I wouldn't be going through this. You were supposed to be so great you could give somebody else a life. But look what you're doing to me!"'
Dorothy's troubles mounted until the only thing that could have saved her was a second transplant. But in a decision we could all understand, she didn't want to take her struggle any further. "I think it's actually worse the second time. People think it should be easier, but it's not. This time I'm totally aware of everything I'll be going through.
"A few days ago," she told us, "they didn't think I would make it. Everything was so peaceful and I was very accepting. Then I woke up, connected to all these machines. I wanted to say, 'Wait, leave me alone! I've been preparing for this, and I'm not afraid."'
Dorothy soon became too sick to attend our meetings, and when she died, it was terribly sad for all of us. Shortly after her death, our research group ran out of steam. There were other problems, too, but the death of a member we all loved was a huge loss that we never got over.