Thoughts from 15 years ago: As New Zealand goes into COVID 19 total lock down, I turned back to the journal Greg kept during our time in Seattle. On March 23, 2005 we checked in to my hospital room at the University of Washington Medical Centre, where I was about to face the biggest battle of my life. By then, just like now, we were used to social isolation – no handshakes; no hugs; no visitors except Greg. Most people we met in the hospital corridors kept a respectful 2 metre distance; the smell of hand sanitizer already had an unwelcome smell, and we were well attuned to humming ‘Happy Birthday’ twice through with our perfected hand washing technique – wash in; wash out. As I went in to what turned out to be 19 days of total isolation or ‘lockdown’ I marvelled at a room full of high tech equipment and many of the technological marvels we are so grateful to have in our homes today.
That same afternoon a toxic infusion of Cytoxan began – not unlike feeling you are being infused with COVID 19 as it was about to destroy almost all of my entire blood system. I had named my alien leukemic cells ‘Pac Men’ and they were about to be attacked by my nurse wearing a hazmat suit. COVID 19 type warning signs were placed on my door – DO NOT ENTER! Life as we knew it, was about to change dramatically.
Sometime earlier we knew that my donor cells would be flown in from France in time for my transplant on Good Friday, which that year was March 25. By the time the cells had arrived at the hospital and had gone through all the necessary checks, it was just after midnight when they came up to the ward, and so the cells were beautifully dedicated and blessed by my hospital chaplain on March 26, the same day we have gone into lockdown in 2020. Before those beautiful cells started their slow infusion into my veins, and I received the most amazing gift of life, our chaplain led us in prayers of dedication and supplication and the singing of ‘Spirit of the Living God, Fall Afresh On Me’. Our little service that night ended with us praying, what I pray again for our nation and our world exactly 15 years later “May each cell be filled with forgiveness; may each cell be filled with hope; may each cell be filled with surrender; may each cell kindle the fire of love in our hearts; that we may love God with our whole hearts; might and strength.”
By Easter Sunday, March 27, my donor cells had found a happy place and we found our hearts welling up with a deep seated joy as we shouted Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!