18 May 2006

The benefits of terminal illness

One of the ideas I'm toying with for my hero, Dag, is the discovery that he is terminally ill. There was a very small news blurb on the radio last night about a 1-year-old child who desperately needs a new heart. She is on the "waiting list." What interested me was the parent's plea that the child's only hope to live is a new heart. Wow! Yeah, I understand. If you've got this ticker that isn't, the only way to survive is to get a new one. But you can't just run down to WalMart and get one in the Heart Department. (I don't think.)

What struck me next was that they are setting up a fund to help pay for it and it had already raised $60,000. Yay!... Untill I heard the next part. The insurance company has agreed to pay $500,000 of the costs, which is ABOUT ONE-THIRD! My nephew just had a kidney transplant from his brother, and my brother-in-law is awaiting a liver transplant that they think may come about in the next year or so. I knew these were expensive, but... Wow! ("That's all he could say."--Lilly and the Purple Purse)

So I got to thinking. If my guy discovered, in the midst of his investigation, that his heart was failing and he needed a new one or he would die, then what? What would happen when he discovered that he needed $1.5 million to pay for it? What if that happened to be the value of the funds that his client is trying to get him to recover? What would he change in his life if he knew that imminently any day could be his last?

As I start to reflect on these questions against the backdrop of this rather tongue-in-cheek detective story, I start thinking that this could be the thing that sets things apart. It might be what I need to really make a storyline. I'm pretty sure, though, that he wouldn't find out he was in that bad of shape until at least half-way through the story.

Now I have an incredible amount of research to do to find out all about heart transplants, what kinds of things happen to you that make you need one, and what your prospects would be if you couldn't afford it. I've painted my detective to be a bit of a loner in my mind, so there wouldn't be that instant outpouring of support from his friends and relatives. He's really facing this alone... or with his client, as it were.

Lots of noodling to do here.