I was in the Emergency Room and the word came down they were going to send me to dialysis. My blood sugar kept dropping rapidly and the culprit was recycling Glipizide that wasn’t being removed because my kidney function had fallen too far so they wanted me dialyzed.
I hadn’t expected to have to start dialysis for months yet due to denial but here it was standing starkly before me.
I had arrived at the ER around 2 AM and it had gotten to be 7:30 AM by then so it was getting time to take my morning medications. Having had a couple of instances of difficulty getting my meds in the past while at the hospital, I pulled my pill box out of my bag intending to take them before going to dialysis. At that point transport arrived so I stashed them under my covers and it was off through the hallways to the Dialysis unit.
Once there I said I needed to go to the bathroom since I was going to be hooked up to a machine for 4 hours. I slipped the pill box in the waistband of the sweat pants I was wearing intending to take my pills in the cover of the bathroom.
What I forgot is that having had the pariocentisis procedure I was 9 pounds (4 kg) lighter and I hadn’t adjusted the draw strings of my sweat pants. As I started to walk to the bathroom the pill box slide out of my waist band and hit the floor hard enough to pop open the little flip tops on each daily compartment and pills spewed all over the floor.
I stood there in abject busted mode. I expected a chastisement but the nurse said basically “Oh dear” and started helping me pick them up. As it turned out the dialysis nurse was not connected to the hospital, she was part of a sub contracted service provided to the hospital so was disinterested in my pills or care protocol, simply in the dialysis procedure itself. So I proceeded to the bathroom and did get my morning anti-rejection drug taken.
Normally I would have gone through an orientation before getting hooked up for the first time but given the circumstance that didn’t happen. She was sensitive to my situation so did give me a running heads up to what she was doing and how it would play out and in 15 minutes I was laying there, my blood pumping through a machine I would now be dependent on to retain the life airs circulating in my body for the immediate and maybe even long term future.
Next to me also being treated was another patient. He wasn’t all there mentally. He had to have a sitter with him for the whole treatment. Every 15 or 20 minutes he would try to get up and demand a cigarette. The sitter would patiently explain to him that he was in the hospital and getting dialyses and couldn’t have a cigarette. This repeated during his entire treatment.
I pulled my stocking cap (highly recommended to wear a stocking cap to the hospital, BTW) down over my eyes to block out the light and tried to sleep but to no avail.
Besides my interior life, there was nothing to do until my nephrologist arrived. She said they would admit me into the hospital and keep me for another session. They were only going to do 3 hours the first treatment because 4 hours would be too hard on me and then do another one the next day.
She went through the medications I would be taking henceforth because a lot of them would be rendered unnecessary due to going under the care of the dialysis center. For example, when the kidneys lose function your body starts to become acidic so I had been taking a lot of baking soda every day. That would now be monitored and administered through the IV at dialysis. I was also self injecting Procrit, the hormone replacement that stimulates red blood cell production and helps fight anemia due to the kidneys not producing it anymore. That also would be part of my protocol through the IV.
We discussed my new life in general as a dialysis patent and she set up an appointment for my first visit to the out patient dialysis center. She also said I would need to get a shunt implanted in my arm to do the hemodialysis through as regular veins can’t take two big needles 3 times a week. Once implanted the shunt takes 6 weeks to be useable so until then the subclavical catheter would have to do.
Afterwards I got sent to a hospital room. As I had had a total of at best two hours sleep in bits and drabs I assumed I would fall asleep but no such luck. I was completely wired up and sleep was a foreigner.
I called my wife and told her to proceed with her plans for the next day, Saturday. She was going to go sell her crafted gourds at the Ohio Valley Farmers Market in Bellaire, Ohio but had gotten concerned about leaving me alone. Since I was going to be in the hospital, I was cared for so I wanted her to go ahead.
As I was going to get the full 4 hours dialysis the next day and the Framers Market was over at noon, I told her to do the market then swing by the hospital to pick me up after.
It got to be 11:30 pm and I still hadn’t slept so I decided to start chanting my rounds for the next day early. I had 8 rounds done by midnight and ended up chanting 32 altogether before sleep was an option so it was close to 2 am before I slept.
