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COMING SOON

Sneak Previews of Forthcoming Books : Going Against Fate : ' "The doctor said if there was anything I had ever wanted to do I should do it in six months." '

September 11, 1988|LEE GUTKIND

From "Many Sleepless Nights," by Lee Gutkind, recently published by W.W. Norton & Co. Rebecca Treat, who lives in Sacramento, received a liver transplant in 1985.

WHAT motivated Army Specialist 4th Class Rebecca Treat to go on sick call at Ft. Campbell, Ky., was a general feeling of tiredness and a sudden swelling of her legs. Almost overnight, she had gained more than 20 pounds. "The doctor knew what was wrong right away," Treat said. "I had chronic/active hepatitis, non-A, non-B. But I didn't know exactly what that meant--I mean, to me, to my husband, to our future--until I was sent, airlifted, to Ft. Gordon, Ga., for a liver biopsy."

The doctor sat down beside her bed and then he cleared his throat, and his face got kind of white. "He said that if there was anything that I had ever wanted to do in my life that I should do it within the next six months because I was going to become very ill. When he said that, I thought, 'Well, I could die.' "I immediately started to make jokes about it," she said. "I was just joking the whole time the doctor was talking to me. I kidded about touring Europe, hiking in Alaska. From that point on, I never really took it seriously because I just couldn't believe that that was going to happen; I'm young, and it was such a shock. How could I be dying? I had never been sick before a day in my life."

Four months after her diagnosis, Treat was so run-down she could hardly lift herself out of bed. "I was sleeping through most of the day, and I guess I finally realized that the situation was serious, just as serious as the doctor at Ft. Gordon had assured me it was."

Treat's decision to attempt to become a candidate for liver transplantation at Presbyterian-University Hospital in Pittsburgh might possibly have been her last clearly succinct and rational act for many months. From that point on, she began to lose more of her memory; her concept of reality rapidly diminished. She knows that she went to Pittsburgh on Jan. 12, 1985. Her only recollection is of the steep hillside that surrounded the hospital and the bitter midwinter cold. The solitary image that remains with her from that moment is that of climbing out of a taxi, dashing to the nearest doorway and hiding "for the longest time." She could see the Presby building across the street and around the corner. But "I just couldn't work up the courage to face the cold outside," she said.

Copyright 1988 by Lee Gutkind.

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