Saturday 4:32 p.m.
Julia opened her eyes to the harsh glow of hospital lighting.
Like cat vomit, Julia would have said, if the cat didn’t have her tongue.
Dr. Annie had pulled every favor in her considerable book to get Julia scheduled for surgery within hours after breaking her hand.
“I’m here.” Matt kissed her forehead. “How’re you doing?”
“That’s what happens when you shatter three fingers.” Matt brushed her hair back. “What were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t thinking anything. I just couldn’t get the door open.”
“That’s because it pulls inward. You were pushing it out.”
“I had to get out–”
“I know, I know. Just relax,” Matt said. “The nurse said she’d bring you some painkillers.”
“No. We don’t have time. We have to find Dillon a liver.” Julia pawed at her left hand, trying to rip out the IV. No go-her right hand was engulfed in a mummy-wrapped splint the size of a loaf of bread. Her fingers were captive, reconstructed with tiny pins and plates, and swathed in gauze. Only the tip of her thumb extruded from the bandage.
Matt laced his fingers gently around the IV site on the back of her wrist. His face was stubbly, his eyelids heavy. At least she had had a few hours of anesthetized slumber. How long had it been since he slept?
“I am so sorry, Mattie. I really messed up.”
“Nothing that a few plates and screws didn’t fix.”
“It’s late. Wait-Beth was supposed to get tested today,” Julia said. Beth Latham was their office manager and dear friend.
“What,” Julia said.
“There’s good news and bad news that’s really good news.”
Julia groaned. “Just tell me.”
“Beth was a match.”
“She can’t do it. She wants to badly. She can’t. Not for eight months at least.”
Her heart sank. “She’s pregnant? I thought she and Bruce had stopped trying.”
“They had. She was having the physical, mentioned nausea, and they ran the test.”
“That’s wonderful news, Matt.” Julia’s voice came back hollow. They were all hanging on by fingernails. They needed to find a liver–immediately.
A terrible twist of fate had made both her and Matt ineligible as living donors. Her A-positive blood type with Matt’s B positive could have combined to AB positive in their son, the blood type that can receive all comers. But they both carried recessive genes–like hidden sins–into their pairing and gave birth to a type-O, Rh-negative baby.
Were he healthy, Dillon’s blood type would make him a universal donor. How ironic that he would have been sought after by the Red Cross to give blood every two months once he turned eighteen.
He could share with anyone but only receive O-negative blood and could only survive a transplant from a type-O donor. The fact that he was in the majority blood type made the process trickier because he had to compete with everyone on the waiting list.
Though giving up a lobe of one’s liver had some peril and an extended recovery time, friends and family had volunteered to be tested. Six–counting Beth, their office manager and dear friend–had the right blood type.
All six were ineligible.
Her assistant Patricia was ruled out due to her chronic asthma. Matt’s brother Todd had too many tattoos from his wild days, including two from his mission time in India. Their accountant Charlie had a history of melanoma. Pastor Rich had chronic malaria from time spent in Africa. Dillon’s debate coach Isaac had undiagnosed hepatitis A. Her design assistant Trevor had active Lyme disease. By the time he finished the rigorous course of treatment, it might be too late for Dillon.
Without a live donor identified, the last option was grim and unpredictable.
“I’m sorry,” Julia said.
Matt laughed. “You pack a mean punch. I’m going to be a lot nicer to you from now on.” He squeezed next to her on the hospital bed and draped her injured hand over his shoulder so she could snuggle into his chest. Even though it was December, he smelled like summer.
“You know what we have to do,” he said.
“Dillon’s got two sisters.”
“They don’t know any of this. They don’t know each other, they don’t know me.”
“They are the only hope Dillon has.”
Julia dug the fingers of her good hand into his shirt. “I don’t even know where they are.”