“I am an echo of my physical self, a manifestation of what may even be spiritual. Is this some kind of enigmatic craziness or a sign that my soul is defective? Do I even have a soul? Can souls be defective? My body is already broken enough. I don’t need a broken spirit as well. Not a good thing.” – from prologue

A scruffy old priest from an adobe church with crumbling walls across a dusty side street from the hospital visited Mom every afternoon. I think his name was Father Domino, or something like that. He actually spent more time in the hospital than at his pulpit, often giving last rites in the ICU. So many people died there, the nurses called it “God’s waiting room.” – from chapter one, A Tumor and a Fetus

At the age of three, I was being prepped for my first open-heart surgery at OUCH. Being a toddler, I could not understand the significance of such an operation, although, I could sense the nervousness Mom and Dad felt and that frightened me to tears. My emotions were heightened further when I saw a blood-sucking phlebotomist approaching to draw my blood. – from chapter 2, First Open-Heart Surgery

I now saw the world through the eyes of a precocious 6-year-old, still trusting adults who were making life-defining decisions on my behalf. It will be at least eight more years before I figure out that life isn’t fair and my place in this divided world will be determined only by my own volition. A few character traits have started to manifest themselves... – from chapter 3, Under the Knife Again

Early in the night, sounds of coyotes filled the air with short, high-pitched yelps and long howls. Their music overriding the cacophony of insect noise until, at last, all became quiet and tranquil. Only the soft rustling of dancing leaves could be heard whenever the wind wafted its way through the tree branches. – from chapter 4, Rattlesnakes and Coyotes

At night, she would make her way to the latrine with a flashlight and squat down bare-assed while mosquitoes and moths would molest her without mercy. Scorpions seemed to know that staying away would be in their best interest. – from chapter 5, Scavenger Lady

Mom hit the brakes and we screeched to a stop just a few feet from the tracks. The RR guardrail rested on the hood of the jeep, red lights flashing their ominous warning through the windshield into our terrified faces. – from chapter 6, Father Down

I would, once again, trust my life to this caring doctor, who would be carving into my chest with razor-sharp scalpels. I survived three previous heart operations done by this surgeon, so why not one more? Am I not a coffin-dodger par excellence? Have I not squandered all resistance against having another major surgery? – from chapter 7, New Struggle to Survive

It has been almost two years since my last open-heart surgery and the twentieth century was in its final year. The population of the world, including that speck of humanity named Sara Jones, had surpassed 6 billion. If there was such a notion as a grand scheme of things, then I felt lost in it, like a single grain of sand in an eternal sandstorm. – from chapter 8, Runaway Heart

Whenever a doctor has no definitive answer about what’s wrong, the word complicated is used. I was complicated. Often, some doctors would even come up with one other hypothetical factor: My symptoms were all in my head. And so began my realization that most medical clinicians don’t always believe what you tell them. Wait a minute. What’s unbelievable about… – from chapter 9, Too Much Pain

I hated the potpourri of human misery in the ER: everything from the blood-soaked trauma victim with a face resembling a meat-lovers pizza to the disease-ridden, obese woman in the bed next to mine, who suffered from some kind of genital thrush. She was a real “double whopper with cheese.” – chapter 10, Why Do You Scream Like That?

The girl’s shaking slowed down and she looked over at me with her big, bug eyes. I imagined those eyes would pop right out of her face at any moment. Blinking must have been a chore. I did feel bad for her, not sorry, just bad. – chapter 11, NPO – Nil Per Os

I scoffingly stared into his eyes. “How can I be blessed if I was born with such a bad heart? I should already be dead. It’s the law of nature, you know. Survival of the fittest.”

