The waiting is the worst. It’s knowing I’m in a race against my own body, and the odds are stacked against me. Against us, because of course I’m not the only one. There are thousands of us just waiting. It’s knowing that despite all the advances in organ farming, at least some of us won’t make it to the Harvest. But for those of us that do, a second chance awaits.
Every morning, I thank God that I lasted through the night. But ten or twenty of us didn’t live to see today. And another ten or twenty won’t live to see tomorrow. Every day is a question. Live or die? Which is it going to be? The answer’s out of your hands, and not knowing is what makes the waiting so bad.
The doctor calls to check in, and I tell him the same thing I tell him every week. I’m still alive, but that might not be the case tomorrow, and if he could hurry up and grow that new heart, I’d sure appreciate it.
And every week, he says things are coming along smoothly, and there’s no reason to think that I won’t make it. Just a little bit longer.
But I know he tells that to all his patients. And some of them don’t make it.
Hearts take a while to grow, he tells me. They aren’t like bladders. Those only have two types of cells to grow. Very easy. Hearts have so many different parts, it takes more time.
I’m lucky though. It could be a lung, and then I’d really be in trouble. Lungs are the worst.
He hangs up, and I turn on the television. The news runs a story about how farming is a godsend. That transplant recipients live longer with fewer complications. That because they simply grow new organs like crops, wait times have plummeted.
But the pretty news anchor with the spray-on tan has never had to wait for a new heart to grow, knowing that each day brings her closer to heart failure and the big sleep. She’s never had a piece of her damaged heart taken and planted like a seed. She marvels at how we’ve found a solution through the miracle of science, but she doesn’t realize that we’ve just replaced one waiting game with another.
At least the old system didn’t give us any hope. We knew we were in a holding pattern. With biofarming, we watch the clock tick down on our new organs while the timer runs out on the old ones. It’s a race to the finish, and there’s no prize for second place.
I switch the TV off and stare out the window. More waiting. Waiting to see if I’ll get to take that Mediterranean Cruise. If I’ll get to go rock climbing. Skiing. All the things I’ll never do because I couldn’t be bothered to follow through when I had the heart for them.
My bucket list depends on a greenhouse for body parts.
Then, I’m up. On my feet, walking towards my door. Down the stairs and out the front door.
The street is busy. It’s rush hour.
I start down the street with no destination in mind. Just somewhere away from the waiting. Away from decellularization and tissue biopsies. Away from greenhouses full of hearts and lungs and bladders. From fully-grown hearts with no one waiting.
Around the corner, it starts to slip away. My feet keep moving.
Faster now, almost jogging. My breathing quickens. My pulse pounds in my ears, stars bursting in my peripheral vision in time with my struggling heart. The wind dances over my skin, streaming tears across my cheeks.
My face starts to hurt. I’m smiling. I haven’t done that in months. I come to a stop and wipe the tears from my eyes. A small laugh tries to escape, but I’ve forgotten how, and it gets trapped in my throat.
I lean back against the building and try to catch my breath. The pulsing in my temples lessens and the stars fade from my vision. I push myself off the wall and turn to look at the building behind me. It says ROCK ON CLIMBING GYM on one of the glass doors. A stylized mountain takes up most of the other.
The doctors would probably kill me themselves if they knew I had been running. Who knows what they’d do if I told them I went rock climbing.
I grab the door handle, but reality creeps back. When my new heart is mature, I can go rock climbing every day. Twice a day if I’m feeling crazy. I just have to be patient. I just have to wait.
And that’s when it hits me. I throw the door open and walk inside.
We spend our days cautiously waiting. Praying each night that we can wake up each morning and start over again. Waiting to live and waiting to die. Each day is another day closer to the Harvest. But each day we make it through means we’re a little less likely to make it through the next.
The doctors warn me not to exercise or elevate my heart rate. It puts too much stress on my heart. Increases my risk of complications before the new heart is ready. Before the Harvest.
But if Death is coming for me, he’s going to find an empty apartment. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die living. With a heart like mine, I’ll take my chances.
With hearts like ours…