“If zero was no pain at all and ten was the worst pain imaginable, where would you rate your pain on the scale of one to ten?”
It was a simple enough question, but tears burned in her eyes as she fought to hold them back. Sophia hadn’t thought about her pain. In fact, she’d thought about anything and everything else that she could in order to try to forget about it. But now the doctor was asking her the direct question, forcing her to consider the level, and she swallowed the thick lump in her throat as she croaked out the answer.
Brodie winced and his fingers tensed around Sophia’s. In that moment she knew there was no hiding it, anymore. Reality hit her with full force and the tears she'd been battling off began to stream down her face.
“I won’t skirt around the issue, Sophia. The reality is, you’re going to need an urgent transplant. We can buy some time with dialysis but that’s all we’d be doing. There are a number of options for dialysis and we will work with you to find the one that best fits with your lifestyle and is the least intrusive.”
Sophia’s mind raced. An option that best suited her lifestyle seemed like an absurd thing to say. She couldn’t imagine how any kind of dialysis, based on the little she knew about it; would become part of her everyday life.
“How will they find a donor to match my blood type?” She asked.
“O, is a rare blood type. You’re right to be concerned but we will do everything we can to find a match for you. We will start by looking at potential matches within your family and we have an extensive donor list to work through, too.”
Dr. Gunner stood and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I know this is a lot to take in, Sophia but we will support you every step of the way. You are not alone in this. I’ll have the nurse come and discuss things with you, shortly. She can answer any questions you have and will talk you through your options regarding dialysis. In the meantime, I’m going to go and prescribe you something to ease the pain. Do you have any questions for me before I leave you both?”
Sophia and Brodie shook their heads in sync with one another. She had a million questions. A thousand things she didn’t understand but the ability to form a sentence seemed to have evaded her.
“Thank you, doctor,” Brodie managed to say.
“It’s no problem at all,” he smiled.
He was young. Probably only a few years older than Sophia and Brodie. To Sophia, it seemed wrong for him to have such a serious job as a nephrologist doctor, and she wondered how many times a day he had to deliver bad news for a living. She decided that to him; she was just another statistic. The thought stung because this was the scariest moment of her life and although his voice was tinged with compassion, she wanted more.
Minutes after he left them alone, a rosy-cheeked nurse blustered in with a sympathetic smile and a bunch of leaflets in her hand.
Sophia didn’t need any of them. A couple of years back when she’d had a worrying urinary infection, she’d researched what her options would be in the worst-case scenario. Countless times. Although her mum and Brodie had begged her to stop, she’d spent hours scrolling the internet. It was supposed to have left her feeling empowered and prepared for this exact instance. Although she was optimistic that no one could be that unlucky to have two kidneys fail, there was always a tiny doubt in her mind that it might be her reality one day. Now, here she was faced with it and she didn’t feel the least bit prepared. The news had knocked her down quicker than skittles in the bowling alley whenever Brodie scored a strike.
“You don’t have to make a decision now, we can think on it,” he interrupted the nurse to check in with her.
“It’s okay,” she reassured him. “Like Dr. Gunner said, it’s best if we get things moving as quickly as possible.”
“You’re handling this so much better than I am,” he murmured.
She attempted to flash him a smile but couldn’t quite get one to form.
Forcing her focus to remain on the task in hand, she requested haemodialysis.
The nurse agreed this was the best option and explained that many people benefitted from shorter, more frequent dialysis times as it could allow them to lead a more normal life.
After she passed on the prescription from the doctor, arranged to see Sophia again in the outpatient’s clinic the following day to discuss things further and wished them both well; she left them alone to process—to come to terms with the fact that both their lives had just changed forever. Sophia sat still and silent, willing her body to get up and walk out of the appointment. She wanted to run as far away from the hospital as her legs would carry her, but ironically, they felt like lead. From his seat beside her, Brodie leaned in, wrapped his arm around her shoulders and drew her to lean against his collarbone. After a few moments, she was able to draw the strength she needed to stand from him, and he helped her to her feet in one easy movement.
“We’re going to get through this, whatever happens. You and me, do you hear me?”
She nodded in response and a single tear slid down her cheek as she hoped with everything she had, that he was right.
NINE MONTHS LATER
“Say something, god dammit.” Brodie's voice sounded abrasive to his own ears against the beeping machines and background noise of nurses’ footsteps up and down the corridor outside their small room.
A single tear slid down Sophia’s cheek and he instantly felt like shit for shouting at her.
“What do you want me to say?” Sophia’s voice was jaded and tinged with defeat.
He wanted to shout at her all over again, hating the fact that she was giving up. Instead, he simply shrugged his shoulders.