Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It could be so much worse.....

Over the course of Steve's kidney failure and the complicated nightmares that followed, Steve and I have heard people say, "It couldn't get much worse than that."

Oh no. It could. And for a couple of our very good friends, it did.

Steve and Mary have been friends of my Steve for years. In fact, Mary's Steve met my Steve back in 1975 when Mary's Steve stopped into my Steve's hi-fi store. They've been fast friends ever since. Steve and Mary's kids: Brooke and Stuart were older than Brita, but all grew up on Bainbridge Island and knew eachother well.

One of my Steve's earliest recollections of young Stuart was when Stuart was three or four years old. My Sterve would call him "Stu." One evening, Stuart, dressed in a plaid bathrobe that resembled a smoking jacket and standing all of three feet tall, addressed Steve ever-so-politely.

"Actually, Mr. Williams," Stuart said. "I'd prefer it if you would call me Stuart."

My Steve was taken aback, but naturally honored Stuart's request.

I met Steve and Mary only several years ago when I first moved onto the Island. I remember doing Home Dialysis with Steve and Steve - two old friends chatting as the NxStage machine hummed along, remembering better times without a consideration for the dialysis machine, or the blood flowing through the tubing. You learn early on that not all friends are "Dialysis Friends!"

Last spring, my Steve and I were up watching the news when I heard my husband scream with a cry of visceral pain. A painful scream was worrisome because Steve was still recovering from a third surgery.

"What?" I asked.

"It's on the news: Stuart died of a fall at college!"

Our immediate emails and calls confirmed the worst. Stuart, bright with potential, athleticism, kindness, had died suddenly after an accidental fall. There was nothing else to say.

We know that Steve and Mary and Brooke will have a very different Christmas this year: the first holiday season without their boy.

My Steve and I both get it that NOTHING trumps the loss of a child - not kidney failure, not heart attacks, not surgical complications. Nothing. We have no doubt that Mary's Steve would trade places with my Steve in a heartbeat - if it could mean even another day with Stuart.

We think of Steve and Mary every day. Their loss reminds us,sadly, of how fortunate we are in spite of our current troubles. Nothing we have ever gone through comes close to their pain or sorrow. But they are surviving, bit by bit.

We remind ourselves during this holiday season that it could - oh so easily - get worse for any of us. And we remind ourselves of the fact that we are fortunate for the blessings we do have.

Take care. Linda Gromko, MD

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