Woman First, Liver Transplant Recipient Further Down The List: Inextricably Linked. by Nora Logan

I woke up feeling so calm on election day. I was cocky. I was complacent. I was excited, even. I was almost psychotically excited, in fact. I have been spending time at my aunt's house in upstate New York, away from the city, the noise, allowing time and space to continue to heal. I drove down to the city and I listened to the new Alicia Keys album and the Hamilton soundtrack on the way. It felt good to listen to these battle cries in art form on my way down. I didn't get to the city until 3pm. I voted. As I walked into my polling station, there was an older man in a wheelchair volunteering and he directed me to the next room. There was no line. All the rest of the volunteers there were women. I whooped after I put my ballot through. I smiled at the women sitting there, with tears in my eyes. We all looked at one another in the eye, with understanding, with respect, it felt exciting. It felt profound to be voting for a woman. I ran back inside my polling station, because I didn't get a sticker. The woman volunteering said "We ran out! Can you believe it? So many people came through!" I replied "Well, that's what we want, right? Awesome!" 

I drove to Brooklyn to visit a friend recovering from a surgery, another woman. She had just come back from voting, despite being in a considerable amount of pain. I thought, how badass. Another friend lives 5 minutes up the road, I texted her to see if she was around. She's from Jordan, she's Muslim. I wanted to gather round all the women I know. I went to pick her up, she told me she was about to leave to watch the election at another friend's home. I stopped by with her, not planning to stay, but happy to have the chance to see them on such an important evening in our history. They had made chili, or "Chillary" -- there were more women present, men, too: lesbians, gay men, immigrants, including Muslims. It felt exciting, it was "our night". I was grateful to see them, on what I was so sure would be an historic night. I was then planning to drive back to Manhattan to go to yet another friend's election viewing party, another woman, a staunch feminist and a Latina. The polls started coming through, I couldn't look away. I texted her: "I'm leaving in 20 minutes to come uptown." But I kept looking at the TV. Impending doom started to set in. I texted her again at 10pm saying "I'm sorry I haven't been able to peel myself away from [the] tv. I'm so scared." She replied "I'm actually terrible company right now." Polls kept coming in. It got confusing and all too real. We know the rest. I went to bed at 3:48 am Wednesday morning, woke up at 8:30 am in "Trump's America" and I've been in a weird dream state ever since. One friend kept saying, as the night wore on, bless his heart: "You guys, I still think she's going to win, I still have hope." 

This quote from Toni Morrison has been circulating around social media in the past day "This is precisely the time when the artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal." Toni Morrison was one of the first writers I read, when I was 13 years old, who really made me want to write, too. The world she creates is so rich, so deep, so full of wonder and awe and pain and grief. I've been pretty numb the past 24 hours. I've cried, I've been in shock, I've spent a lot of it with some family, who are not related to me by blood, but who may as well be. I've read a lot of articles about "What You Can Do Now". I've read other articles, about "What It All Means". I read Trump's victory speech transcript, because I need to not hear his voice right now. And so now I'm writing something down, I'm listening to Toni, and I'm writing. 

I'm angry. My anger is palpable. I feel helpless. I don't feel fearful, because I made a conscious decision to no longer be fearful for separate reasons, just a little while ago. Fear has no place in my life. I should be fearful, because I am a woman with opinions in a country that just voted in Donald Trump as president. Self-pity is tricky. I tow the line with self-pity so often. I trick myself into thinking I don't feel it, then I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, then I check myself and breathe and move on. But these two feelings: fear and self-pity, it's true: there is just no room for them right now. We cannot be silent. I spoke to my friend at 3am on election night, she's on the west coast and she asked "What does this mean for your healthcare, Nora?" I responded, I don't think it means anything good for my healthcare. But the truth is, I don't know what it means exactly. We have yet to know what it means. David Axelrod was on CNN with the other talking heads that night, and it was comforting to hear him say it's not as simple as just repealing the Affordable Care Act, and I know that there are checks and balances in place so progress will not unravel as soon as January 20th rolls around. What I do know is that I'm fortunate. I have health care right now, and this election is a signal to me to do more. Not just for me, but for the voiceless, for those other patients who are not as fortunate as me, to fight for them. For women who are not as fortunate as me. For anyone is more vulnerable than I am.

The person who gave me her liver was a woman. She died and I lived. I have no idea what her political views were. I don't even know her name. All I know is she was a woman, and she was 50 years old. So that means that she was born in 1965. That means that she was 8 years old when Roe v Wade took place. That means that she came of age in the Reagan-era. It means that she saw a lot of bad decisions made by the US government, and a hell of a lot of progress for women. She could have even been an immigrant woman. She could have been black. She could have been gay. She could have had an abortion. She could have been Muslim. Or Mexican. Or any one of the many, many ethnicities that exist in the United States of America. Her blood now pumps through me and keeps me alive: regardless of whether we were different, regardless of where we both came from, regardless of hate. If that's not a case for racial equality and equality of the sexes then I don't fucking know what is. By the way, my argument would probably be even better if I had received my liver from a man, which I very well could have. If I had received a liver from a man, I still wouldn't have been voting with my vagina on Tuesday, I'd still have been voting with my brain, which remains intact. 

