Today I am in the other chair...settled in for a full Jiffy Lube. We are so far running right according to plan, and if Friday and today are any indication, the trauma portion of this adventure is over.
God, I hope so.
Many of you have asked me about the mechanics of dialysis, so I thought I would answer you here. For those of you who aren't interested, I will bid you adieu here and tell you to have a wonderful Monday. Do something swell and come tell me all about it! Tomorrow, I promise to have some stitchy updates for you.
The first thing that happens when I enter the dialysis unit is that I weigh in. This is important because kidney failure often causes a lot of fluid retention, and major changes in weight need to be addressed by the amount of treatment that needs to be done that day.
My techs tell me which chair I'll be in that day (there are about 40 in my unit in Mishawaka), and I head there and get situated. This basically means I get my seat cushion, blanket, pillow, snack bag, drink, and "toys" all unpacked and easily accessible. I also kick my shoes off, get my fuzzy socks pulled up, and unzip the left arm of my sweatshirt.
(I made a couple of dialysis sweatshirts by taking sherpa sweatshirts from Woman Within that I had in the closet...undoing the seam in the inner arm, and then sewing in a full-length zipper. This has turned out to be a Godsend, since my left arm has to be totally exposed but I tend to get a little chilly during treatment and the sweatshirt keeps me cozy.)
(I also discovered that I am more comfortable if I wear leggings and just a soft white tshirt...no underpants or bra to pinch or poke.)
(And yes...in case you're wondering...I've kind of made crazy patterened leggings "my thing" that the staff get a kick out of, so I plan on going on the amazons to get some more to keep them entertained.)
Once I'm situated in the chair, it's time to stand up and get a standing blood pressure, and once that's complete...it's Buzzy time.
The tech inserrts two needles into Buzzy about an inch or so apart. The needles go into a different spot each time, but are always somewhere on my upper arm. We've discovered that Buzzy is very deep in the arm the higher we go, so if at all possible we try to stay somewhere in the middle.
Once the needles are in and secure and flushed, we get attached to the dialysis machine next to my chair. This machine is basically the size of a small refridgerator, and it functions as an artificial kidney.
(I haven't come up with a name for it yet, but I'm leaning toward Beepy...since she tends to do that. A lot.)
Beepy's job is to pull blood from my body and clean it of toxins and excess minerals and stuff that my own kidneys are too busted to do. Beepy also is responsible for pulling fluid...but in my case we don't do to much of this, because I am on the "dry" side and not retaining hardly any at all.
All of this is done with a computer and the help of a tech, who monitors and checks and adjusts and futzes with things throughout the entire course of treatment.
As for me? Well, this is only my second trouble-free session (knock wood), but I can tell you that it seems to have a pretty consistent pattern. The getting here, situating, and insertion of the needles are a bit nerve-wracking for me. The best way that I can describe it is that it's somehow claustrobic...that I know I'm going to be tethered, vulnerable, and out of control for the better part of six hours.
(Betty, let me save you the time of pointing out that this is a life-saving requirement for me and that I should stop my bitching and whining about trivial things. I'm not bitching or whining...just trying to describe what I feel at various stages of this thing.)
The first hour or so is usually when I feel sleepy and drained and maybe just a little woozy. My eyes feel very heavy and all I want to do is lean back, put the music on, and semi-snooze.
The second and third hours I seem to perk up a bit. I snack and sip my Vitamin water and play on the ipad...reading/writing emails, blogging, looking at Pinterest and Instagram, texting Rich, or watching Flosstube. Through it all, I have really enjoyed listening to music, and have discovered that there's a whole world of stuff out there that I like (hello, Coldplay!).
Occasionally, a staff member will come over to chat, or a nurse will come over with meds or to check in. I have met both the dietician and social worker and will probably have more in depth meetings with them later, but for the most part I just kick back and try to behave myself.
The last hour is the one that we're still working out. Because of the small size of the needles we're using, and because this requires the machine to run slowly, my blood is clotting. A drug called heparin prevents this, but we're still finding the right dose.
Once Beepy is done doing her thing and all of the tubes and such have been flushed and disconnected one of the needles is removed and I hold a dressing over the poke to make sure it's done for the day...usually about ten minutes or so. Then the second needle is pulled and I hold again.
Another standing blood pressure is taken, and then I head back to the scale to weigh in. The goal is to to leave with the same weight as when I entered...i.e., not too juicy with extra fluid or not too dry with too much pulled off.
And then it's time to head back to CS2...get a smooch from my Jersey Boy, have dinner, and call it a day. I seem to feel just a bit woozy and a little wiped out for the rest of the evening, but I think that will change as I have more and more good sessions.
Like I said...this is only my second session in which I haven't had all hell break loose...also known as a crash. It was looking pretty grim there for a minute, kids, and I am really surprised (but profoundly grateful) that I survived it. I'm sure that surgery, the flu, and everything else didn't help matters any, but I can sit here today and tell you that those crashes were the hardest, scariest, and most terrifying things i've ever had happen to me.
Needless to say, we are NOT going to be hitting the "repeat" button on that one. No way. No how.
(Pause for PopTart insertion, please)
(See? Told ya I get a little snacky...)
I'm not sure what my new normal is going to be now, if there really is such a thing. I know that eventually I will be able to return to things like Guild meetings and Mass and hockey games, but at the moment the flu has me grounded. I was lucky to have only had a bit of a stomach bug for a few days, but catching the other crud that's out there would be catastrophic.
My hopes of stitching my eyeballs out while in this chair haven't been completely dashed, and the staff here assures me that as Buzzy and Beepy get better at their date nights I will be able to do so, but for now I need to relax on that front. It will come.
What has come is the knowledge that I will somehow find a way to stay in this as a tech or a nurse or as a mentor or advocate in some way when this is over. I don't have a single clue how I'm going to do that or what it even means, but if I can help one person navigate it or just give somebody a little pat and assure them that it will get better...then I'm all in.
For now, though, I just need to concentrate on being a patient. My sister is awaiting the kit from IU that will send us through the next step. I pray that she is well and able enough to continue, and that we can head to Indy soon.
So that's the big whole story for the day, my Dearies. I see that the Chicken Sisters have introduced themselves to you and have started goofing around. Thank you for the warm welcome you've given them...they can be quite a handful, but Stewey trained me well, and methinks I'm ready with whatever they're going to throw at me.
I'll close with my heartfelt thanks for coming on the ride with me. I didn't expect to have so much company, but your love and support and encouragement are well worth the ride!
Take good care, do something fun, and please come tell me all about it!