Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

A tribute: A farewell to arms

Written September 13, 2007 

There always seems to be fresh flowers.

Beautiful blooms, beautiful bouquets wafting an ominous “heavy, heavy hangs over your head message” to those in the waiting room.

Forwarded with the best of intentions and tender feelings from family members and meant to bring a breath of life and color into a stilted atmosphere, the floral tributes also bring a chill to the heart and a hard thump from reality.

They’re funereal and in the waiting room – where we wait for who’s called next – they bring a hush and a quick check to see which of our comrades are still among us.

For we’re warriors here in the waiting room.

Most of us old and war weary, weak of vision and hearing, tired, battle scarred, depending on wheelchairs, walkers and canes for support, our foes our own bodies.

We battle every day, a clanking, clicking, rag-tag bandaged and bruised army,  each rallying to push forward to battle again tomorrow.

And we live thanks to machines. We spend hours tethered to mechanical beeping nursemaids that with the zeal of industrious Dutch housewives scrub and rub-a-dub the bad stuff from our blood. They do what our kidneys no longer will and they provide an umbilical cord to the outside world.

Mortality is much on my mind these days. Mortality and quality vs. quantity. Mortality, quality vs. quantity, and aches and pains and crashing blood pressures and “minding my binders” and monitoring my food and drink. And keeping a positive attitude. 

Mine seems to have become a “have not” life.  There are many things in my life for which to be thankful, but

I have not good health.

I have not freedom of choice for food.

I have not choice in drink.

I have not a drug-free existence.

I have not freedom of movement too far in time or distance from the machines that keep me alive.

I have not the choice to let down my guard, to say “what the hell,” if I want to be alive three weeks from now.

After only six months of this “routine,” I can tell you it becomes mind-numbing, an emotionally exhausting and bone-wearying trial. 

It’s obviously not one of my up days.

 These days come and today – with the death of a comrade – is one of those days.  The flowers in the waiting room today won’t be from Henry’s funeral, that won’t be for several days.

What will be missing from the waiting room will be Dolores, Henry’s strong-willed and gentle-hearted wife, and Dorese, his smiling-eyed helpful granddaughter and others of his large, loving family.

I’ll not mourn for Henry. His battle is over and if there is justice in the after-life, he’s earned a place of beauty, rest and surcease from pain. No, I’ll not mourn Henry’s release.

I will mourn for his family. Their loss will mean a loss for me, too.

I’ll miss them. I’ll miss the bright spot they brought to those thrice-weekly days at dialysis.  The smiles and the laughter, the support of a gentle touch on the arm, a proffered cup of coffee – the small things and small talk that build a quick and tight-knit bond among those in battle.



  1. […] A tribute: A farewell to arms […]

    Pingback by A tribute: A farewell to arms « Stayin’ alive « Stayin’ alive | October 24, 2007 | Reply

  2. Kathy, your story moves me. I am watching my husband of 26 years go through all that you are doing and more. He made it through his transplant analysis and was actually on the list 8/06, well before he had to go on dialysis. He started hemo in March this year after a bought with pneumonia and by end of May was on peritoneal dialysis. He is very, very blue this Thanksgiving. He is not feeling well, he is tired all the time but having trouble sleeping. He has no where near the life you do, he is not able to drive. I am chauffeur, nurse, cook and I bring home the bacon. Bill is only 47 years old. We just got news of paired donation – since no family members are compatible – and we are hopeful that this will be his chance at a transplant. Once you get through the hurdle and pass the testing, then you WAIT. It is nerve-wracking and very depressing. We are hanging by a thread, only bright lights are our children and the grandchild expected in June 08. We are weary and beat up. Thank you for letting me share.


    Comment by Melissa Philp | November 22, 2007 | Reply

  3. Kathy, I’m very glad you are writing this view into your life as a dialysis patient. I went through this with my Mother for over 2 1/2 years. She lived with me and my Forrest, without who, I could not have taken care of my Mom as well. The ups and downs are so tough and are so very challenging. My Mom had 28 years of poor health but always had a wonderful will to go on. This last year her body just wore out, but she was 78. I know the people you have taking care of you at dialysis and feel that you really could not do better. I wish for you to recieve your transplant as soon as possible and keep up the good writing. It is very enlightening. Cindy

    Comment by Cindy | February 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. Kathy, Kathy, Kathy!!!!

    I know your struggle but from another point of view!
    I am praying now that you are still battling and thriving!
    (I havn’t had time to read thru all of the posts)

    My husband has ESRF due to type II diabetes and treatment for Hep C.

    We have been on Dialysis since Feb 09/07 we started training for Home Hemo Dialysis in Sept of O7 and have successfully been doing in home dialysis since and its now july 15th O8 and I just got my man off the machine an hour ago….

    I can so sympathize in many ways with the food and water and distance thing…..I feel like a NAZI telling him he can’t have this and can’t have that…plus to top it off he has had a stroke and can’t remember much…

    I will tell you CAN still eat the things you loves just not in the proportions you used to like… 😦

    I have learned alot in the last year about being a nurse, a dietian, and a dialysis tech. But most of all I have learned how much I really love my husband and all the things I must do and he must do are worth keeping him here on this earth.

    Kathy if you are still with us, PLEASE keep the Faith! Times are changing and New Tech is just a heartbeat away

    Its rough on Hubby and its rough on me too. but the alternative is just not negotiable!

    Tracy and Larry in Oregon

    Comment by Tracy | July 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. This is the first time I have been to your blog, I love some of your articles. I was wondering if we can exchange links, my blog url is Hope to hear from you soon.


    Complications from Dialysis
    Causes for Acute Renal Failure

    Comment by Patient Care in Hemodialysis | September 3, 2009 | Reply

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