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I Need Dialysis

Posted Aug 25 2008 2:44pm

Note to my readers - the following post and all others prior to 02/15/2008 are creations from my memory of events and represent what actually happened at that time:





Susan and I have lived on Vancouver Island for 29 years. As a boy growing up in an industrial city such as Windsor, just 1 mile across the river from the big and dirty Ford River Rouge Plant in Detroit, I wanted the ocean, the forest and the mild climate I read about in Grade 7 geography class.

We lived in Victoria for 22 of those years, salmon fishing, whale watching, kayaking, and walking the local forest trails. Our daughters were born there; we changed from young people into middle-age. Susan got a diploma as an Accountant, and I moved up in the business world from camera salesman to Magazine and Newspaper Publisher.

When it became obvious that we were both going to need medical retirement, Susan from MS and I from a variety of diabetic complications including blindness, we did a careful evaluation of our lives. Neither daughter was benefiting from expensive private school, we had no real close friends after all the years in Victoria and I had a romantic notion that moving to a small town would give us a better life experience, call it a “Mayberry” philosophy.

So we moved 60 miles north to Ladysmith, population 6,000.

We settled in after selling our home in one of Canada’s most expensive to live in cities and buying a newer one for much less. The girls settled in to public schools just fine and we easily integrated into small town society.

A year latter my local doctor started me on pills to control my blood sugar. That winter I fell on the ice and broke my elbow. He had my arm immobilized and prescribed Ibuprofen (Advil) for 2 months. Within a few weeks, my right leg was swollen to 3 times its’ normal size and at night, after laying in bed for an hour, I would make the sound of fizzing coming from an open soda can when I opened my mouth. It was loud enough to wake Susan from a sound sleep.

The Doctor suspected an infection or allergy and set up appointments with specialists. When I got to the Ear Nose and Throat Doctor and told him I made fizzing sounds at night, he didn’t even ask to look in my mouth, he asked “Is either of your legs swollen?” When I said yes, he picked up the phone and made a call to another Doctor, a heart man. I was to go see him, now!

While there, I had an ECG given to me by a nurse. When The Doctor came in and looked at the printout, he picked up the phone and within 25 minutes, I was in the hospital across the street, on an IV, being hooked up with an electronic transmitter and being handed a 1 gallon plastic jug. The nurse said to call her when it was filled and she would get me another. I asked her what I was going to fill it with and she said “We are giving you intravenous Lasix, you are going to fill this jug and probable another with pee in the next few hours!”

To make the rest of the next week a shorter story, I was having a heart attack while on the ECG machine in the Doctor’s office. I left the hospital almost 20 lbs. lighter (from the pee draining my tissues), on daily insulin, on a low potassium renal diet and with an appointment to see a Nephrologist about my upcoming need for dialysis.

According to her (Dr. H), the last thing you give to a diabetic is long term Advil. It can damage already shaky kidneys and push you into partial or complete kidney failure. The Congestive Heart Failure I had just experienced was probably due to the Kidney Failure which was probably due to the Advil, although she wouldn’t be able to swear to it in a lawsuit. She scheduled me for surgery to implant a fistula, a “thing” in my arm to connect an artery and a vein to provide an access point for the dialysis needle with high pressure blood.

Within months, my blood chemistry was looking bad and my pallor was that of a dead person. I would be so cold all the time that I would have violent shivering attacks. I was given blood transfusions to relieve a severe case of anemia, drugs to control my blood pressure, drugs to make me pee and drugs to replace vitamins that the other drugs forced out of my body. I felt terrible!

When I got so bad that my Doctor was concerned for my long term health, I agreed to start dialysis.

I went to a hospital in Victoria, a 1½ hour drive away, 3 times a week for a 4 hour dialysis treatment. It didn’t hurt and within a few weeks, I was feeling somewhat better. I had to eat Tums before every meal to replace calcium that the dialysis removed from my body. I was given drugs to help with a problem digesting my meals.

After 8 weeks, an opening came up (I didn’t ask why) at a dialysis clinic closer to home in Nanaimo. This meant a ½ hour drive for Susan (I am legally blind) and a much easier time for us.

I now have settled in and often sit next to an older man who has been on dialysis for over 20 years. He tells me all the horror stories of things he has been through and what he has seen, but I concentrate on the fact that he leads a somewhat normal life and has survived for many years a condition that, not very long ago, would have killed him within a few months.

I have put a positive spin on this.

• I bought a portable DVD player and watch a movie almost every dialysis run.

• Susan and I spend a lot more time together talking and discussing the increasing need we have for each other.

• My daughters see proof of the effects of living a bad lifestyle.

• I have learned a lot about the workings of the body.

• I have something different to talk about at parties.

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