Live On

Avishi GurnaniFebruary 7, 2024Finding MeaningFiction

“To this day, I’ve never felt too comfortable with things that beep, especially video games.

They transport me back two years to those machines surrounding me, their beeps the only sound in the drowning quiet. Back to that hospital room, the four bare walls and the drip mounted beside me trickling a liquid into my veins, one drop at a time. Back to those days when the blue-clad nurses, green-clad hospital staff, and white-aproned doctors were my only company. Back to those days I'll never forget," Sky's voice boomed into the microphone, entrancing the audience sitting in our school’s auditorium as her voice echoed around the stage. I sighed. Sky needed this after the last three years.

As she continued speaking, I allowed warm, salty tears to flow down my cheeks and memories I had kept at bay to flood over me . . .

I had refused to believe it at first. Sky, healthy, fit, athletic Sky, my best friend, was having a heart transplant? As the months rolled by, however, Sky’s health kept declining. She stopped coming to school, and was at the hospital so often that the doctors and nurses knew her name and she had a room to herself. I had no choice but to accept that things would change, for Sky, for me, and for our friendship. At least I was still able to see her a few days every week, when she wasn’t at the hospital. It hurt me to see her so frail and fragile, surrounded by machines and medicines. Those few moments were precious, almost as if her world, and mine, hadn’t been turned on its axis.

But that wasn’t to last. The state we had been in, of gradual acceptance and moving forward, had suddenly been shattered by the emergence of COVID-19, which rocked the world and left it reeling. We all suffered from its assertive impact with masks and circuit breakers now a part of our lives. For Sky, however, COVID posed a fatal risk. Her doctor, parents, and I were painfully aware that a COVID infection could not only affect her health detrimentally, but also affect her newly fitted heart — fatally. And so every possible precaution was taken. She was isolated at home, and only her parents were allowed in her “bubble.” It was the longest three months of my life. We’d had to resort to video calls, with me talking and her listening, a wistful smile on her face as she bobbed her head sporadically to my stories, especially when we went back to school after the lockdown finally ended (albeit with masks covering our faces) while she stayed at home.

One part of me knew this was essential for Sky’s health and safety, but there was another part of me that was reluctant to come to terms with not being able to see Sky every day. As time passed, the risk of COVID being fatally harmful dissipated. I was elated, and resolved to stop by her house every day. After school, I would visit her for an hour or two, to talk to her and to spend time with her.

The reality of what had happened finally settled in as I realized I could have lost Sky, forever. The heart transplant had given her a life. I was grateful to the donor of Sky’s heart for having the courage to donate their heart. I also started to realize that I couldn’t help Sky all on my own. I needed help, help that teachers, friends, and classmates were all very willing to give. A schedule soon formed and they took turns helping Sky with schoolwork regularly. I could only imagine what Sky’s parents went through on a daily basis. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, yet I was grateful and relieved that they didn’t. I would forever be grateful for the second chance this heart had provided for Sky, and I resolved to give that second chance to someone else, someone who would be given hope because of it.

“Before I end, I want to thank each one of you for being a part of this journey with me, which has had its ups and downs. Thank you.” She finished her speech with a smile as raucous applause filled the room.

“You were amazing, Sky,” I said with misty eyes and a bear hug as she wrapped her arms around me after skipping down the stage.

“Not without you,” she said, shooting me a wink and a thumbs-up as I nodded and stepped up onto the stage.

“Hello everybody, I am Amantha Rowell, and today I’m going to be talking about Sky’s and my journey through her heart transplant. It definitely isn’t easy to be standing on the sidelines, watching someone go through pain like that. It changes you, makes you realize that the life that we enjoy today is privileged and can be snatched away from under our very feet at any moment. The life we have been given is not one that everyone has, and we need to understand that and appreciate it. I almost lost someone very important to me,” I said, looking to Sky as I said this, “and am extremely grateful for this opportunity with her, and am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the person who donated this heart. This second chance is the chance of a lifetime, a chance that cannot be wasted, and that is why caregivers’ jobs are especially important, with a good support system of parents, teachers, and friends. I tell you this because I now know that even when we don’t want them to happen, things do happen. And we can only overcome them together. Today, I am grateful that Sky is no longer trapped, and we are no longer scared. And as she said, we are so grateful that so many people came forward to become part of her support system to make this happen.” I spoke, my voice gaining courage as I went on. About life and happiness, fear and courage, meaning and purpose, and family. Of blood and not.

Avishi Gurnani is a 12-year-old student at New Town Primary School in Singapore. She has published three books of her own, and is always poking around for new platforms to express her passion for writing.