Launch. Two fifteen a.m. The ceiling twisted and slid. New textures and lights and faces. Janet's bed, heaped with medical records and infusion pumps and syringes and vials of meds and a portable Propac monitor, all carefully arranged around her arms and legs and feet, resembled the Kon-Tiki, that cluttered, balsawood raft Thor Heyerdahl had sailed from Peru to Polynesia. The anesthesiologists took Janet out through the unit's main thoroughfare, past all the assembled nurses and a few of the more nocturnal Status I's. Good luck, Janet! Go for it, Janet! You go, girl! Angie and Krista wished Janet well and dropped back.

In the hallway they gained speed. Janet's mother followed behind the bed with Sam and Carly in tow. David walked alongside, even with Janet's head, jogging occasionally to keep pace. Janet tried not to think too hard about his anxious, hovering presence. She tried not to think about infection, bleeding, cardiac arrest, death—the risks of the surgery listed on the consent form she'd signed an hour earlier. As she hurtled toward a sleep in which she would leap across a chasm from one life to the next—at one point there would be nothing in her chest except the sawed-off cuffs of her old heart—she saw with incredible, penetrating clarity, through the mist of her sedation, the damage done to David by fear and stress over the past year and a half, as well as the crust of courage he had applied to cover it up. He looked frail and peaked. Janet reached up toward his face. He lowered it to hers. She ran a finger along his jaw. He guided her hand back to her side. "Relax," he told her, his own hand trembling.

"You relax," she told him. "I'm going to be fine."

"I'll be OK," he said tentatively, as though trying to convince himself. "It'll be nice to get this over with."

Janet smiled to reassure him. "Take care of the kids, OK?" She meant during the period of her surgery and recovery, but also if she never came back.


At the doors to the OR, Janet's mother and the kids closed in for final kisses. Sam was crying. David gave Janet a sweet smooch on the lips that made her think of old times. Courting days. "See you soon," he said.

"See ya."

And she rolled. Rounding a corner into the OR, she looked back and saw her mother and children wave. David was leaning into a wall, overcome by anxiety and emotion. Janet ached to comfort him. As the automatic doors shuddered and closed it occurred to her that despite the prevailing myth of a second life, she would be going back to the exact same life—and to what she now recognized, in this odd, preoperative clarity, as the same complications and difficulties. She would need a strong heart. She hadn't prayed since childhood, but she came close now, closing her eyes and silently intoning to whomever or whatever pulled the strings, Please let this heart from Iowa be a workhorse.