Personally, it means, more than anything, that I have an absolute, no questions asked duty to fight for women because this woman is the reason I'm still alive, whether she knew it or not when she signed that Organ Donor card on her license, or when her family gave consent at the time of her death. I'm not heedless to the idea that this woman could have been a Trump supporter, or a third party supporter. I'm not deliberately creating an image of who this woman was in my head, according to my liberal ideals. And I'm not saying that there is no way she could have been, considering we are in New York--we've read the numbers on how many women voted for Trump around the country, and I actually don't have a guarantee that she was from New York. I'm saying that she was a woman, and I'm a woman and we deserve more than a sexist, woman-hating, racist, xenophobic bigot in power. And there is work to be done, because hate won out and it's alive and well in America today, but love--and work--prevails. 

The other thing I've been thinking about over the past day is: I've been going to a clinic with transplant patients at least once a week, if not more, for over a year. The patients I see around me are overwhelmingly Black, Latino and Arab. I see them. I know some of them. There are white men and women too. Many of the people who took care of me in the hospital and continue my care at the clinic: the doctors, the nurses, the nurses' aides, the janitors, the kitchen staff: they, too, were Black, Latino, Asian-American, Muslim-American as well as recent immigrants. My favourite nurse's aide was from Haiti and she was a firecracker, and a beautiful woman, who cared. My favourite nurse was from the Philippines, who was a true Nasty Woman in the very best sense of the word. 

I am fiercely protective of these people. I am forever indebted to them. These people were failed by their country on Tuesday night and so was I. So, I'm not sure exactly where to place my anger and frustration, what exactly it is I can do. But I know I have to fight in whatever way I am able. We all do. In this moment, it felt like writing something so that's what I did. Earlier today it felt like donating to the ACLU and to Planned Parenthood, it felt like signing petitions and doing some busy work, to not be consumed completely by the news. I don't know what tomorrow it will look like. It won't be better than today because this is an extremely painful time for America. But I'll wake up and I'll be alive and that woman who died, whose liver I have, we'll be figuring out how to move forward, together. There's a lot to fight for, and we're all awake to it. This is not a time to be silent.


IT'S MOTHER'S DAY in the UK today. As someone who grew up straddled between New York and London, with a little bit of Hong Kong mixed in, my mother has always enjoyed having two days in the year to celebrate her. But let's be real, our mothers' deserve a day to be celebrated everyday. My mother is an intricate and incredible woman, and everyone loves her. We have a complicated relationship, as every mother and daughter does, but this whole experience was a harrowing one for her, as it would be for any parent. And she helped me get through some of the most terrifying moments. She was a warrior with me and held my hand every step of the way. Don't get me wrong, she drove me mental in hospital, but she was incredible both then and in the ensuing months of recovery. And I can't begin to imagine what the horror of facing the idea of losing her only child was.

She is a writer by trade and has an incredible way with words. During my seemingly interminable hospital stay she would post every so often on Facebook to give family and friends updates, since information was at a real premium during this time. In honour of her being such a badass and my own inspiration for being as strong as I am, because she's been through some tough situations in her life and made it out the other side, I've lazily copied and pasted some of these posts here, to give you another perspective on the story, if only a small glimpse. I'm sure she has a lot more to say on the subject if probed. 

Here is where she spills the beans to all her Facebook friends, and the love poured in--hey, social media is good for something. It shows you your community in a crisis.

'Nora has been in ICU at Columbia Presbyterian for the past week with a mysterious and sudden onset of liver failure. She's at the top of the transplant list and could get the operation any day now. I have no more words to say except to ask that she be sent love and strong positive wishes from those who love her. Deepest gratitude to my friends and family who helped prop up me and Tom during these unspeakably awful 8 days.'

Ed. note: This is how out of her mind she was. I wasn't at Columbia Presbyterian, completely different hospital all together. I was at Cornell Weill Presbyterian. Ok fine, I'm splitting hairs but what is a child's existence if not to correct their parents.

This is what only children do. They are forced to give themselves bunny ears.

'Nora went into surgery last night at 5:30 and finished at 1am. I'm still trembling with gratitude to the donor and how close we came to losing our baby--liver was maybe three cells short of total failure; something totally fried it in two weeks. Thank you all for prayers and healing thoughts. She needs them more than ever now. Post-op is a fiercely challenging period, but she is ferocious. Breathing tube still in, she managed to communicate during the brief periods she was conscious. The medical team at NY Presbyterian is unbelievably gifted, I could only watch in dumbstruck awe as they danced the tightrope of balancing all the meds and monitoring on this terrible and wondrous first day. Big gratitude for family and friends who have kept Tom and me from losing our shit.'

