Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

I’m worried

Not for myself but for Sylvia.

When I first started dialysis a little over a year ago, Sylvia was one of the first patients I noticed. She usually is in the waiting room waiting for a bus ride back to her nursing home when I first get to the dialysis center.  She’s not talkative, in fact, she’s profoundly hard of hearing. But she’s got spunk, you can tell.

She’s not always quite with it, probably a side effect of her age, 97, and when she does speak it’s usually in cryptic single word answers to questions.  She’s wheelchair-bound and, frankly, not very patient when it comes to small things. Of course a life requiring huge patience — waiting for the bus to take her from her nursing home to dialysis, waiting in the dialysis waiting area to be put on treatement, waiting through the 4-hour treatment, waiting for the bus to pick her up afterward — may be the cause of her quick-tempered responses to small inconveniences.

But, as I said before, she’s got spunk so her shortness comes across not as mean but as self-protective, self-actualizing. She’s done nothing to do so, but she’s wormed her way into my heart and earned my respect by her own assertiveness.

Some time several months ago, she was off her machine late and was in the waiting room by herself when she scooted her wheelchair back on the dialysis unit.  When one of the staff asked, raising his voice so she could hear him, where she was going, she replied a hearty “destination unknown!”  I think that’s what did it for me. 

Often when I arrived at dialysis, I would try to help Sylvia by opening her juice for her or getting her a cup of coffee.  You have to be very careful with the temperature of coffee because whether it’s scalding or not, Sylvia drinks it in big gulps that could burn her mouth and esophogus. Though no thanks are forthcoming when she receives the cup, you can tell she’s grateful just by the way she drinks it.  I can understand. Dialysis gives me a powerful thirst, too.

Earlier this winter, when the temperatures were freezing and the winds high, she was in the waiting room when I arrived but had just a coverlet wrapped around her shoulders, definitely not enough for even the short exposure from building to bus. I had a cap on that I had knit, kind of a crazy little hat that seemed a distinct throwback to Cindy Lou Who or a little Dutch girl with it’s top peak and string ties on the ear flaps. It was a bit goofy, but warm because it was 100% wool.  I took it off and told Sylvia I was sending it with her to help keep her warm. I pulled it onto her head and over her ears. She didn’t really acknowlege it, though she certainly didn’t say “no” to it either. 

Several treatments later, Sylvia was again in the waiting room when I arrived. This time she at least had a light-weight jacket on. A nurse came out of the unit and over to Sylvia. “You forgot your hat,” she said as she pulled it onto Sylvia’s head. “It’s cute,” she said. Sylvia, at her cryptic best, just croaked, “silly.” Made me grin.

I wasn’t grinning Saturday, though, as I watched the staff try to get Sylvia to respond to her name.  She was on the same “team” as I, across the row and a few chairs up the line.  She was turned on her side and curled up in the recliner. She looked more like a frail child than an elderly woman. During the first 3 hours of my treatment, they tried to bring her to conciousness but were unable to rouse her. Finally, an ambulance crew came to transport her. I assume to the hospital.

I would have liked to have known Sylvia at a younger age, at least I think I would (smile). And I know 97 is a long life. I hope it was a good one, too. So if she would die, there is little to mourn of a life cut short, but much to mourn in losing an indomitable spirit.

I hope you’re doing well, wherever you are, Sylvia, and I hope I was able to warm your ears if not the cockles of your heart. Keep tellin’ it like it is!



April 6, 2008 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, fistula, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weight loss

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