Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Transplant Patients Have Extreme Precautions

I was getting my sea legs back and felt confident that I could do a little walking out on the streets among the others of my species. Craig had already scoped out a spot that was sparsely populated at 3 in the afternoon, had tables and chairs for us to sit at, and a good amount of people watching opportunities.

We walked the four or so blocks to Foodparc , a cool open area with a massive screen where they show free outdoor movies and such. Beside it is a food court with creative, eclectic, high-end cuisine.

There were open tables to sit at so we chose a high-top – the most comfortable looking of the metal barred options available. It was my first time sitting out in public post-transplant: a defining moment of sorts.

Our perch was the perfect people watching spot. I fashioned a little cushion with my sweatshirt for under my bony, bony bottom and tried not to focus on the sweat swimming between my hands and the blue plastic of my gloves, causing them to stick together like cellophane. It was a sweaty summer day.

I spotted a young guy directly in my line of sight lounging at his own flimsy metal table and chair. He had the tell-tale signs of just getting off work wearing crisp cropped khakis, a pink polo tucked in, but worn with sweat wrinkles along the back from a day in the office chair. The top and bottom were sealed together with a white leather belt. The white Topsiders completed the outfit. Earbuds were in his ears and in his hand a Nutty Buddy ice cream – the frozen treat that comes in a paper cone.

It wasn’t just me that was sweaty. That Nutty Buddy was sweaty too, and there was no way that guy was able to keep up with its perspiration. So he did what any grown man/boy at heart would do, I guess: He licked.

Whatever was playing into his ear buds was hilarious because he’d intermittently toss his head back in the air, mouth wide with a smile, laughing and listening intently, completely in his own world. The oblivion expanded to his Nutty Buddy eating as well.

As fast as the drips would drip, his tongue was there to lick them up. Lick, lick and lick. But I’m not talking about licking just the Nutty Buddy itself. As its cream oozed his mouth followed. There were no napkins involved, just pure tongue. He licked and smacked his lips over every single finger. He stared into space as his tongue traveled to the palm of his hand, licking every last vanilla drip or fudgy remnant up and down the plump pillows of his palm.

I couldn’t believe what I was watching and all I could think about was all the germs that fester on our tongues. Never mind airborne illnesses, this guy was wetting his hand, then the table, then the chair, like it was a postcard stamp. Don’t miss a spot, you don’t want that thing sent back for insufficient postage.

I nudged to Craig who also got in on the action as it got more appalling and intriguing to watch. This man was like a cat grooming itself after a good round with the milk bowl. He was meticulous with every crevice of those paws – yeah, buddy. Mind you, we are at a food court; the options for napkin kiosks and Purell dispensers are plentiful.

He stretched and slid his hands across his table giving it a solid germ transfer – picking up and putting down saliva spread illnesses. At any moment I thought a candid camera crew was going to pop out from behind me: “We gotcha! This is our ‘creep out the immuno-suppressed cancer patient’ episode!” I couldn’t stop staring and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Then no, no, he didn’t … but he did. In his cat-like manner, he guided that agile tongue around the back of his hands. The Nutty Buddy was at its end now. As he licked around the knuckles and in the pockets between fingers he simultaneously folded up the soggy paper packaging that had held his delicious treat.

To my stalking dismay, after one last hand smear across the table he was satisfied with his dessert al fresco and headed out of the courtyard. But not before stopping at the drinking water fountain to rinse his hands off in it.

I watched in horror as one of his saliva soaked hands pushed in the On button and the other rotated under the arched water, periodically hitting the drinking spout. Rotate, rinse and repeat.


  1. I know what you mean-- I never noticed this stuff as much before transplant. It creeps me out to see kids in restaurants licking the ketchup bottle. Oh yuck. That it why they tell transplant patients to only use condiments from individual plastic packets. And here is another horror story. My friend was sitting outside the ice cream shop and some woman was letting her DOG intermittently lick her cone. DOUBLE YUCK!

  2. I've got the heebie jeebies just reading this! Gross. I wasn't nearly as creeped out by germs before cancer but now I'm a major germ-a-phobe. Glad you got out & about to do some people-watching.

  3. oh, how GROSS. Only Fabulous Writer Karin could paint such a word picture. You're the best.
    Love, Judy

  4. I don’t have cancer and I have never been much of a germ-a-phobe, but this totally skives me out. What was this guy, raises by rats? Is there some proud mother rat somewhere saying, “That’s my son! They can dress him like he’s human but he’s still down to earth and knows where he came from”. I apologize for real men everywhere. I think I will invest in surgical gloves and medical masks, looks to be the New “IN” fashion statement for “The Future”. Just proves that YOUR ahead of the curve and so fashion forward.