Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

Rough going

WARNING: Some material in this post borders on disgusting.  If you have a particularly weak stomach, you may wish to stop reading here.

Tuesday’s treatment was rough. The fistula was cooperating but my body, not so much.  I lost another little portion of my dialysis virginity (not to mention a great deal of human dignity).

I’d managed – until Tuesday evening – to avoid having to eliminate any human waste during dialysis. Wow, the euphemisms will be flying today. I’d protected that virginity mainly because I hate having to use a bedpan.

Add to using a bedpan, you’re using it in the middle of a “ward” setup which means only a couple of flimsy curtains and a metal and cloth screen shield you from seeing or being seen by others and provides no filter for, uh, well, shall we say aromas?

Yes, gentle reader, I was the victim of a sudden – and urgent – episode of loose stool. Since I’ve been dialyzing, loose stools are not unusual nor is the need to find bathroom facilities quickly, and I do mean quickly.

Pinned to a recliner with a needle in your left bicep and a catheter in your right juggular is not an enviable position to find yourself in when that undeniable call of nature hits.

“Oh, please, no,” was my initial thought. “This is never gonna happen without an accident.” I let the nurses and tech know immediately that I needed to go to the bathroom. They were, of course, all busy.

The bedpan was provided almost in time. Note, I said almost.

Now, I don’t know about you (and I sincerely hope you never have to find out), but I’m not adept at rolling on and off a bedpan in the wide expanse (ha!) of a hospital bed and even less so in a recliner. Especially when one arm is not at my disposal because it has a needle precariously poked in its bicep.

Meanwhile the peristalic action is becoming even more pressing and I’m starting to feel slightly sick to my stomach on top of everything else. I had to stand up to get my jeans and (by this time soiled) underwear down.

Obviously this is part of the disgusting bits I mentioned. I’m telling myself as I write this that I promised myself I’d be as honest as possible.  Today, that’s a promise I find hard to keep.

I also need to stand to situate myself on the bedpan. With my arthritis, using my arms extensively to get out of a chair is a necessity. When I did that, all focus on me and my dignity immediately shifted to the needle in my arm and making sure it didn’t dislodge.  That’s to be expected and is undoubtedly where the focus should have been, but to me it felt a bit like “sheesh, even in this immediate urgent situation, the machinery and its operation is more important than the patient.”

I didn’t voice that, but I’m not going to say my “picture of the whole” kept me from feeling that. One of the more denigrating aspects: My motion was so limited I couldn’t clean myself. That’s not so much humiliation from having to have the tech do the cleaning as it was from knowing I was going to have to pull my underwear and jeans back up and sit for another 21/2 hours until the treatment was finished. Or I was. I wasn’t sure which would come first.

Is it crazy of me to think a commode would be much easier to handle in at least some of these cases? A commode would feel a little less unnatural and would also be easier to enter and exit than a bedpan in a recliner. It is, after all, all about me.

So, of course, I felt somewhat drained. Then my blood pressure started dropping. I could tell because the fluorescent lights suddenly took on a bright aura. Then the shakes set in. I’m not sure if it was from the cold (blanket warmers would have been great) or because I was slightly shocky, but they set in pretty strong. I had my fleece blanket and a sheet over me and was still shaking underneath.

“Only 38 minutes to go,” Connie said to me, “I’ll bet it can’t go fast enough for you.”

How true.

Once the treatment was over, I felt pretty weak. Sat down 3 times before I made it out to the car. I sat in the car for several minutes until I was sure my blood pressure and all was in better shape before I drove home.

Once I got home, I stripped out of my soiled clothes right in the laundry room and started them washing. Then streaked (as in bare butt) to the bathroom and the shower. Once out of the shower, I made a beeline to the Immodium to forestall any further episodes, I hoped.

I did eat something because I was quite hungry. Dialysis has a tendency to make me feel hungry and the fact was I hadn’t had anything to eat since a scant peanut butter sandwich about 2 p.m. It was 10:20 by the time I got home.

My stomach roiled and rumbled but did settle somewhat by 1 a.m. I woke at 5 when my alarm went off, sat and assessed how I felt for about a half hour and decided I did not feel well enough to put in 8 hours at work, so I called in and slept until 1:30.  Even after that sleep, I dozed on and off in my recliner during the rest of the afternoon.

I’m still not sure if it was flu or something associated with the whole ESRD thing, but just in case it is flu-associated, I’m full of Immodium.

And this I know to be true: I can no longer convince my dialysis mates that my excrement has no odor.

That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.


February 21, 2008 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, fistula, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weight loss


  1. Kathy, I’ve been a hemodialysis patient for eight years and can relate similar stories — though none, thankfully, during a dialysis session.

    I’m starting to think it’s somehow related to the acid-alkaline balance in the body. I believe as dialysis patients, we’re building up acid as we’re building up toxins between dialysis sessions and the dialysis process radically restores (overcompensates, perhaps) the alkaline side of the balance. For me, these bouts of uncontrollable runs seem to be cyclical.

    I’ve also learned, as Jack Nicholson’s character in The Bucket List says, to “never trust a fart.”

    That’s probably lots more than you wanted to know, but if dialysis patients don’t start talking about these issues they’re never going to be resolved.

    Comment by Michael Fraase | February 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Kathy,

    I dialyze at the same clinic and wholeheartedly agree about the bedside commode! After having had a transplant for the last 16 years, it came time to go back on dialysis Jan. 08 when kidney failure once again became part of my life.

    So many people are clueless about what goes on “behind closed doors” when it goes to hemodialysis. Thanks for helping to educate them by giving them a patient’s perspective.

    Comment by Leesa Westfall | February 25, 2008 | Reply

  3. Michael —
    Thanks for the empathy and I agree: It may be down, dirty and gritty, but we need to talk about and to try to effect some change.
    I haven’t seen Bucket List yet, but that comment is enough to make me get a ticket. 🙂

    Comment by iowakitkat | February 25, 2008 | Reply

  4. thank you for the info. i take dialysis patients to their treatment and back every day. your info helps me to understand a little more about what they go through and i appreciate it. i stumbled across your blog when i was trying to find out if one of my passengars could take immodium or if dialysis would cause complications. he is mute and does not have much family so i was trying to look out for him. from reading this, now i know he can and maybe it can help him out some.

    Comment by larry | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  5. Larry —
    You’d probably want to check with staff or his doctor. It’s great you’re trying to help him out. Many dialysis patients seem to have little or no family support.

    Comment by iowakitkat | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  6. Been on dialysis 2 years. I really understand your situation. Last time it happened to me I made them take me off to go to the bathroom. I went with needles still in my arm. Of course needles moved and I ended up with fistula clotting. Now I take a lot of Imodium before I go to dialysis. Hey does qny one know if dialyis can be responsible for my hands shaking. It started about 1 year ago

    Comment by Gerry | February 6, 2010 | Reply

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