Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

An interesting conversation

Sunday was one of the more difficult days I spent in Rochester not because of any testing or medical problems but because of the waiting.  I had to be out of the hotel room by noonish and the sleep test did not take place until 7 p.m.

The library was closed.  I tried to find what sounded like a nice knitting shop, but it had moved or closed. I had eaten a late breakfast so it was too early for lunch.  I thought about just parking close to the entrance of the Eisenberg Building (where the test was to take place) and waiting in the lobby and I did circle the building oh, I don’t know, about 20 times and could never snag a space.

I finally ended up going back to the hotel and sneaking back into their parking lot (after all, I had been a guest for a couple of days), picked up my knitting and went to a soft chair in the lobby and started working on my idiot knitting.  I do quite a bit of idiot knitting these days, a simple something that takes little or no thought, produces something useful like a scarf or a stocking cap, and can be put down in the middle of a row without causing knitting catastrophe.

This was a simpled seed stitch scarf in a very striking yarn, one black ply and one ply in vibrant varigated colors.  I wanted something cheerful since the last two idiot projects I finished at Mayo’s the week before were in more somber colors, a woodsy brown and olive drab.

Knitting, as I mentioned before, has proven quite a conversation starter and Sunday was no different.  Though the lobby was fairly empty, a young woman noticed the scarf and commented on what beautiful colors were in the yarn then asked what I was making. I told her it was a scarf for our local Coats for Kids project in Cedar Rapids. She made the appropriate “ah, isn’t that nice” comments and I smiled and thanked her.  She soon left with a large group of what appeared family members to have lunch at a nearby restaurant.

I continued knitting, my companion changing from the TV broadcast of the Vikings or the Browns football games depending on who wandered through the lobby wanting to know the score.

About 15 inches later (the nice thing about knitting is you can measure by rows or inches when you’re tired of measuring by the clock hands that seem to stand still), the young woman and her lunch companions returned to the lobby.

A lean man who appeared to be in his mid-40s was standing near the arm of my chair watching the game on the TV.  He looked at the knitting and said, “that’s pretty. You think we’re gonna need that scarf today?”

I told him probably not today, but soon. He asked where I was from and when I answered I said to him, “and it sounds like you’re Canadian.”

“Jeese,” he said, “is my accent that strong?” I told him I love accents so maybe it wasn’t that his was so strong but maybe I listened awfully close.

The conversation turned to why we were both in Rochester. His is an interesting story and one that perhaps, in these days when we’re considering socialized medicine, we should all hear.

He’s from Saskatchewan, a little town near Saskatoon. About 3 years ago he started having terrific headaches. The doctors there determined he had a brain tumor, not cancerous, but serious enough to require surgery.  He had the surgery done and everything seemed all right, he said, until relatively recently when he began having problems hearing with his right ear, the side of the brain where the surgery was performed.

He had meningitis earlier, he said, but his doctors in Canada couldn’t figure out what was wrong and were more or less dismissive about his problems. In Canada, he said, patients are on a 6-month waiting list to get an MRI and a 3-month waiting list to see a specialist.

“I have a young family to support,” he said, and didn’t feel he could or should wait that amount of time to be cared for by physicians he felt were only putting in their time and more interested in the number of patients they could push through in a day’s time than the quality of care they were dispensing.

He maxed out his credit cards and flew himself and his family to Rochester to go through Mayo’s.  He would, he said, find out Monday if an operation was necessary to stem the leak of spinal fluid — yes, spinal fluid — that was now spilling into his right ear from something that had gone awry from the first operation.

Spinal fluid is not supposed to go sloshing about your body and exposing it is serious, serious infection waiting to happen. If it were you, would you want to wait 3 to 6 months to get an answer?

He’s a farmer who has no insurance other than what his wife has from her work, didn’t and wouldn’t ask his parents or other family for help. “The money will come from somewhere,” he said.

He didn’t seem depressed about the situation and when I had to leave, he offered to help me with anything I might need done. “I’ve got a big, strong son here with me.”

Food for thought.

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November 28, 2007 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, health, kidney, transplant

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