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How much is time worth? Josh thought.

His life was coming to an end, and he had to make a decision. It was a decision opposite to a win-win situation, but an important decision in his dwindling life. The young enthusiastic doctor was giving him hope, where there was none to give. It was a gamble, the doctor’s proposal, it made Josh ponder, how much is time worth? If he gained an extra day, how would he spend that day or days – bonus days in his sorry life.

He thought to himself, time is all about trade-offs. Where you prioritize and spend your time. He always thought that you can never have three important and precious things all at once; lots of money, a satisfying and happy working life and career, and lots of time off. Impossible. At best you might get two out of three. In his reasoning over the years, he had miscalculated the enduring and underlying assumption – good health. He should have protected his health, even paying for this protection, delegating, and allowing the freeing up of that precious commodity; free time, down time, to spend time on the things he wanted to do.

“I’ll give you three years, if you continue your lifestyle.” Said Josh’s local doctor, years ago, before the first heart attack. At the same time, the doctor forecast. “You can live a long healthy life, in a state of well-being, but the life changes have to be made now, in advance!”

Josh took no heed of the wise advice, and so he ended up here in Groote Schuur Hospital on a life support machine, thinking about time.

The value of time is not equal, he thought. When I spend my time doing more profitable work, I make more money. If I spend my time investing in others, I build better relationships. If I spend my time creating some space for myself, I create more freedom. It all comes down to how you spend and value time. I didn’t think I had the choices, most people are the same, choices of how to spend my time are dictated by circumstances, by the emotional demands and pressures of others. There needs to be some inner warning system for self-protection when one is pushing oneself beyond healthy well-being limits. And yet he thought, he doubted he would have ever listened to the wise version of himself, even if he possessed visions of his current circumstances, the scene in the hospital ward, pre warnings in his life.

He didn’t necessarily regret his choices, only some of them. He regretted that he failed to concentrate on any one thing at one time. His early youthful energy and enthusiasm jumped around like sprites at a magical woodland picnic, had morphed into greed, at some stage in his life, and then negativity had eaten into his mind, his heart, and eventually his soul. Irritation, impatience, greed, envy and then rage had invaded and captured his well-being.

Lost years. Never to be regained. But the young enthusiastic doctor was giving him hope, some extra days, but it was a risk, and it needed a donor. Somebody’s else’s heart. 

Josh started to reminisce about his younger days in the Cape Town grocery store, the family business. In those days it was about sports, football, swimming, and weightlifting. Days of sunshine and light, and the bloom of youth. His days of freedom in a new country, a new life in South Africa. His father had prospered since leaving eastern Europe, where wars and struggles of independence from Russia and Poland would take its toll on trying to live a normal life for years after the family departed. His father decided to start a new life, in a new part of the world, South Africa a new country, under British rule, but like most of the world in those years of the 1920’s and 19030’s affected by organized labour and trade unions, and depression. The Kranksy family did well with their business, Josh remembers his father’s repeated words. “People will always eat.”

He met his wife Anne around this time, and shortly after the birth of their children. Family life, the easy working life in the grocery business, these were sunshine days. Then the second world war started, and his separation experience from the young family, as he was stationed in East, then North Africa, and finally Italy. Josh didn’t recover from these days, the horrors of war, the separation, and the toll not only on his wife, but his parents, Josh never seemed to recover. At the end of the war, Josh took control of the business from his ailing father. His own health and well-being deteriorated, he had picked up bad habits during wartime, smoking, he put on weight with no exercise. He was diagnosed with diabetes, caused by his overweight, and stressful lifestyle. He had no choice, he had to go to war, he was conscripted. Taking ownership of the grocery business was his family obligation, he was the oldest, but all these responsibilities felt heavy, burdensome for Josh, and it all took a toll on his demeanour. He became humourless, and angry inside, he felt trapped.

“What a life!” He would often think to himself in a negative way.

Now lying in the hospital bed, considering how much time is worth? He realized his mistakes. He had put unnecessary pressure on himself, his lifestyle, he had pressurized himself without thinking about alternatives – there were always alternatives. Life and nature are in balance, but time is not. Now with life dwindling fast, his most precious commodity was time. The hospital and the doctors had started the process after his refractory heart failures. He had completed a procedure of cardiac catheterization, which confirmed the severity of his disease.

The young handsome doctor with bright blue eyes became his only hope. He first appeared one day at his bedside, he always talked quietly, evenly, considered his words before uttering them. Josh could see the young doctor think and then he would speak.

“Mr. Kranksy. How do you feel today?” Doctor Lerritt said.

“About as well as I'm ever going to be, doc.” Josh replied sadly, but as brightly as possible to the visitor. Josh had respect for the nurses and doctors, something that increased with his time in the army.

“Indeed. My name is Doctor Lerritt, and I’m head of experimental surgery at this hospital. I want you to consider an offer.”

The doctor paused for a minute. 

“There is a new procedure, Mr. Kranksy. We have been experimenting with transplant organ surgery for several years around the world, it pushes back the boundaries of what’s possible every time. We improve each year with our research, our experiments become increasingly successful each day. But - with anything new there is always a risk.”

He paused for a second or two, Josh could see the doctor thinking carefully about his next words.

“We believe, we – meaning other research doctors and surgeons, my colleagues, that human to human heart transplant surgery is possible, and can lead to full recovery, and a new life. It has never been attempted before, but we have completed animal to human organ transplants already and concluded that the best chance of survival is to use a heart from a human donor.”

He paused again, before making his offer to Josh.

“Your current diagnosis is not good Josh; your attending doctors have told you that. Unfortunately, you might only have days, if not hours to live. The attached life support equipment is not a guarantee, as the critical state of your heart means it could stop at any moment. The life support equipment is only a prop. We haven’t attempted a human-to-human heart transplant before, and we would like your permission to proceed. We will need a donor of course, with vital characteristics, compatible with your own heart, but would you consider this ground-breaking surgery, would you give permission, knowing the risks?”

The doctor now paused, looked Josh directly in the eyes, and sought an answer.

Josh the older man sensed the young doctor was convincing himself as well as the patient about the process – of course it was a risk. He had been candid, what had Josh to lose, but gaining some days, bonus days in his life expectancy was a bonus.

“Well doc, I guess you can say that I’m between a rock and hard place, do I get eaten by the chasing lions, or take a chance by jumping in the river infested with crocodiles. I believe that I will take the jump and put my life in your hands!” Joked Josh, with a slight chuckle.

Doctor Lerritt smiled, and then said.

“Thank you, Mr. Kranksy, I want you to sign some papers if you don’t mind. The formalities you understand, this is experimental. Plus, we must wait for an appropriate donor.”

Now the decision had been made, Josh’s thoughts turned to hope, maybe there was a slim chance, a new improved heart, a new lease of life.

The following day, Doctor Lerritt interrupted his thoughts, as he entered the hospital room. His boyish good looks were even more pronounced, as he announced. “We have a donor. What is your final decision Mr. Kranksy?”

Josh nodded without speaking and gave a thumbs up.

Doctor Lerritt smiled, and then his smile vanished, his face was suddenly serious, before he said.

“There is one small matter, I must tell you. I can assure you it will make not the slightest bit of difference to the transplant procedure; the donor is a black man.”

January 24, 2024 13:19

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John Rutherford
08:41 Jan 25, 2024

Another, different chapter in the book. Once this is finished. 3 chapters to complete all.


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
05:04 Jan 25, 2024

Deep truths about how precious time is.


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