Author turns kidney transplant into laughing matter
Now a Two Harbors resident
BY MONICA ISLEY
Lake County News-Chronicle
Last Updated: Thursday, December 01st, 2005 10:22:36 AM
If someone told you they wanted a good laugh so they picked up a book about a kidney transplant, you might question their sense of humor.
Well, if the book was “Chicago Hopeless” by Shirley J. Thompson, their sense of humor is just where it should be. This first-time author has managed to take a very serious situation and milk it for every laugh available. Maybe she did it out of self-preservation, since she was the kidney donor, her sister was the recipient, and a third sister went along to make sure all went well. Actually, nothing went as it should.
As Thompson writes in her book, “Without our sense of humor, we would have gone insane a long time ago. Perhaps we are insane.”
Thompson, who was living in Wisconsin when the book was written but who has relocated to Two Harbors with her husband Richard, tells the tale of what happens when three sisters are let loose in the city of Chicago and have to deal with the inefficiencies of a big hospital.
From wheelchair theft to fire alarms to scheduling mix-ups to hospital patient mix-ups, it is one unbelievable catastrophe after another.
It’s also one laugh after another, the kind that erupt right out loud while you’re reading, the kind that make the other people in the house wonder what on earth can be that entertaining.
Right from the start, Thompson takes the otherworldly nobility out of the idea of being a kidney donor. She admits “reluctant” doesn’t come close to her attitude. She was sure her nephew or someone else would be the perfect match her sister needed and when it turned out to be her, she was less than impressed.
“I could buy lottery tickets every day and never win a thing. I can’t even win the baseball and football pools at work. Unfortunately...I won the transplant lottery. Go figure,” she writes.
After one unbelievable mishap after another, the transplant does take place. Thompson’s chapters about her own kidney removal and recovery are a hoot, pure and simple. In the chapter called “Help! I Can’t Breathe!” she talks about the hospital person who comes to get her for tests when her temperature and heart rate went up alarmingly.
“I’m not being prejudiced here,” she writes, “but the kid spoke some kind of street language that I needed an interpreter just to understand.”
When told to get on the gurney, she pointed out that it had no sheets, pillow, blanket or anything else.
“‘I ain’t got no urders on dis here form that says nutin’ ‘bout no shits (I am quoting here, and I swear this is the way he pronounced it), pillers, or nutin’ else. Dis here liddy has ta git her ass on dat dere table and we’uns gotta roll!’”
“They’uns” rolled on down to the testing place, which was by the morgue--a fact in itself that worried Thompson. There she was left in the hall, alone, with no bedding and wearing one of those lovely open-in-the-back gowns. After calling out repeatedly, a nurse finally came along.
Thompson writes, “‘I’m not really dead!” I pleaded.
“‘Well,’ the nurse said, ‘of course you’re not. What are you doing down here?’
“‘I wish I knew.’ I was sobbing by now. ‘Some guy who doesn’t speak English, even though he is an American, left me here...’”
Thompson, who has written short stories and maintains a family Web site, said she started to write the book as a memoir for her family, many of whom were involved in one way or another in the mid-‘90s adventure of the three sisters. The only sad note in the saga is that her sister Betty, whose transplant was successful, died in 2003 after a stroke before getting to see the finished book.
“She did get to read the rough drafts, though,” Thompson said this week during a phone conversation.
For many years, Thompson has been a care giver for her husband, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1980. Now and then she came to the North Shore “for some R and R,” and when it became obvious that she loved it here, he encouraged her to think about relocating both of them.
They bought one of the lots being sold on Encampment Ridge above Silver Cliff, and this past June they moved into their newly built home with the view of Lake Superior that she never tires of.
Thompson enjoys knitting and crocheting, plans to join the North Shore Photo Club, and hopes to meet a few people from the area--not necessarily an easy task since she’s “pretty much tied to the house.”
If not in person, than Thompson can be met online where her Web site shows off her photos, short stories and life tales. Check it out at shirleythompsononline.com
Her book, “Chicago Hopeless,” is available through her Web site, or at Amazon.com or Barnesand Noble.com.