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By Sri Ram
Billie and Ryan played in the trampoline as their parents, Bruce and Martha watched them over. The wind was not that heavy that day and the sun was at the top, right above their head. Every time the sun brought warmth on the skin the wind tried to blew it away.
Joy filled children jumped together on the trampoline. Every time they jumped the trampoline tried to send them to space but gravity brought them back. Yet the trampoline didn’t seem to give up. Billie used his foot to give that extra push so that he stayed higher than his younger brother, Ryan, every time he jumped.
"Honey, our kids Billie and Ryan” Bruce stared at his kids for a moment meaningfully and then said, “They are growing. We have to raise them with all the comfort, high education and quality food but I am getting rotten slowly”.
He wept with tears that ran through his cheeks. He tried to hide it using his hands from his children.
“You need not cry. It’s not a big thing” Martha consoled.
“Isn’t it a big thing? My two kidneys have failed. I need to undergo dialysis twice a week. Without a kidney I can no longer hold on to my job as a Chef in the Hotel which would screw us financially" Bruce said. He seemed a lot worried.
His medicine bills and the dialysis costs were going high and were a major figure in his monthly budget for the home. In order to manage they even had to put Billie and Ryan in schools that ranked very low in that part of the town where they lived. No vacation, no shopping, no hotels, not even to Pizza Hut once in a while. Billie and Ryan both cribbed Bruce a lot to take them to Universal Studios Florida but all Bruce could give back to them was nothing more than lame excuses.
"I understand. I tried my level best to hunt for a job but I could not get one, Bruce. I do not have experience in any field as you know. But even if I had experience I could not have gotten a job. The government disallows more than one person in a family in job. I gave it a thought about it last night. I have an idea and it’s not like we can’t do anything about it," Martha said.
"Idea! What is it?" By now, the slight cool wind dried out the tears in his eyes.
"Why don't we try the McArthur treatment?" Martha said. Truth was she had long been considering to go for McArthur treatment ever since Bruce’s medical bills began to grow. Martha because of her parent’s financial instability had given up her school studies at a very young age. Now it was difficult for her to digest that she could not be helpful in any way to her family’s financial needs. With McArthur treatment she felt she struck gold.
"McArthur?!" Bruce said thoughtfully.
He was quite familiar with that word by then as the treatment was spreading across the continent like a forest fire. In every street there rose someone who claimed to have undergone that treatment. In a conversation with some of his friends over a lazy evening, he recalled, this one was discussed in detail. One of his distant relative as he remembered, who worked in a bottling company and earned a very low figure took the treatment and later relocated to Bahamas.
The idea was simple. Solar power has always been free and abundant. The much needed food gets converted into energy in the intestines. Humans needed energy to stay alive and fit. The great idea of McArthur treatment was, with the help of sensors and solar cells on the skin solar energy can be absorbed and can be used to extract fundamental elements from the air and convert them into energy that a human body would have otherwise derived from the food.
Nutrients, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, glucose are the same kind of complex compounds that are the building blocks in all or most of the foods. The McArthur treatment involved deploying a device like thing inside the body with microscopic solar cells array and suction plate on the skin. The device acts more or less like a combined fusion and fission reactor that fuses atoms to complex molecules and splits complex molecules to atoms. The basic elements are nothing but carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, calcium, silicon and nitrogen which are abundant in the air and according to the treatment solar energy can be used to perform these fusion and fission reactions in a cyclic process.
"So? I work as a Chef, Martha. Tasting food is a part of my job. How do you think it would help our family if I take up the treatment? “Bruce asked confusedly.
"No. Not you, Bruce. You haven't got the whole point. I have one healthy kidney with me which I can donate to you while I can survive with McArthur treatment. We can bring up our children with that job of yours and our monthly budget would come down a bit with my going McArthur way because I would not need food," Martha said.
For a moment Bruce could not speak a work. He found difficulty in searching for words to praise Martha’s benevolence. With much love Bruce hugged Martha and kissed on her lips passionately.
The idea sounded materialistic to him but to Martha it was her own loss and gain. Even though she proposed it willingly deep inside she was only half-hearted with that idea. She had loved food ever since her childhood. Mere odor of her favorite Dunkin' Doughnuts could leave her mouthwatering instantly. Be it steak, waffles, mozzarella cheese, bacon, avocado, blueberries, asparagus she never missed a chance. At a corner of her heart she longed for Bruce to reject her suggestion and come up by himself with an alternative one but that didn’t happen.
The government knew that hunger was the driving force that brought humans together to live, co-ordinate and work in groups. If there was no hunger there was no motivation for a structured and organized living. Therefore the government indeed had laid several restrictions in taking McArthur treatment. With the restrictions on not everyone can take up the treatment. One must have a valid reason to take it and there was a controlling agency that scanned the applications and approved if it found the reason appropriate.
Bruce considered himself lucky to have got Martha as his wife. With that his love on her doubled. He thought one eligible candidate in a family could bring the monthly expenses down. Gradually Martha prepared her psychological self for what was to happen with her.
Bruce and Martha, together approached King Sherman Hospital in Colorado. While Martha signed as a donor to give away one of her kidneys to Bruce and for a McArthur treatment for herself Bruce registered himself as receiver for the kidney that Martha intended to donate. Martha was given appointment on March thirteenth and since it was best to use a fresh organ within 30 hours from the time it was amputated from the donor Bruce chose his appointment on the following day the fourteenth of March. Martha and Bruce managed major part of the expenses through the Medical Insurance that they paid installments for every month.
Until the scheduled date Bruce took dialysis once in every 3 days. Dialysis made him weak and sick every time he took it. But he knew there was no other choice. Once after the treatment he believed he would not need to undergo this pain. He had heard from someone through word by mouth that organs created from stem cells in the lab brought psychological problems like hallucinations, depressions, and genetic problems like cancer, tumor and so on as side effects. Even though one in several hundred or may be thousand suffered such side effects it bothered him so much that he wanted to have real organ transplantation. That way he was happy to receive Martha's kidney.
