Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not My Typical Friday Afternoon

I volunteer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston a day or so a week, usually Fridays. I work at the front desk, and spend a lot of time pointing people to the elevators and the bathrooms. I really love it, and love being a smiling face when patients walk in the front door. Tom was treated there for over a year, and believe me when I tell you that a smiling face could define a day.

Anyway, what with it only being one day a week, and usually a half-day at that, the learning curve has been pretty steep. But the feedback I get from the volunteer supervisor has been generally positive. And they keep inviting me back.

Okay, so now the story of my hopefully atypical Friday begins: A young man walked in and approached the front desk and asked to speak with a woman in the bone marrow transplantation department. He only knew her first name, and it was not an unusual first name, so it took a bit of research to find the right person, but eventually I connected the two of them up. No joke, an hour later a different person calls on the phone and says, "Hello, I'm Joe Goodsamaritan (name changed) and I just got a phone call that I'm a donor match for a transplant, and I need to speak to  ..."  someone with the same first name - and he also did not know her last name. But because it was a such common name, I did not immediately make the connection "Oh, he's looking for that same person from an hour ago" so I put him on hold while I tracked down how I should handle the call. (In the online directory there are five pages of people with her first name!) I then realized who he needed to talk to, and was about to transfer Mr. G (Are you still with me? Good for you! Z-z-z-z-z...) when I realized I had disconnected him!

Let's make sure I have this right, Linda: You have a cancer patient's lifesaving marrow donor on the phone, and he doesn't know who he's supposed to be talking to ... and you disconnect him. WTG.

If a heart can sink to the ground and jump into my throat at the same time, that's what happened to me at that moment.

So I called Bone-Marrow-Lady-With-The-Common-First-Name and explained what happened. She told me not to worry about it, and that she thought she knew who it probably was and that in any event, if he was contacted today, he'll be contacted again tomorrow, so she told me that the situation is no big deal.

I can't help but think one extra day without treatment is the definition of a big deal for a cancer patient waiting for a bone marrow match. I promised BMLWTCFN I wouldn't obsess about it all weekend, but I told her I was surely going to worry about it nonetheless.

All I know is it's never good when that darn phone rings. It's never a question about elevators or bathrooms!

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