Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

Today’s lesson

“I try to stay positive and patient.” — Drew Wall

Drew (pictured above) is an 11-year-old kid from Cedar Rapids who says he’s trying to lead as normal a life as possible despite losing his right leg to bone cancer in April.

Tough lesson for an 11-year-old to learn and a reminder to me to keep it positive despite the drain chronic illness puts on my life, physical and emotional, and be patient: People are doing the best they can. 

Seeing his photo in today’s paper also brought a pang to my heart because it reminded me of my son’s amputation a few years ago. 

There were lessons to be learned there, too, though it wasn’t the way a mom wanted to learn those lessons.

Aaron was mid-20s, still knocking around the world trying to find himself (he still hasn’t, but that’s another story) when catastrophe hit in the form of pains in his right foot and ankle. They bothered him  enough to visit the University of Iowa emergency room where they gave him a perhaps cursory once over and sent him away, telling him to take some ibuprofen and check with a foot doctor. His foot was already dragging a bit by then.

Aaron, unemployed and uninsured at the time, took the ibuprofen and tried to ignore the growing pains. A couple of days later, friends convinced him he needed to seek medical help,  quickly.

It was July 3. The telephone rang at work and I answered.  Aaron said he was at the Mercy Hospital emergency room and wanted me to come be with him.  I rushed to the ER. The nurse showed me to the room where they were treating Aaron.

I took one look at his right leg and feared he was going to lose it.  The foot was already a necrotic blue/purple and cold to the touch. The ankle and calf looked dusky. I could tell Aaron was in extreme pain. The doctors said blood clot(s) were cutting off his circulation to the right leg.

Blood clots in someone in their mid-20s? Clots so severe they were jeopardizing his leg? In his 20s? It’s improbable.

But so it was. The doctors tried many things trying to dissolve the clot, trying to break it up physically by running a thin wire through the vein. But nothing worked.  The clot was “too leathery,” according to one of the doctors, to break up or be dissolved.  When he told Aaron the chances for his retaining use of his leg were very slim, Aaron opted for amputation because the pain was too great to think about enduring it for weeks or months and ending up – probably – with an unusable limb.

So, by late July that year he was out of the hospital minus his leg from about six inches below the knee and with hospital and doctor bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars hanging over his head.

Frankly, that’s still his situation today, but that story and the story of how a mother survives (oh, how I empathize with Drew’s mother) is for another time. This is about just one of the lessons I learned from Aaron: Accepting.

He has a terrible temper (must be his dad’s genes), can explode in anger with torrents of foul language and energy that can result in broken objects.

I’ve never seen him rail at his fate with his leg. Never. He accepts it. How, I don’t know. I think I would have been angry in the hospital and still angry today.

A year or so after the amputation, I asked him if he ever felt like exploding over the amputation, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “S**t happens, Mom.”

 But then, I haven’t really cried or busted chairs or spewed sailor language over my life-changing medical experience. I’m trying to be accepting.  I’m trying to be “positive and patient.”

NOTE: I’m getting frustrated with the images here on WordPress.  No matter how I try to align them, they seem to post to the left with a big honking piece of what we used to call white space in the newspaper business.  Anyone know why or what the workaround is?  Is it simply the template I’m using here?


June 4, 2008 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, fistula, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weight loss

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