Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

“Where hast thou been, Sister?”

Me Dialysis, again. Downstairs in the in-patient dialysis center. A sturdy young woman comes with a wheelchair to transport me to the center. Once in the chair, I’m wheeled briskly through a multi-level maze of hallways. We’re going so fast I can feel the breeze against my face.

There are cave-like cubby holes in the walls, pale yellow curtains acting as barriers. My transport guide helps me into a cubby hole where a bed waits. The nurse introduces herself and asks if I think I can stand to be weighed. A portable scale is brought and tucked  under me so all I have to do is stand for a wobbly few seconds until my weight can register.

I’m then transferred to the bed.  Flanking me on my left is a bank of machines, each about the height of an adult, the row extending the length of the bed. A televison is set high in the doorway above the curtain barrier directly in front of my bed. A large display digital clock to the right silently announces the time.

It’s cold.

The nurse brings me a warmed bath blanket and another pillow to raise my head a bit.

My umbilical tubes are attached, the machines start whirring and gurgling, beeping now and then and the nurse, now masked and wearing a pale yellow disposable gown and gloves, changes the dressing on my perma cath.

It’s all so surreal to me — the shrouded area, the ritualistic preparations, the whirring, burbling machines blinking and beeping at my side.

It starts me thinking the more advanced medicine becomes the more mysterious it is and how all the scientific equipment can be frightening because it’s so unknown. “Like witch doctors,” I thought or maybe more like witches brewing up some eye-of-toad tail-of-newt concoction.

I almost expected one of McBeth’s witches to pop her gargoyle mug through the curtain, cackle and whisper to the nurse, “Where hast thou been, Sister?”

Meanwhile the nurse, oblivious to my wild, wandering thoughts wheeled a portable cart with a computer atop to the foot of my bed. She sat and began entering information. “Why not just plug the cable into my ear and drain the information directly from my brain,” I thought.

I fell into a fitfull sleep, probably an apt visual description, too, since I have restless leg syndrome and my legs twitch and jump — sometimes enough to wake me — while I sleep.

One down and a lifetime to go.

I feel weak when the treatment finished. And hungry, though I’m not certain I want to try food on my still-touchy stomach, but it’s been three days since I’ve had solid food.  I am profoundly hungry. I also know that the erratic food routine has to be very — that may not be strong enough — highly detrimental to my diabetic routine.

My blood sugars are like a big-time roller coaster: Heart stopping highs and lows so low they can throw you into a coma. I’d never really dealt with low blood sugars but I know pretty much what to look for now: My eyesight goes funky; light starts to hurt my eyes; I break out in a cold sweat; I start to shake; my thinking gets a little befuddled.

If I’m asleep, the first warning is waking covered in sweat.

The solution is to get some glucose into the system pronto.

Early the next morning — about 3 a.m. — I woke in a sweat, felt strange and put the call light on.  When the nurse got there she could tell I was in the middle of a low blood sugar. I remember hearing the number 48 (normal is around 100) when she tested and I remember her telling the other nurse to go get something.

Then I started moving away, it didn’t feel physical, it just felt like I was removing myself from the scene.  I faintly heard the nurse call my name a couple of times. She sounded like she was 30 or 40 feet away from me. I know now that what they did was the equivalent of mainlining glucose into my blood stream to pull me back from slipping into a coma or worse.

I told a friend afterward that if that wasn’t a near-death experience, it was the closest I wanted to come to one for a long time. That’s still true today.

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October 25, 2007 - Posted by | dialysis, health, kidney, transplant

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