Lesley and Nora in 1991. Photo by Asha Kinney.

'To all of you who've been with Nora through this ordeal, here's the latest. Hiccups, bumps in the road, pain, grace, horrific physical alterations and insults, all of which she has gone through with the kind of determination most of us only know from books and novels. Everyday I notice another bruise, another puncture, some new torment that surgery like this must inflict--I couldn't take it in at once. She had an acute internal bleed that kicked off a series of setbacks starting yesterday and growing through the night. I have been staying at hospital with her and I knew something was very wrong yesterday--she was taking a turn and it was terrifying. When the lab results caught up with her obvious symptoms, an MRI was done this morning, followed by 4 pints of blood, antibiotics, blood draws, and the worst, an ultrasound on her abdomen which was so tender and swollen, we didn't see how it could possibly be done. After checking to see who'd ordered the sono, she laid back in bed, and I held her hand watching her battle the pain with her eyes closed--I hoped she was passed out during this, but I saw her grimaces and knew she was going inside and learning to handle her body's torments.

Forty minutes of pressure around her incision, while her wounds wept as did I. I knew this was just one of the trials of the day--she was to have her abdomen aspirated and blood clots drained under light sedation, and her bandages changed under none. It never stopped until she was finally on her way to the Internal Radiation floor. Nausea all day, resistant to the anti nausea meds. But the liver is functioning, kidney function slowly improving, but labs still mystifying with fresh hell each day. After the worst of it, she laid back in bed and looked strangely radiant. I went through the hospital at one point and saw a newborn baby and I was undone entirely. But we keep learning from Nora that there are wells of fortitude so deep that they can only be accessed by walking through fires paved with sharp glass shards. Tom and I have had plenty of experience with hospitals and sudden reversals of health, but nothing like this, and nothing we wouldn't take on again to the tenth power to trade places with her. But she is steady, valiant and has been so through three weeks of the most aggressive and unpleasant medical torture imaginable. She wants to live, she knew she almost didn't and although I watch her sleeping with the vigilance of a new mother with a sick infant, fear gnawing at me constantly, I know she will make it through. I thought I knew my daughter, but this War Lord Woman I always suspected was there, has become full grown and I am awed by the enormity of her power and grace. She keeps me from losing my shit over the missteps and bad timing inevitable in a big hospital, because she keeps calm. I can't wait for her to feel the sun on her face again outside the hospital. She's got so many people rooting for her, including so many of the medical people along the way who, more than anyone, can see that this life they saved belongs to someone worthy of the effort and equal to the exigencies of this arduous process. Still no clue as to what caused this hell-fire to rip through her, but if it remained unknown, what is known now is that it was a revelation of this woman's extraordinary character. Keep your good thoughts pouring in on her, she has been using every wish for her recovery with great skill and wisdom.'

The day of my second surgery. And the room where the insanely painful ultrasound took place.

'First two weeks here at hospital were like riding the Dragon Coaster at Flayland, trundling up to hope then the plunge into fear. Past two weeks more like The Old Mill, designed by the Dementors, bumping along in the dark on a boat floating on bodily fluids, with periods of profound alienation punctuated by unexpected floodlit scenes of unspeakable horror. Falling from the frozen tundra of over air-conditioned fluorescence face first into the big butt of humidity of a NYC august stun-guns me into dark thoughts. Nora being reopened made me wish surgeons had to be cut and stitched--just a small incision--as part of their training. But enough of the recent past: the patient improves by the hour and parole is in sight! Home this week, failing any fresh hell.'

The Dragon Coaster. My mother's clever play on words refers to the shitty rollercoaster near the town she grew up in at an amusement park called Playland. 

'This evening at 6:30, after 4 weeks in the hospital where Nora was discovered to have sudden onset liver failure, and had only 5% liver function left just a day before she got a transplant; where seven days after transplant she was again circling the drain with complications and was re-opened and fixed, she finally got streeted and is now home, sleeping in a real bed, with only family and friends to bother her. Thank you transplant team, donor, the good wishes and hard work of of so many friends and family, and NBC health insurance for keeping her from death's door.'

The day I got out of hospital, the first time. I'd be going back ten days later. She's not going to appreciate this photo.

The day I got out of hospital, the first time. I'd be going back ten days later. She's not going to appreciate this photo.

There is no doubt of her prowess as a writer when you read these words. The fact that she could paint such an accurate and vivid picture of the macabre scene during that otherworldly time speaks volumes to her talent. Both as a mother and an artist.