This week, I’ve been hip-deep in revisions and rewrites for a new novel. Like Little River, this new work also deals with trafficking, but this time, the trafficking takes a different form – the black market in human organs.
I think we’ve all heard the urban legends of unsuspecting victims regaining consciousness in an ice-filled bathtub, sans kidney. I took a darker turn in my preparation for this book. Although, this book is a work of fiction, I conducted research into the biology, mechanics and technology involved in organ harvesting to immerse the reader into this world. This work won’t be a primer on organ transplant, but the subject matter is truly cringeworthy.
(Note to other authors: When you ask your personal physician how long a kidney can last outside the body, please give him, or her, some context. It makes for a less awkward office visit, just saying.)
The demand for human organs outstrips the legitimate organ sharing networks. In response, the black market has experienced a jump in human trafficking for organ removal. The fact that the United Nations even measures the known organ traffic in sixteen countries is gruesome. Perfusion pumps, preservatives and sterile solutions are available for on-line purchase.
Here is a sneak peek at a few lines from the novel, at a point where parents accompany their young boy, Tommy, into the transplant center to prepare for surgery.
John gripped his son’s hand as they navigated through a warren of sterile medical offices and patient rooms. Agonizing months of scans, blood tests and biopsies ensured Tommy knew more about life and death than the average kid. The ten-year-old’s pale skin, thin limbs and dark circles under his eyes concealed a strength that outweighed most grown men. John marveled at Tommy’s courage. A doctor was going to slice him open, tear out a diseased clump of flesh, toss someone’s leftover kidney inside and sew him closed. To a ten-year-old, that should be the plot in a horror movie. Yet the boy moved on, only pausing to hitch up his pants which had become too large for his withered body.
They turned down a corridor, painted with a calming light blue, but highlighted by anxiety inducing signs with terse warnings about transmission of diseases to immune compromised patients. At the far end, two scrub-clad nurses waited on either side of a doorway. Darla and Laura were Tommy’s favorite nurses and they welcomed him with practiced smiles. Their eyes betrayed something less benign.
Tommy followed Nurse Darla inside and the second nurse stepped in behind, blocking the door. “I need a moment of your time while Darla gets Tommy comfortable,” Laura said.
She guided John and Melissa to a small sofa in the corner of a bland waiting room, within eyeshot of Tommy’s room. Melissa sat so she could watch the room for any sign that called for a mom’s immediate presence.
“I know you’ve completed all the pre-admission paperwork, but I need to be sure that everything is up to date,” Laura said. She ticked off names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth to verify each of them, barely waiting for a response. Her voice held a steady tone as she asked, “Do you have an advance directive in place?”
If John wasn’t sitting, the wave of fear that washed over him threatened to drop him to the floor. He heard his heart thump against his his ribs and he opened his mouth, but couldn’t form any words.
Laura filled in the silence. “We need to make certain that we follow your wishes, should the need arise.”
She held out a small sheaf of forms. Bold letters on the visible pages outlined what happens when a patient is listed as DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, and what procedures are considered Extraordinary Medical Intervention to continue life.
No parent should have to make that decision. John couldn’t take the documents out of Laura’s hand that would end his son’s life. Melissa grabbed them, tore them into small bits and let them fall to the carpet. Not another word was exchanged, but the message was clear – we are not giving up on our son, not now, not ever.
Lots of revision and rework to go, but I thought I’d share you you…
Thoughts? Always interested in what you think about the subject, so drop me a line or two.