Many of you know that I had a double lung transplant on Sept. 30, 2005, almost 8 years now. I had emphysema and asthma and in the year or two prior to my transplant, I was dying. My lung function was dwindling and by February of 2005 I was placed on oxygen 24/7. Just walking across the first floor of my home which was the length of 2 rooms was very difficult without the oxygen.
My lung function when I was placed on the transplant list was only 20%. I was on the transplant list for only 2 weeks to the day. What a surprise to me. I was expecting to wait months or years.
In the early morning hour of 12:15am on September 30, 2005 I received my call. My pre-transplant coordinator, Paul called and asked me “So San, whatcha doin’?” I said, “Getting ready for bed.” He said, “No you’re not. We have a set of lungs that we believe are just for you. So, I need you to make your phone calls and get your ass in here asap.”
Well, wow, I didn’t know what to think because I was kind of numb. I knew I had to call my daughters and let them know and I had to reach our son, who happened to be out at the time. This was before he had a cell phone. We couldn’t wait any longer so I had to leave him a note on the kitchen table. I hated to leave such a message on a note, but I had no choice.
I distinctly remember walking out to our car and turning around to look at the house that we had lived in and raised our 3 children in and wondered if I would be coming back to that home of our love and life. It was a very strange feeling, I wasn’t panicky or terrified but I was feeling a bit uneasy, wondering if this whole thing was real and yes, it was very real.
So here we were, me and my husband, sitting in the lobby of University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Hospital waiting to be taken up for the transplant. It was 1:30in the morning. As I looked to the left I saw a man walking through the shadows toward us. As he got closer I recognized him to be the priest I had worked for years previously. He had in the last couple years moved from Pittsburgh to California. Now here he was in Pittsburgh at 1:30 in the morning!!!
He walked past us, I imagine he didn’t recognize me because I had gained some weight and was wearing oxygen. I told my husband to go out and get him, Fr. Eugene was walking toward the parking lot. As he brought him inside, he came over to me and I said, “Eugene?” and he answered, “yessss???” I looked at him and said, “you don’t know who I am, do you?” Fr. Eugene answered, “Honey, I don’t know anyone at 1:30 in the morning”. After I explained who I was, he then remembered me. He said, “Sandy, what are you doing here”? I told him that I was waiting to up to surgery for a double lung transplant. His eyes got so big and then his face softened as he looked at me. Fr. Eugene took my hands in his and said a prayer for me. He said, “I just wish you all the best.” With that he left and flew back to California.
After he left, I knew I was going to be just fine. I felt such a feeling of peace, I can’t describe it, but I had no fear. I went forward with the surgery and I am sitting here today, nearly 8 years later doing well.
I saw Fr. Eugene 3 years later back in Pittsburgh, giving a conference at the Monastery where I work and where I worked for him when he was Rector back in the 80’s. When he saw me he asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was doing very well.
Fr. Eugene went on to tell me why he was in Pittsburgh that night. He said he had just left the bedside of a friend who had died. I said, “Eugene, do you realize that you walked from death to life that night?” He said, I guess I did.
Now, this is where this story gets even better. Many years ago, when Fr. Eugene had become the Rector of a Retreat House in Riverdale, New York, my 2 friends, Dee and Shirley and I went to Riverdale, New York to attend a weekend retreat with Fr. Eugene and many others who had come to experience the retreat.
When the time came for Holy Communion, Fr. Eugene said to all of us, “Instead of saying ‘Amen’ when I offer Communion, perhaps you could say something that has meaning for you. . .perhaps you could say, I love you Jesus, or Thank you Lord, or My Lord and My God, something like that.
While I was walking up to receive Communion I had no idea what I was going to say. Even when it became my turn, I was at a loss. . .that is until he offered Communion by saying, “The Body of Christ” and out of the blue I said, “I want to live”. . .What??? I had no idea why I would say that, and beyond that when I got back to my seat, I just began to sob and sob and sob. . .I was in a happy mood, why was I sobbing in this pew. Everything in my life felt so good. But there it was.
This memory came to me in the last couple weeks and it just blew me away. . .Here is the same priest who years before suggested saying something to receive Communion. . .and I say that I want to live. . .and years later here comes this same priest from across the country to pray with me while my life hung in the balance.
No one can convince me that God and his angels aren’t working on our behalf all the time. . .
May you all be blessed!!!
Sandy Ozanich (c) Sept. 1, 2013