'The Match: Complete Strangers, a Miracle Face Transplant, Two Lives Transformed,' by Susan Helfgot


An hour later, after the scan, Rawn hovers around the computer screen at the physician's desk outside Helfgot's room, anxiously waiting for the results to upload. He nods at Susan, who has just arrived.

"Not awake yet?" she asks the nurse.

"You know how long it takes for Mr. Helfgot to wake up from surgery."

She does indeed. This is his fourth surgery in a year and a half. Although this is the big one, the one they have long hoped was coming, she is numb from the constant fear of his death. She hasn't had any real sleep in more than a year. This whole medical adventure has been a prolonged road trip through hell.

"Wake up, Joseph!" she shouts in his ear. Sometimes hearing a familiar voice does the trick. She lifts his eyelids and then shakes him a few times. An angry vitals monitor picks up the disturbance and sends out an alarm. Susan reconnects an EKG lead and instinctively pushes the reset button on the monitor high above her head. After a year of bringing her husband in and out of the ICU she knows her way around the machinery, although she also knows that she shouldn't be touching the equipment. She turns to the nurse and says, "You didn't see that."

Dr. Rawn, waiting at the computer, is watching through the glass wall of the room and thinking that Susan would make a great nurse. But why is it taking so damn long for these results? Finally a lateral view of Helfgot's head appears on the screen before him. He stares at it, not wanting to believe what he is seeing. A third of the right side of the brain is in darkened shadow, and some of the left side as well. God damn it! Massive ischemia. The brain architecture is gone. Clots must have traveled up during surgery, closing off the blood supply to Helfgot's head. Rawn spots Greg Couper, Helfgot's heart surgeon, and motions for him to come over. "Greg, take a look." Couper pulls off his glasses and peers at the screen. He tries not to show any expression as his stomach sinks down to his toes. During the surgery he had found a clot in Helfgot's aorta, which was not a good sign. He mentioned it to Susan when they spoke after the operation. He wasn't sure she grasped the significance of the information, but she had been with Helfgot's son, and it wasn't the time or the place to raise fears. He had found clots before; they don't always mean a bad ending, but often they do.

"Have you spoken to his wife?" he asks Rawn.


A few nurses are looking over in their direction with We know something's up expressions.

"The heart is doing well?" Couper asks.

"Banging away." With a respirator still bringing air into Helfgot's lungs, the heart can continue beating.

Stupid! Couper thinks. This whole thing is just too stupid. After all that work to keep him alive. After the artificial heart pump he'd implanted a year and a half ago to keep him going while he waited for a heart, which almost killed the poor guy from so many complications. But Joseph Helfgot was a fighter. He was determined to make it to his son's bar mitzvah, which he talked about all the time. Well, at least he got there. And now, a few months later, he dies getting the transplant? Damn it.

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