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  • Jenifer Jett

Episode 21 ~ More Than Meets His Eye

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Carrie trotted, literally trotted to the podium as Nate stood watching in awe.  He’d expected her to duck quickly behind the podium to hide her little wardrobe malfunction but instead, she slid up beside it, draping her hand over it casually like she was putting an arm around a friend.  How was she this relaxed?

“So, what do you all think?  Doesn’t this place look amazing?  Carrie began.

The crowd applauded and there were a few cat-calls.

“Hey, thank you for that.  I’m Caroline Davison and I am super lucky that I get to officially kick things off tonight.  This is one of my favorite nights of the entire year.  I know a lot of you and tonight, I’m hoping to make a few new friends.  Every year, our attendance gets just a bit bigger and that tells me that we, collectively, are making an impact.  Every year, there are more successful organ transplants than the year before.

And, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s good,” she joked in her best Alabama accent.

She got a couple of laughs.  Nate, still working on the last bit of tape that was wound around her heel, kept pausing to look at her.  And he wasn’t the only one.  It wasn’t what she was saying or how pretty she was; she was just one of those people who commanded attention with her gentle presence.  If not for the scar on her middle, she looked like she’d stepped from the page in a magazine.  Faint as it was, he thought it was brave, even sexy that she’d put it on display.

“We are here tonight to celebrate, to show gratitude, to remember, to bring awareness, and finally to raise needed funds.  Organizations like Living Legends, which I formed after my sister’s liver transplant about 10 years ago, can’t make it without funding,”   Carrie continued.

From the tiny opening in her dress, only a small part of her scar was visible. Without seeing the shape of the scar, Nate has assumed that Caroline had been a liver transplant recipient.  His jaw dropped and her shoe hung in his hand as he simply looked on.  He felt like he was under some sort of spell.  She was a donor, a hero.  He heard her words but it was like he was listening from under water.  The blood pounded in his ears as she continued, the story of how she’d gotten there…tonight… to him, unfolded.

“I was adopted as a baby, raised an only child.  My mother passed away when I was 10 so it was just my dad and me for a long time.  Fast forward to about 10 years ago, we get a call that my birth parents were looking for me.  See, it turned out, that years after I was born, and after my birth parents had grown up a bit, they reunited, married, and had two more kids, my brother Aiden and my sister Ayla, who was in desperate need of a liver.  Now, whenever I tell this story, I get mixed reactions about my parents’ decision to find me.  What I know, was that they were so desperate and Ayla’s need was so dire, that they weren’t thinking about anything else.  I thank the Lord above every day for their bravery.  Overnight, I went from only child of a single dad to having siblings. When I met them, it was love at first sight.

Really and truly one of those rare moments when you meet someone and you don’t know anything about them but you have an instinct that they are and always have been significant somehow in your life.”  She didn’t mean to.  But at that moment, on that thought, Carrie ticked her eyes off stage to Nate, who was focused so intently on her that her knees started to quiver.  She looked down.

“Yeah, I know, I’m wearing one shoe!” She covered loss of her balance very well, giggling at herself.  The crowd ate it up.  “That’s because it’s like a fairy-tale in here tonight and I feel like Cinderella.  Okay, I made that up just now.  Really, I got all tangled up in electrical tape but it’s alright, I’ve got a world-renowned surgeon currently on the situation,”   The pointed her thumb off-stage toward Nate.  The crowd roared laughing.  “It was touch and go there for a minute but it looks like it’ll pull through.”  More laughter.

“So, as I was saying.  What was I saying?”

She was back to being casual and poised.  “Oh yeah, sister, liver, love at first sight…  I’ve gotten to meet a lot of living organ donors over the last several years and we all have at least 2 things in common.  We all, thought about changing our minds, at least once, even if just for a second.  It’s only human.  And,” she paused for effect, “not one of us, after the fact, wishes we hadn’t done it.  Was it scary?  Totally.  Was is worth it?  Definitely, yes, a resounding yes. For me, it was an easy decision, well, relatively speaking.  I was barely 20, no family to support and with financial resources to take the time off.  I started Living Legends to support the needs of living donors.  No one should have to choose between saving the life of a loved one or in some cases a stranger and taking care of their responsibilities.  Living Legends provides child care, assistance with bills, transportation, and other necessities so that individuals can choose to give the gift of life.  That’s where the money goes.  Other organizations contribute to research, aftercare, education for medical professionals… the list goes on.  Not one of these is needed more than another.  Each person, each program, operates as part of this larger machine.”

Caroline took a long deep breath.  She loved this spotlight. She loved even more that she had a voice, that she had this passion and that people would listen.  She’d given this talk or one like it dozens of times.  But tonight was somehow different.  She looked out over the sea of faces, purposely studying several of them individually.  Every single person here had a story to tell, a purpose, a reason for being in this place, on this night.  She dared herself to look at him.  She tried but she couldn’t unless she wanted to lose her composure completely.  Who was this man?  She had a sense that she knew and she was ready to find out.

“Organ donation exists because someone thought it up, thought about it some more, shared it with someone else who probably responded with an enthusiastic, ‘well that sounds crazy!’  and thank God for crazy right?  It takes the dedication of some pretty special individuals to continue making advances in transplant medicine.   It takes the brilliance and the bravery of researchers and surgeons, nursing teams, hospital staff and technicians, mothers and fathers…we’re all in this."

The crowd applauded.

"Thank you so very much for your kind attention. I hope that you will enjoy the evening as I intend to.  There’s a karaoke machine with my name on it over there.  Remember, the dollars we raise tonight will help to fund new research, and offer resources for families as they care for their loved ones.  I want to say that your support is appreciated, and it is but more importantly, it’s needed.  Because of your generous support, the physicians at this hospital and many, many others continue to develop new advances, saving more lives every year with successful transplants.  I am joined this evening by one of them.  I am so very honored to introduce, Dr. Nathan Dorough."

It was a small platform.  He’d been standing just 10 feet from her the entire time.  It now felt like a mile as he crossed the stage to where she waited.  To polite applause, he presented her with her shoe and offered her his hand while she balanced and slipped it back on.  The thought had crossed his mind to kneel down and help her but that seemed way too Cinderella and given his nerves, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stand back up.  Instead, he leaned in, maybe a little too close, and whispered,  “It’s not fair.  How am I supposed to follow that?”

She swallowed hard and still holding his hand, though she stood solidly on two feet, she looked up at him. Hazel, in the light now, his eyes were a honey color with green flecks and he had the thickest boy-eyelashes she’d ever seen.  He’d asked her a question, which was rhetorical and it was a good thing because she was out of words.  A crowd of 800, piece of cake,  but this, whatever this was, was uncharted.  She instead, replied by biting her bottom lip but she looked pleased by his compliment.  He reluctantly released her hand which she immediately used to toss her hair, batted her eyes, and left him standing there, curtsying to the crowd as she left.  More catcalls and applause. 

The exchange, though it felt like an eternity, was mere seconds; so brief, that the awaiting crowd never noticed; except for David.  She slipped behind the partitions to where he’d stood.  Her plan was to stay there and wait for him, but she was ushered away for pictures and a quick statement to one of the few reporters allowed in.  She finished quickly and was able to join her friends for the remainder of his speech.  She would hover near the edge of the crowd and hope that he would come to find her.

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