The bracelet I’m wearing is worn and tattered, faded. It’s rubber, maybe 3/4 of an inch wide, with a tear in one spot that nearly reaches half that width and a hole through the other side. Yet, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
It’s one of the “Amy” bracelets that have been globe trotting since we ordered them in February in an effort to get the word out about my blog, my disease, my mission. And until last night, it didn’t belong to me.
It belonged to Nick, the oldest son of my bff Diane.
Last night, I talked to Diane just a few minutes after I’d finished receiving the bag of platelets, before the hospital staff began infusing the first of my whole blood transfusions.
“Do you need me to come up?” she asked. “I can be there asap.”
I looked at the clock. 10:15 p.m. The two whole blood transfusions would take most of the night. I didn’t want to ask that much of anyone. I was feeling fine, confident that all was well, even hopeful that I might, just might, get some shut-eye.
“Nope,” I told her. “Everything’s going fine. I’m OK.”
“Well, call me if you need me.”
But I didn’t expect that I would.
Yet, within 45 minutes, I was back on the phone.
“Can you come immediately?” I pleaded. “I really need you.”
Just a few minutes before that call, I’d been receiving the first of the transfusions when I began to feel dizzy. I broke out in a cold sweat. Then darkness crept across my eyes until all I had left was tunnel vision.
I fumbled and found the nurse call button.
“Help! I think I’m about to black out!” I managed.
Within seconds, the doctors and nurses were in my room, checking my vitals, listening to my lungs, looking for signs that my body was rejecting the transfusion. That kind of reaction to foreign blood is not only very scary, but very serious.
Then, there was a collective sigh of great relief. I was not rejecting the blood. It was simply running into my body too quickly. Turning down “the drip” solved the problem and I began to feel better.
Still, I was terrified. What if it happened again and I couldn’t get to the nurse’s button? It was too scary to imagine that scenario while I was alone in my little room. That’s when I called Diane.
She was at my side within minutes, determined not to budge until I made it safely through the first transfusion and through the beginning of the second, which would be somewhere around 3 a.m.
We talked. She took my mind off of the obvious. I began to feel better.
Then, her phone rang. It was her son, Nick. I couldn’t hear what he was telling her, but I saw her look down at the “Amy” bracelet she was wearing.
“You want me to give it to her?” I heard Diane say.
It was Nick’s “Amy” bracelet and when he’d given it to his Mom as she was leaving for the hospital, he had meant for me to have it.
That wouldn’t seem so extraordinary if it weren’t for the fact that Nick, a teenager, had put his “Amy” bracelet on back in February — and he hadn’t taken it off since. That’s why it was so beat-up and battered, faded, ripped, holey.
Nick had been wearing the yellow and pink bracelet every second of every day, to school, football practice, when he was hanging out with his friends. He was committed to wearing that bracelet until I was in remission. He wore it with the kind of passion, determination, and focus that only a teenager can. I was deeply touched every time I saw him in those months, every time I looked at his arm and spied the “Amy” bracelet.
Tonight, though, was different. Nick was worried about me. He wanted an update from his Mom. And he wanted me to have the bracelet. His bracelet.
Diane gave it to me and I put it on.
Around 3 a.m., when it looked pretty certain that I was stable, she headed home.
After she had gone, I looked down at the bracelet, thinking about all the places it had traveled on Nick’s arm, all it had seen, heard, felt. It had become a part of him. And now he had given it up for me.
Several times in the early morning hours, I drifted off to sleep and was awakened by a nurse checking my vitals. Sometimes, I woke up and had forgotten where I was. Then it would come to me, the hospital, the transfusions. I’d look at my arm, at the bracelet that meant so much to Nick, the one he’d sacrificed that night for me, and it gave me great comfort.
People often ask me why I don’t wear one of my own “Amy” bracelets. It’s because on my arm, I’ve always seen it as a reminder of my cancer. And I need to give my brain some breathing room, an opportunity every now and again to forget what’s going on in my body.
Not anymore. Now, I see it as a symbol of the strength, determination and passion of a teenager named Nick, whose sheer will to see me through until I win this battle buoyed my spirits during one of my darkest, most frightening moments, and will continue to. What an extraordinary gift.
Thank you, Nick. You are amazing.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson