Episode 18 ~ The Donor Prom (Part 1)
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Nate swiped his I.D. Card and stepped into the hospital from one of the back doors. He’d dressed in a tux for the evening and was feeling just a bit out of place, even on his home turf. He tugged at his collar and headed toward the noise at the end of the hall.
“Hey, Dorough, wait up, man.” Gabriel had stuck his foot in the nearly closed door and hurried to catch up. Also dressed in a tux though he looked just as comfortable in the get-up as he did in scrubs. Nate wondered how some guys did it.
“Hey, yourself.” They swung open the doors that lead to what functioned as a multi-purpose room. Tonight, it would be transformed into a fairy tale, a ballroom of sorts.
The Donor Prom had started as an accident. A 17-year-old girl, named Natalie Bell, was awaiting a heart transplant and was too weak to go to her Senior Prom. She got the heart and while she recovered, her mom and one of the residents organized a very small event with some friends, complete with corsages, a DJ, and prom dresses. A small, local cable news station got wind of it and it took off. Each year, for the last 15 or so, it grew until it had become one of the largest awareness and reunion events for organ recipients and the donor families that wanted to meet them. It was always fun and more importantly, really moving. Nate had missed the last few because he’d been working but as it coincided with his vacation this year, he had lucked out. He’d reluctantly agreed to kick off the event with a few words. He had plenty to say and was well prepared; public speaking just gave him hives.
David stood on the inside of the makeshift ballroom, within sight of the doorway, but far enough away that it didn’t look like he was waiting for her. He and Carrie had spoken via phone and many times through text and email, but they hadn’t seen one another since the day they’d had coffee and ended their relationship. He missed her but he knew her well. A hot pursuit would only turn her cold. His mom always said “time heals all wounds, so give time…time.”
It hadn’t been a lot of time, a few weeks, but it was enough to test the waters. Anyway, tonight was her favorite night of the year, even more so than her own birthday, so she’d be in a good mood. Where was she? They, he corrected himself, where were they? He checked his phone. It was 6:16 and she said she had to be here around 6:30. She was giving a speech or something but he really had hoped to have a few minutes first. Maybe a glass of wine would calm his nerves a bit. There were a few bars set up around the room, one about 20 feet away and he could almost see the door from there.
He stepped in line and two men stepped in right behind him. He could tell from their conversation that they were doctors or medical professionals of some kind. A kid about 11 years old, rolled up in a wheelchair pushed by a woman, presumably his mother.
“Hi doctor Nate!,” he was wearing a mask over his face and was a very pale. David had been indirectly around this world long enough to assume that this kid was post-op transplant and by the looks of him, pretty recently.
“Hey, Jason! You doing alright?” the tall one who was apparently Dr. Nate said and fist bumped the boy.
“Thanks for letting me come.” the boy said.
“Yes, thank you,” his mother echoed.
“You’re welcome, just take it easy, no running around, hanging from chandeliers, or hitting on pretty girls, alright.? I don’t want the competition.” he winked and the kid who, even from behind his mask, crinkled his face so much that it was clear the idea of hitting on girls was gross.
Give him a year, David thought, and then morbidly, Hope he has a year.
“Go have some fun,” the doctor insisted, “but when mom says it’s time to go, you’re done. Ya got me?”
He put up two fingers and gave the boy the I got my eyes on you signal. The boy nodded in agreement and was wheeled away.
It took a really special kind of person to work with sick kids, David observed. He remembered when Carrie’s sister was so sick. He’d spent a lot of time at the hospital and it gave him the willies. But her doctor’s were so cheerful and upbeat all of the time. He didn’t know how they did it.
"What can I get you?” the bartender asked, snapping out of his thoughts.
“Oh, uh, whatever red you have, Cabernet preferably,” David said., “Oh, and whatever these guys are having.” He stuck a thumb back at the two doctors. Nate and Gabriel turned their attention to David.
“Oh, that’s nice of you, man. You don’t have to do that.” the one, not Dr. Nate said.
“No really,” David said and stuck his hand out. “Dr.?”
“Just Nate,” shaking David’s hand. “I’m just having a water. I have a speech to give.” he nodded his head toward the front of the room and shuddered.
“David Troy,” David laughed and looked over to the other guy.
“Yeah, sure.” Gabe nodded at David’s wine. “Whatever you’re having, thanks.” returning then to the room, scanning it as if looking for someone.
“One more Cab and a water please,” David asked the bartender, handing him a $100. All tips became donations to various organizations that were represented at the event.
“That boy?” David asked, “is he going to be okay?”
“Yeah, I mean, no guarantees, but so far…” Nate assured. “What brings you here?”
“Oh,”David said sipping his his wine, “I’m on the board of Living Legends. I’m here most years.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of it,” Nate said, impressed.
The bartender handed over two more glasses of wine just a Carrie and Legacy walked into the building. Nate started to say something else but David cut him off. “Well, the rest of my group is here. Good luck.” he patted Nate on the shoulder.
“Yeah, thanks. Good meeting you.” Nate headed toward the front of the room that had been set up with a podium and a sort of backstage area walled off with a few partitions to hide the electrical cables and other unsightly necessities.
“Heeeeyyy,” David yelped talking only a few big steps to get to Carrie and Legacy. He hugged Legacy first and then picked Carrie up, squeezing her tight.