The little train that could.
When Rima first told me about a year and a half ago that she wanted to relocate to Colorado I just thought it was a dream. We all have them. We all say we want to move to Europe or move to an island and sleep in a hammock and wave goodbye to normal social standards of careers and responsibilities. We all say things we dream of daily. So, when she told me about Colorado I categorized it under this group of vocalized dreams. She kept talking and talking about it every chance she had. The more she brought it up in conversations the more of a reality it became. Her boyfriend Dennis even started to jump on board.
I consider myself a pretty logical person. I'm a planner and I make lists of pros and cons before any big decision. I weigh out my options and try to see all possibilities before I react. In my head, this move was not going to be a cakewalk for her. She was technically living in two places at the time. Splitting her time between my parents' house and mostly Dennis's house. She was working doing field marketing for a health food bar company called Health Warrior and working for a marketing company as a brand ambassador/promotional model for alcohol brands (going to bars and liquor stores and giving out shots). Let's also not forget the countless internships she held at the aquarium, museum of science live animal center, and volunteering at a wild life rescue in Costa Rica, typical animal lover. She was in and out of the hospital a lot so keeping a full time job was kinda out of the question, part time only. How would she be able to financially pull this off? How would she make a living out in Colorado? She has no idea how much money it takes to be on your own!
For anyone who has ever executed a large move you know that one day you just start the moving train and the rest kind of falls into place, once the train starts to move it's hard to stop it, next thing you know you're in a new city and in a new home. Dennis and Rima started to save, research and the train left the station. I was in Brooklyn at this time, living with my best friends, kicking butt in my producing career, and enjoying running around the city. I had moved from San Francisco a few years ago to Brooklyn to be closer to Rima because the transplant had been initially brought up back then. So, when the move to Colorado started to become a reality, I started to have slight panic attacks, internally of course. Was another move in the cards for me? To be quite honest I was a little selfish in these thoughts. I had a great thing going for me in Brooklyn, I felt at home. But, naturally when an idea is planted in my brain it often sprouts quite quickly.
Rima and Dennis, rented a hitch, had the move date planned. The train to the west was picking up lots and lots of speed. A going away party was planned for December 5th, 2015. I came up from Brooklyn for this shindig. Rima picked me up from the train station, I could tell she was feeling crummy, she had been in the hospital earlier that week. She is a trooper so she tried not to talk about it. That night friends and family came to bid their best wishes to the smiling couple. Rima, could barley eat or drink. Something was up. Later on that night the adults left and friends started to pick up the celebratory goodbye drinking. Rima started to decline. She removed herself from the party to go to bed, maybe she would feel better in the morning. I watched her struggle to breathe even on the highest setting on her oxygen machine. At around 2:30am I put my big sister foot down and announced I was driving her to the emergency room. I packed up the car and we took off at 3am. Driving to the hospital (Children's an hour away) was probably the scariest hour of my life. I was convinced she was going to stop breathing. I'm pretty sure I was going 20 over the speed limit at all times.
We got to the emergency department, doctors gave her more oxygen and took X-rays and started IV fluids. She was admitted to the hospital. The move date was going to have to be pushed. After lots of discussions we decided on the following. Dennis would drive out with his friend and the moving hitch on the planned move date. Rima would stay in the hospital as long as the doctors recommended. I would move Rima out to Colorado three weeks after she was discharged from the hospital. All was set in motion. We had a plan. Then the train got derailed.
Her doctor and transplant team came in and informed us that her lung function had been declining, about 5% every year over the past 10 years and that she needed to get a double lung transplant within the year. We knew she would need it eventually. We knew this was going to happen. But, to be honest we all were hoping to push it back and that maybe new medical treatments would come into play to push it back further. I don't think I will ever forget that day. There was a conference call that friends and family could be apart of during this meeting. I was at work and had run out into the stairway to call in. The call kept dropping. I was sitting on the "evacuation" stairway, looking out into the abandoned train tracks across the street in Long Island City. I missed the first 15 minutes of the call and finally got on during the last part. The doctors kept talking about her health and how bad it was. About where to get the transplant and all the baggage that comes with it. I only heard silence on Rima's end, until she spoke up to ask a question. Her voice cracked and that was it for me. I'm pretty sure I kicked a door in, not sure if they have found the damage. I decided right there that I was going to move wherever she was and wherever the transplant would occur.
I went up to Boston a day later and surprised Rima in the hospital for the weekend. I stayed with her in the small isolation room, aka prison cell (as Rima calls it) at Children's Hospital and we started to plan. Colorado was happening, she was going to move and live there even if it was barely for a year. Dennis was already there. All her stuff was in Colorado. I think what was going through all our heads was, "was this dumb, should she not move?" She was moving to a city where altitude was going to be a big issue. Her parents were in Massachusetts, all her friends, a majority of her support system. The doctors had thrown out a few hospitals for consideration for the transplant. Cleveland Clinic, Duke, and Stanford. All in other states. I'll get into more details about why each of these hospitals had pros and cons at a later post. Our heads were spinning, my head is still spinning. I give so much credit to people who have gone through this process. It's not easy. It's hard. It's painful. It's emotionally draining. Things change every day. I'm not kidding you, literally every day we get new or different information that changes what we thought was happening less than 24 hours ago. I grew up seeing my sister go through ups and downs. Hospital visits too many to count. I have tough skin. I have to. But this, no one can prepare you for this.
I began this post trying to portray the story about Rima's move to Colorado and how I drove her out there. A narrative of two sisters tackling the road together. But, I clearly underestimated the story that leads up to that portion.