Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walk in his shoes

Last week, we had this controversy at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis Tennessee, where Steve Jobs had his liver transplant.

The NY Times had this to say about the transplant: "raise many questions -- not just about his prognosis, but also about the system for allocating scarce organs to the many people who need them."

I had the details of Jobs MELD score, and where they flew to get his liver packed in ice, but as I was thinking about writing about it, I thought otherwise, because although Mr. Jobs was a public figure, the hospital workers weren't.

So the story takes second place to them.

And that's the "blogger" code.

That's not journalism code.

Journalism code, would be to "run with the story."

But what shoes do they walk in?

Did they walk in the shoes of my neighbor?

Two and a half years ago, he started to lose weight. Then he started to turn yellow. He needed a new liver, and leukemia had started to ravage his body.

So he went on the donor list. A policeman, in Georgia that was killed in duty, was his first liver.

His body rejected it. They weren't going to give him another liver, because they thought his life wasn't statistically worth it. And he had a 20% chance of dying, if he had another transplant.

They didn't want him on the table on his back again.

Do with what you have.

But we'll give you a sack to wear, so your liver doesn't have to take the bile. You may me able to live with it.

But then he got sicker.

His MELD score got worse.

I came up, one time to visit him, and I saw him looking close to death. But not in his eyes. He never lost hope. He never lost his zest for life. He never forgot to laugh.

The hospital saw it too. They wanted him on his back again. They wanted him to live.

They gave him his second chance.

Last weekend, I saw my neighbor, jogging up the hill by our homes, sweat coming off his brow, running with the determination to live.

A second liver transplant, and now he was finally able to live again.

When I saw him lumbering up the hill, I jogged to the end with him and I just started laughing and crying tears of joy, because I saw him getting his life back. I said, "Your shoes! Your shoes! I see your life in your shoes!"

Before the transplants, he owned his house outright. After two and a half years without work, and two liver transplants, he owed $500,000.

His mortgage was with JP Morgan Chase. They just gave him a "modification." Three months of a half payment, without lowering his rate, or changing any other terms, and then back to the old mortgage payment.

The hospital saw the life in his eyes, but the bankers couldn't.

Even though we helped them with $25 billion of our money.

They wanted him on his back again.

Do with what you have.

But he wouldn't have it. He would lumber up that hill, and get healthy. I saw that giant beautiful thick scar of life, that was cut open on his body, twice, in a giant upside down Y. He was going to live. The cancer took his money, it took his job, and it took all of the equity in his house, but it couldn't take his spirit.

But I saw his spirit from my front door, in his shoes.

Because in his old shorts, and beat up sweat stained shirts, he had these brand new dark blue running shoes. What money he had left, he used it for shoes. Shoes to walk in, and then shoes to run in, and then shoes to live in.

So "run with the story?"

I'm running with the story.

But it's not Steve Jobs.

It's the man, whose shoes Wall Street couldn't walk in, or journalists run with.

So that's the only liver transplant story you'll hear on this blog.

And it's no second place.

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