Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

And the winner is


One of the perks that came with the new apartment is a small patch of rhubarb. Yum. If you – like I am – are a rhubarb lover, you don’t want any of it to go to waste. I pulled a big batch of ruby-beautiful ribs last week and marked in my mind that I needed to pull a batch again this week.

Yesterday afternoon was sunny, cool and breezy. Just right, I thought, to pull a second batch of the tart-sweet treat. When I got home from work, I stopped at the patch before I went into the house and tugged at the stalks – 1,2,3, 4 – until they released from the soil and laid the untrimmed ribs next to the rhubarb patch. Not easy to do with the cane in hand, so I dropped the cane next to the uncleaned stalks. I carefully worked my way around the patch until I’d picked a couple dozen ribs then decided to go inside and get a bag and the kitchen shears.

Armed with a large cloth bag and the kitchen scissors, I returned to the little patch. I toyed with the idea of taking a folding camp stool (my legs tire extremely easily these days) but dismissed the idea because the footstool has no arms and therefore might prove problematic when I was trying to rise to the occasion.

As I approached the rhubarb, I noted several large stalks I’d missed in the initial picking.
The lawn is a little uneven around the patch. For that matter, it’s a little uneven throughout the lawn. I planted my feet to pick the last couple of stalks, bent down and tugged — 1,2,3 — and on 4, the tug required a bit stronger pull. I pulled, and it pulled me over face first. I landed in the soft lawn on my right shoulder.

“Hmmm,” I thought as I gazed at the patch from a whole new angle, “how in the hell am I going to get up from here?” The legs being what they are(‘nt), the arthritis in my knees, my excessive weight and my being out of shape, the answer seemed to be “I’m not getting up from here.”

So, while I was ruminating on the problem, I cleaned the rhubarb. Might as well get that task done, right?

As you can see by the rough layout above, there’s a concrete sidewalk on two sides of the lawn. I was between the sidewalk and the left stand of rhubarb, my feet toward the porch steps.

It didn’t take long for me to clean the rhubarb or to assess my situation: I had nothing but my cane to try to use as a means of leveraging my body to a standing position.

My arms, obviously, are not as strong as they should be and with the relatively new fistula I didn’t think it wise to use my left bicep vigorously.

The house was about 60 to 70 feet away and its accessibility was confounded by the porch steps.

Mom is very hard of hearing and refuses to get a hearing aid.  I was not going to rouse her by yelling and I had nothing with which to make a louder noise.

I tried butt walking, thinking I might be able to pull myself up if I could get to the wrought iron porch railing. There was just enough incline and uneveness in the lawn to make that an impossible task. “Now what,” I thought. “Mom will certainly check on me in a little while, but it’s getting warmer out here and who knows how long it will take her to check, if she doesn’t fall asleep in her chair.” Hours of waiting while she snoozed in her chair danced in my head.

Where’s your cellphone when you need it, idiot? (On the kitchen counter, of course, who needs a cellphone to pull rhubarb?)

I needed to get to the porch.  If I couldn’t pull myself up, I might be able to back up to the stairs and somehow haul my considerable butt up a step to get some leverage. How to get to the porch.

OK, so maybe I can roll my way there, if I can’t butt walk. I immediately thought of the seals at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. “Oh, what a pretty picture this should make,” I thought, “but to hell with those seals and full speed ahead.”

I rolled. First couple of tries called for some adjustment … the lawn isn’t quite as soft as my mattress, but I got a routine down: roll, grab the cane and toss it ahead 3 or 4 feet; grab the clogs and toss them as close to the cane as possible (might want them when trying to raise from the grave … er, ground.)

I would hope there were no neighbors watching because if there were, they should have come to my aid. But I could visualize them laughing at their windows as they watched the strange ritual: lumbering roll, toss, toss; adjust the body so not rolling on the cement; lumbering roll, toss, toss …

Necessity is a mother.

I finally made it to the porch. Battle half won? I certainly hoped so.

My first attempt was to back up to the bottom step to try a backward push up, hauling my butt up one step to get a better footing to pull myself to standing.

I don thin so, Lucy.

Five or six attempts later, I decided I needed another plan of attack: Twist my body to the side, pull up on the railing with my left hand and push up from the step with my right. OK, that’s working somewhat, now if I can get my left foot in a position to help with the push then get on my right knee (cross fingers and pray to Arthur Itis) …

Almost. So close, but I couldn’t put my body weight on my right knee and my screwed up right thigh was crying out about the stretching on the swollen areas.

Still, I attempted several more times before giving in.

I had my cane, so I started banging on the outside wall of the laundry room hoping that somehow Mom might be passing and hear it.  I tried several times, with long, protracted pounding getting no results.

Finally she heard. She opened the backdoor. The first thing I said was, “Don’t get upset. The only thing that’s hurt is my pride, but I cannot get up. You’re going to have to call 911.”

“Can I help you somehow,” she asked.

“No, and I don’t even want you to try. Just please call 911.”

“Should I bring you my walker?”

“No, I don’t think that would help because I can’t put my weight on my right knee.”

She finally went in and called 911. “They’ll be sending a fireman out to help you,” she said, “but no rescue squad.” It’s was a few minutes later when a firetruck arrived at the front of the house and four well-muscled young men came to the back porch.

“Hi, guys,” I said, “just sitting here catching some rays, but it’s getting a bit old.”

Are you hurt, was the general question asked several times. “Just my pride,” I said, and told them that I’d noticed no extraordinary pain as I rolled like a seal from the rhubarb to the porch.  The only excruciating pain I felt was when I tried to put my weight on my right knee.

Two of the guys put a hand under each armpit and lifted me, almost like a feather, to a standing position. It felt pretty danged good, pardner.  They asked again if anything hurt, I said no and no again when they asked if I needed help up the porch stairs. “Not once I’m on my feet” and I proceeded to grab the rail and make my way up the stairs.

When I checked the kitchen clock, I’d been outside for an hour and a half. 

I may have to bake some rhubarb muffins for that firehouse.



May 19, 2008 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, fistula, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weight loss

1 Comment »

  1. I feel we are physiologically regulated around a set weight, and there are controls that operate to keep us near that set point to be healthy.

    Comment by Wade put on weight McNutt | May 27, 2008 | Reply

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