Ava was sick almost our entire lives. I still don’t know the exact name of her illness, but basically, her kidneys didn’t work. We met when we were both seven when my family moved next door to her. Ava and I became instant best friends. We had a glorious year together where we were both healthy, spending every day after school together and having sleepovers almost every weekend. Our parents became close friends as well, best friends even.
Just after our eighth birthdays, Ava was hospitalized for the first time. It seemed as if her kidneys stopped working out of nowhere. Ava has endured dialysis and all kinds of painful procedures, all to no avail. The doctors put Ava on the transplant list within months of her diagnosis. Everyone her family knew, including my parents, were tested, but no one came back as a match.
Ava’s kidneys couldn’t stop our friendship, though. Even though she couldn’t run around and explore like we used to, we still spent all of our time together. We were inseparable.
Things seemed like they might be changing when we were twelve. Our families were together for our weekly movie and homemade pizza night when suddenly, her dad’s cellphone started ringing. We could all tell by the look on his face that this was big. They had found a match for Ava! Ava and her parents rushed to the hospital. Within weeks, Ava was feeling much better and leading an almost normal life for a twelve-year-old.
But things took yet another turn for the worse within a year. Ava was getting sick regularly, and we soon found out that her body was rejecting the kidney. Within weeks, she was back on dialysis. Our teen years passed by, with Ava still mostly bed-bound. Yet our friendship grew stronger still.
As our eighteenth birthdays arrived, Ava and I had to face the fact that we would be apart for the first time in over a decade. I was heading off to college six hours away, the closest college to our hometown, and we wouldn’t see each other for months. On top of that, Ava’s healthy had been slowly but steadily declining as she continued to wait for a kidney donor.
One of the requirements for living on campus was that I get a physical exam. I considered going to my pediatrician that I’d seen my whole life, but after discussing it with Ava, we decided I should see a “grown-up” doctor instead. This way, I could ask about sex and birth control without worrying about my mom finding out from one of the nurses.
Part of seeing a new doctor, I learned, meant that they asked a lot of questions. Did I have a boyfriend, where was I going to college, what did I want to major in, who was my best friend? That last question got us talking about Ava. I told this new doctor about Ava’s crap kidneys and how she looked weaker and weaker the longer she was on dialysis. She smiled sadly at me as I told her about Ava’s vivacious personality with which her frail body could never keep up.
And then she asked one last question. THE question. A question I had never before asked myself. Could I be a match for Ava? Had I been tested?
I felt my world stop at that moment. How had I never considered this? Why hadn’t my parents gotten me tested?
As soon as my mom got home from work that night, I started spewing questions at her. I needed to know why they hadn’t had me tested? How could they let Ava get sicker knowing that I could be a match? She explained, reasonably enough, that I was too young to donate my kidney. Plus, they figured that since they weren’t a match, then I wouldn’t be either.
Then my mom asked the second question that stopped my world that day. Why was I so sure that I was a match?
I couldn’t explain the feeling. I knew it. I just knew!
The first thing the next morning, I was back in the doctor’s office demanding I be tested. I couldn’t wait any longer to find out. Ava couldn’t wait much longer, either. She had been looking paler and weaker with each passing month. I was already worried about leaving her for college. I couldn’t live with myself if she died while I was gone.
It felt like years were passing as I waited to get the results. The wait was killing me. I hadn’t told anyone except my mom. Even though I was sure I was a match, I couldn’t bear to give Ava and her family false hope. They were facing enough already.
But Ava knew something was off with me. I had never kept a secret from her. She pestered me with questions, but I dodged them by saying I was nervous about moving so far away from her and my family when the semester started in a few weeks.
Finally, the week before I was to move on campus, my doctor called. She didn’t want to give me the results over the phone, but I couldn’t stand to wait. I begged, and finally, she gave in.
“You’re a match. You can donate your kidney to Ava.”
I went immediately to Ava’s house to tell her. I knew it would be tricky to convince her. Ava wouldn’t want me to change my college plans to help her. But college didn’t matter to me. Ava, my best friend, did. After hours of talking and convincing, Ava finally agreed to let me be her donor.
The next days rushed by in a blur. As soon as we told our families, we were able to get the surgeries scheduled quickly. I had to do some extensive testing, but we all knew Ava’s time was running out. We had to get her a new kidney before she came down with a cold or anything else that would exacerbate her already frail state. I was a little nervous about the procedure, but mostly over the moon that I had the potential to give Ava her life back.
Before I knew it, Ava and I were in a double hospital room together, waking up from anesthesia to see our families and doctors beaming at us. The surgery was a success! Not only would Ava live, but she could finally lead a normal life again, without constant doctor’s appointments and treatments.
I looked around my first-year seminar class as I finished telling my and Ava’s tale to see astonished looks staring back at me. Their reaction startled me – how did they expect my story to go?
A classmate raised her hand to ask me something, and when we locked eyes, she asked, “So you risked your life and future health to donate a kidney to your friend?”. I didn’t know how to respond to that. Of course, I did. How could I not? How could I not everything possible to save my best friend?
Looking back, I realize this was the first lesson college taught me, the first of many. While I thought of my donation as an almost obligatory act of love and kindness, others viewed it as reckless and excessive. Something I found an ordinary thing to do was extraordinary to others.
I had never thought of myself as extraordinary before. I’m just…me.
Prompt: Write a story about something that seems ordinary to your protagonist but would be perceived as extraordinary for something else.
Prompt source: https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story-ideas/
From your favorite Wordo (word-loving weirdo), thanks for tuning in! See you next time!