“The indifference of nature only applies to the physical world, not the spiritual world,” he replied. – from chapter 12, Chaplain

I told the psychiatrist I had no intention of killing myself, but if I did die for some other reason, I didn’t want to be buried or cremated. I preferred to be melted into a liquid so I could simply be flushed down a drain. I suppose that might be considered a little undignified, but it would be environmentally friendly. – from chapter 13, Pre-Transplant Screening

I do believe that minds are like fingerprints, where no two are alike. I also think a fine line exists between high intelligence and lunacy. I was glad to be deemed mentally average, far away from any such line. I wondered if that fact would help my case to become a transplant candidate. – from chapter 14, Psychiatric Evaluation

She took a special interest in my care, either because I presented a medical challenge that piqued her interest or because she took a liking to me. I hoped it was both. Mom and Dad were grateful for the extra attention she gave me, not wanting me to start having a pharmaceutically enhanced personality, that is, to be stoned on drugs. – from chapter 15, Pain Management

Her eyes darted back and forth between my gaping mouth and my x-ray films, while scratching my teeth, one by one, with a stainless steel pick that she clutched in her well-manicured talons. She behaved like an excited vulture working over a hunk of carrionme. – from chapter 16, Dentophobia

The TV people were happy with me since I was a young, innocent girl in trouble, needing help, who happened to be photogenic and talked in sound bytes. In reality, underneath my charismatic façade, I wanted to flee, to escape that inhuman, camera lens that seemed to peer into my soul. from chapter 17, 5-H-I-T

I noticed that everyone, except me, was feeling a little tipsy from all the wine consumed on the plane. I decided it wasn’t fair for me to be denied alcoholic beverages simply because I was sick and underage. While everyone chatted like drunken sailors, I surreptitiously sampled Jane’s Pina Colada at every opportunity. – from chapter 18, Guardian Angel

We resembled shit-faced vagabonds with our tousled hair, beverage-stained shirts and rumpled down socks. I had on a pair of baggy shorts since my legs were too swollen to wear pants. The shorts looked like two shopping bags sewn together with my legs hanging out like flesh-colored cucumbers. – from chapter 19, Disney World and After

Ana was a hot looking Latina, who set off Mom’s jealous nature by swinging her foxy ass whenever she passed by Dad. She was definitely eye candy. Then during one visit, Mom saw her walking hand in hand with a female x-ray technician and her jealousy quickly evaporated. – from chapter 20, Special Procedures Unit

Since we were all feeling somewhat inebriated, everyone got up for a spontaneous group hug, wobbling on our feet like rugby players in a scrum formation. Scrum. What an interesting word. I like it. – from chapter 21, Las Vegas

Usually, when a patient like me comes along with the odds stacked against surviving transplantation, physicians just shake their heads and emphatically say no. – from chapter 22, On the List

I already had enough mental activity mangling my brain without adding thoughts of boys to mix my mind up further. Since I didn’t feel any of the raging hormones that seemed to beset teenage girls, I decided I was either immune to the wiles of stupid boys or my medications had suppressed any desire to be around the male animal, with the exception of ... – chapter 23, Boyfriend

We would rather worry about a cut finger getting infected than about death. Sweat the little things you can do something about, not the big things you can’t do anything about. Worrying about big things is the killer, the depression maker. We lived one day at a time and we fought to survive one day at a time. Each new day was a blessing and a reminder to never give up. from chapter 24, Contemplation

I prayed more often than a nun to be called in for my heart and liver transplantation. Patience has never been one of my qualities and waiting for the gift of life seemed overwhelming. – from chapter 25, Mostly a Bad Year

It took me a while to get used to the fact that you can’t be modest if you’re a patient in a hospital. Dad never did get used to that undeniable fact and still felt uncomfortable about having his manhood exposed to what seemed to him to be every employee in the hospital with an ID badge. – from chapter 26, Role Reversal

Once in the car, I knew there was nothing I could do to stop the wheels of fate from turning. I hunched over, burying my head in my arms. I overheard Dad telling Mom, “You’d think she was heading to the guillotine to have her head chopped off.” – from chapter 27, Moon Sign