The next thing I was being awakened and told to get ready, I was going to dialysis at 4 am. Which happened.
While laying there in dialysis, a thought occurred to me. I had made the arrangements for her to do the Farmers Market, including hyping her on their Facebook page. However, since I had spent Friday in the hospital instead of at home, I had failed to tell her that this market didn’t start until 9 am. The Wheeling Farmer’s Market that we had done previously started at 8 am.
I had this image of her arriving there at 7:30 am and no one being there and not knowing what to do, or wondering if she went to the wrong place. Problem is I was now in a bed in the dialysis room and no bedside phone. By the time I got back to my room Vidya would have already left to set up.
I asked the nurse if there was a phone I could use and she said patients weren’t allowed to use the unit phone. I explained the situation and said it would be a quick call so she said okay and at 6 am I called and got a hold of Vidya so that problem was averted.
While explaining to the nurse she asked what kind of crafts my wife did and I told her about the gourds. She asked if the painted birdhouses my wife sold had a little metal roof and when I said they did, she said that she had bought one from my wife the year before when we had done the Wheeling Farmer Market (we do it once each year) and that she loved it. What are the odds?
The cigarette smoker was there again and a new character was added to the cast. This was a woman who didn’t want to be there but was completely inarticulate. She grunted and expressed emotions by how strained her voice was. Listening to them talk to her to try keep her calm I took it she was not all that coherent.
Later when I got home I told my wife if I ever get like that, please shoot me. I really need to drag my Living Will out and revise it because I believe in reincarnation and if I ever get that bad I want to move on to a new body. Dear reader, do you have a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney for someone who knows what you want? Best get one so you don’t end up like that.
Since I was done at 8 am and only had a couple of hours of getting released procedure, I called Laxsmi Honest to come pick me. This would save Vidya from having to drive over to get me after being tired from doing the market. Laxsmi had offered to help in any way and was happy to come get me.
Waiting to be released I felt I was in New Vrindaban already as so many devotees came by. Nick came into my room as he also was being released form the hospital He had had a shoulder operation previously but it had not healed properly and gotten infected so he had been admitted to get that cleaned out.
Kelly, Tejo’s wife, stopped in as she is a nurse and was working.
Then I noticed Rudy walking by and called him in. Rudy was a kid who grew up at the same time as my younger boys. I coached soccer for ten years when my boys were growing up, so I had coached Rudy as well. He was my central midfielder and basically ran the team on field, very competent.
He had gone to medical school and was now doing his residency in this hospital so it was pleasant to have a conversation with him and catch up.
I finally got released and that is always a good feeling, getting released from the hospital.
I was tired but on the way home we passed two yard sales, being Saturday morning. Laxsmi was surprised but I had to stop and even bought a yard ornament, a little wrought iron goose on a rod for fifty cents. . Yard saleing is a hobby and it made me feel alive to do it. Like an affirmation that there was still possible to have the semblance of a normal life, even if I am now a prisoner of dialysis machine.
Laxsmi wasn’t a yard saler but may have caught the bug. She got several little garden hand tools for a buck a piece that she needs for the new garden she is planning for next spring. She just moved back to New Vrindaban. Plus there was a stainless steel lid for a pot the size she could use in the free box. She uses the same lid for both her sauce pan and her frying pan but only had one. So this was a real find for her.
Part of the appeal of yard sales is cheapness, but the thrill of the hunt is a component as well.
Anyway we got home and the week that had started the with a visit to the Emergency Room the previous Saturday with shortness of breath had finally ended with a future of dialysis stretching out before me. Something to contemplate as I lay there, but at least I could breath and the option to live was available if I chose to do dialysis.
I had three brushes with death during this eventful week. Pneumonia untreated is fatal, I would have eventually suffocated from the ascites, and the hypoglycemia could have taken me as well. So thinking about my mortality and how I choose to live my life was in the forefront of my mental life as was gratitude for all those who had helped me.
Life in my new body as a dialysis patient had begun.