The transplant reception on floor 6 feels at first sight as a slightly scary place. Here we shall, after we have been released, turn up for regular check ups. Initially, it is twice a week, but over time the visits becomes more sparse. We meet them in the corridor and in the check-in. We see them sitting in the waiting room with their notes. The others who have got an implanted organ. Now we are one of them. The transplanted. Kidney transplanted, liver transplanted and uterine transplanted in a peculiar mixture. It’s all peculiar.
The first time I am there, one of them starts talking to me. “Liver or kidney?”, he asks. Half panicky, I respond “well, I am a uterine transplanted”. It’s the first time I say it out loud. And with the scary propaganda I have been provided with, I expect him to call the press directly and tell them that here is the girl who is first in Sweden to have received a uterine transplant. He does not. He rather feels embarrassed by the answer and hurries to finish the conversation. Or is it me? In any case, I note to myself to avoid the sofas in the waiting room from now on.
A friendly nurse, who immediately becomes my favourite in the herd of nurses, gives me a tour. The room with four small stalls with each patient chair, in which the nurse sticks a needle into the arm and supplies herself with blood to a certain number of tubes. The kitchen where you as a patient can arrange any food after leaving the blood sample. (To most of the blood samples that the doctors check the health status with, it is necessary to be fasting. You must also wait to take the daily immunosuppressive tablets.) The small “box” slightly opposite the sampling room which can best be described as one of those popular smoking rooms back the old days (in it you sit to inhale a medicine that prevents a certain kind of pneumonia). And the toilets. One frequently used toilet (by the looks of it) directly to the waiting room, one a little further down the corridor and one inside a patient’s room that can be used unless the room is occupied. It is a good idea to be in need of peeing when you arrive to the reception since it every time, one or two tubes also must be filled with urine. And when you are in the toilet, you can take the opportunity to drink a mouth or two from the small white plastic cups that are stacked in a container on the wall. Practical!
Then the round tour is over. Nothing more to see. Not so scary really.
After a while it becomes a routine. Take the elevator up to the sixth floor, push out a number patch and sit on one of the chairs outside the sampling room (instead of in the waiting room). Smile a little when the nurse takes the blood samples, bring the tube to the urine sample into the toilet, do your thing and then leave the tube in the refrigerator. Then go down to fourth floor and end up with the others.
In the beginning we are the unbeatable four. Me and S operated on September 15 and 16, 2012. And another two women operated one month later. We become a group. A band. (A little further on, five more women are operated. They form other groups.) We sit in the dayroom of the ward where we once were cared for – eating our breakfast sandwich from Seven Eleven, taking our medicine and sharing our life stories – while we wait for Dr. Liza to examine us. After a while S disappears. She gets an infection that cannot be cured and the uterus is taken out. Our unbeatable quartet becomes a trio. The three Musketeers.
The moments in the dayroom are, when I look back, some of the best moments of the year after the operation. The sisterhood. How we tense get through month by month, before we get an embryo inserted into our transplanted uterus. There is so much to talk about. We and our partners, who are almost always there with us. Where we come from, what journeys we made and what awaits us in the future. The grief, the disappointments and now the expectations. There is so much to laugh about. We laugh at entanglements and embarrassments. Gynecology examinations and sperm samples delivered in a patient shower. They laugh at me when I complain about the small tubes we have to fill with urine. ”Like, how do you as a woman do to hit the hole?!”.
“That’s what the white plastic cups are for”.