In the year before he died I was in correspondence with the previous owner of my house, and he promised to sell some of the contents back to us. I was specifically interested in the mannequins, the carnival lights, and the zebra mule.

When he died some friends were in charge of the estate and there was a brief window of opportunity to buy stuff before it went to auction, but I was in London and everything was chaotic. I heard rumors of the estate being broken up and distributed.

Later I tracked many of the items through auction houses, watching as objects that belong in the house moved around several states in the Northeast region. Many sold at astonishing prices; the previous owner had style and a good eye. I had given up hope to ever get anything back – I just wanted to know the items were safe.

But during my enforced rest time on the transplant ward a brilliant thing happened: laying flat on my incision, phone propped against the bars of the hospital bed, I was scrolling dismally through auction sites when I recognized a familiar marble face.

I had found many of the items, intact, together, and undervalued – albeit in Pennsylvania. With only a few minutes to the auction deadline I made several bids.

And won.

My surgical incisions were still taped shut when we drove down to pick up the mannequins, mirrors, lights, and Civil War autopsy table.

The house is happy to have them back again.