On one of the day that followed when Bruce was away on work and both the kids had gone to school, Martha stood in front of the mirror in the toilet. She lifted her shirt and stared at that part of the abdomen where she believed the kidney would be. Her right hand fingers gently rolled over her abdomen while her left hand held the shirt up. Goosebumps appeared on her stomach wherever her petal like fingers rolled. She wanted to feel the organ that she chose to lose but she was unable feel it. The very thought that she was going to lose one of her organs made her feel sorry for herself. She pitied on herself but there was no other go. One of the organs that belonged to her from birth was no longer going to be hers. Tears made her eyes wet and ran down through her cheeks. She felt like she was going to lose something and that something was going to make her incomplete from then on. But the very fact that it was not going to some stranger and that it was only going to be a part of her own husband on whom she has so much love consoled her only a bit. She cried a lot. She cried after a very long time. She cried so much as if there should not be anything to cry later.
In the days that followed she prepared some of her favorites like prawns, halibut, hamburgers, salmon, oysters, pasta, and ham and so on, served her husband and children and tasted herself to her stomach full, as if she was never going to have a chance later. While she thoroughly enjoyed every moment of her favorite spicy food rolling through her throat and her eyes shed salty tears.
The day of March thirteenth was windy with heavy shower unusual for that part of the year. The highway was slippery yet Bruce took Martha and the children in his car to the King Sherman Hospital where she was admitted for the surgery followed by McArthur treatment. Since the climate was getting worse he didn't want to leave the children at home alone. After ensuring Martha was taken to the operation theatre Bruce took the children to his mother-in-laws place.
In the operation theatre before Martha was given sedation she took time to feel her kidney from above her stomach skin by touching with her delicate fingers. She even wished her eyes were capable of seeing the inside through her abdominal flesh. Even though she couldn’t feel it, she imagined as if she touched it one last time. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath after which she was made to inhale a gas and then she lost her conscious.
Meanwhile Bruce left Billie and Ryan at his mother-in-law’s place and asked his mother-in-law to take care of them until his return with Martha.
On his way back unfortunate Bruce was struck by a lightning followed by a heavy thunder that flipped his car away from the slippery highway into a tunnel that no longer was in use. He was brought to King Sherman Hospital 2 days later by a country man who passed by and found him stuck under a fallen tree. It took Bruce another two days to gain his conscious and when it happened he was in bed in one of the emergency ward in the hospital.
"Da...da....Doctor! Da.. Doctor!" he moaned in pain. With much difficulty he tried to lift himself from the bed. He was immediately attended by a girl who wore a pale blue nursing apron. She held him by his shoulder and made him lean back on the bed with his head on the pillow.
"Relax you lucky! Everything has been taken care of and you are perfectly normal now. No need to worry." she said with a peace bringing smile.
"But I am a kidney patient" he said in a hoarse voice. His voice trembled. His eyes searched for Martha, Billie, and Ryan all around.
"I told you. Everything has been taken care of. You are lucky. Considering your physical conditions, you have been allowed to go through McArthur treatment absolutely free of cost." she announced.
Bruce eyes widened. He stared at her in shock. He could not believe what he just heard.
"What?!" he shouted in in shock and disappointment.
* * *
When Martha came to the spot, she had come along with the chief doctor Dr. Dinsel. He had a pad in his hand which held the file that contained the details of Bruce’s and Martha’s applications.
“Dr. Dinsel, this is my husband Bruce and he was the one supposed to have received my kidney?” she shouted in dismay.
The doctor held up the pad and looked into the papers through the corner of the spectacles that he wore.
“Uhmmm.” He grinned.
“Yes. His name is there in the list,” he said.
"As per the appointment given to you, Martha, I see that, you have presented yourself at the right time. So as scheduled we have taken out your healthy kidney to transplant it to your husband Bruce. But that schedule was on the following day. Followed by the amputation we did McArthur treatment to you which again went as per the appointment you have made with us. But in order to receive the organ your husband Mr. Bruce should have come and admitted on the scheduled date and time. We waited for him much longer beyond the scheduled time but he didn’t turn up. We could not ask you because you were still in sedation after McArthur treatment. We cannot keep a healthy kidney idle for much longer time you know? There is a lot of demand for healthy real organs. So we gave it to someone based on priority.” he added.
Martha had no words to speak. She simply stared at the doctor as he spoke.
“It was not our mistake, my dear Martha. Your husband, Mr. Bruce, was brought to this hospital as an emergency accident case. You know it pretty well we could not have identified him without his SSN or driver’s license. We couldn’t have known in any way that he was to receive your kidney. An emergency is an emergency. We have to treat it that way,” he stopped and looked at Martha and Bruce.
Few seconds of disturbing silence passed.
Having realized that both were not in their elements, he continued.
“It was our duty to do the needful to anyone who has met with an accident. When we examined he had two kidneys that didn't function. His intestines were injured in the accident. He had a deep cut in his gall bladder, liver and pancreas that could not be saved. We had to get them amputated and removed. McArthur procedure was the right option considering the emergency situation. So it was our duty to save him by treating him with McArthur procedure. Since it was done as an integral part of post-accident treatment McArthur procedure comes to your husband at an absolute free of cost. You must understand that considering the emergency situation he was in that was the best we could do to him," he explained.
As the chief doctor, nurse and Bruce looked at with heavy tears from her eyes Martha began to cry loudly. Salty drops of tears flowed down from her eyes uncontrollably while she knelt down on her knees. Everyone saw her hands gently caressed her abdomen while she wept.