Then the nurses quickly rolled my gurney through a pair of swinging doors into the operating room. It looked to me like the inside of an alien spaceship. The surgical team resembled a group of blue and gray clad androids. “Oh, my God!” was the last thing I remember saying. – from chapter 28, Transplantation

“Come here boy,” I said in my best coaxing tone. The female dog, nonplussed by my referring to it as a boy, began wagging her tail voraciously, beating up my IV pole. That tail was like a subtle weapon causing collateral damage to anything within wagging range. – from chapter 29, Recovery

His Adam’s apple moved noticeably as he spoke, reminding me of an egret swallowing a squirming perch. Combining that image with a hairstyle combed in the shape of a colonial tricorner hat, he personified an image of Ichabod Crane. – from chapter 30, Support Group

“Controversy. Inescapable controversy. It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of life. Don’t misunderstand, Sara. It’s a great job and a great honor to be president. Getting to know so many world leaders and other important people is awesome. I have to admit, sometimes politics is a hard to tame beast, but if you can, it will take you on a wild ride.” – from chapter 31, History Lesson

The last thing I remembered was hearing Dad snoring away like a car motor without a muffler…His feet stuck out over the end, getting in the way of the night nurses whenever they came in to check my vital signs. I imagined his annoyance at being awakened by a cellulite-loaded thigh brushing against his toes. – from chapter 32, Going Home

My new heart was thumping wildly in my chest. I was stuck. Now, I had to get up and talk to a room full of people with piercing eyes. I reminded myself that these were not strangers, just empathetic friends and if I melted into a pile of body parts or lost my voice, they would not behave like sympathy mongers. They would simply understand. It wouldn’t be a big deal. I needed to get my little speech done and over with before dinner was served. I didn’t want any bits of food stuck between my teeth. “Do it, fool!” I told myself and stood up. – from chapter 33, Celebration

Susie helped me scramble out as the driver ran up to assist. My face turned red and I puked out half my dinner onto the sidewalk. The pedestrians walking by had disgusted looks on their faces. I wanted to tell them that this wasn’t a vomitless society we lived in, but I was busy catching my breath. One woman appropriately uttered, “Ewwwww!” – from chapter 34, Revelation

I hoped that the withdrawal symptoms would be less traumatic than my immunosuppressant drug side effects, where, on occasion, I even thought about killing myself to find some peace. I chickened out, though. What I don’t like about death is that you can’t have fun anymore. It’s totally boring. – from chapter 35, Side Effects

He placed a pocket-sized tape recorder on the coffee table between us. Luna immediately investigated the strange object with her sniffing nose to make sure it wasn’t alive. If that cat could talk, she would have said, “All this because of Sara’s smile? She can’t even purr.” – from chapter 36, Interview

It’s funny, once we were home, I didn’t want to scare Mom by telling her about the mountain lion, but Dad did. Dad didn’t want to tell Mom about the foxy stable owner, so I did. The day was a good one. – from chapter 37, Photo Op

“I am innocent, but far from naïve. I say what I think, without being euphemistic or politically correct. With all that has happened to me during my short stay on this earth, I could easily have mastered the art of jaded cynicism, but that only feeds depression, which is the constant enemy I refuse to let take me down.” – from chapter 38, Cyber Friend

A blanket of fog from the ocean covered the graveyard chilling the air. Fingers of mist mysteriously curved around headstones in surreal patterns. The climate on the peninsula remained damp most of the year making the cemetery green with plant life. There were no beaches here, only high, clay cliffs scarred from erosion and mudslides. The roots of pine trees did their best to hold the cliffs together until, one by one, they fell into the surf below in defeat. – from chapter 39, Not So Brave

I wondered, I pondered and I contemplated one thought after another, often unrelated, like my mind was a virus-infected computer. I wished my brain had the ability to reboot like a computer. It didn’t, so my mind skipped around from one subject to another without focus. – from Epilogue