Twenty years ago, tonight, I got to experience the miracle of life and medicine with one of my best friends.
I had met Barba on an occasion or two; a family reunion, a funeral, the typical places you would run across the cousin of your husband. Being pretty shy and out of my element with this new family, I am not sure we even spoke much, and we lived several miles apart.
Fate led me to move to where she lived in Paris, Texas for a job offer. This was in the late 1990’s and in that time between when I was settling in and my family moved there, I connected with her. We were just two women, each living alone and, in many ways, as different as night and day.
The first time I went somewhere with her, I sat in her car and was amazed at the meticulously organized life she led. I didn’t realize immediately that was her way of staying alive. I had no idea just how sick she was. Barba had end stage liver disease and was on a transplant waiting list. Over the next three years, I watched as she faded away and became weaker and weaker.
I have to make a personal confession here. For someone who has battled depression most of my life, I was fascinated at her fight and will to stay alive. She had read and studied her disease and was meticulous at following the rules and record keeping needed to stay viable. Her faith that she would get a donor seemed unyielding.
I am a bit of an introvert, but Barba insisted we get out and go eat. She was the one that was ill yet, she was looking after me. Somewhere along the way, we learned that we both shared a love for writing, and both dreamed of being authors one day. Neither of us knew what to do or how to start but she shared her stories with me.
On this night 20 years ago, I had gone to eat with Barba. By this time, she was frail, and her light was dimming fast. I was terrified that a donor wouldn’t come soon enough and felt helpless.
When I left, I said what I always did, “Maybe you will get the call soon.” She said “I can’t get the call now, Phillis is sick and can’t drive me.” I told her my usual, “You know I will take you” and she didn’t answer. I backed the car up to leave and for some reason, I still do not know, I pulled back up and opened my window and yelled to her in the rain. “Barba, seriously, if you get the call, call me, I will take you!” Then I left.
At 1:30 am on October 6, 2000, Barba’s call came, and I nervously drove her to Dallas in the pouring rain, driving way too fast. At one point, she told me to slow down, she had waited too long for this day to not make it there now.
So Happy Birthday Barba- to twenty years and counting of your gift of life!
Barba and I have kept in contact after I moved away- and after I published my book last year, I called her and told her it was her turn. She had self-published a book about her transplant journey but not yet her novel. So, she dusted it off and finished it. Please check out her book about family, secrets and lies below.
There are currently over 75,000 people actively waiting on transplant lists. Consider checking the donor box on your drivers’ license and give the gift of life.