New Normal

The newest adventure in my crazy life is Kidney dialysis. I am supposed to be in Italy, but a case of bronchitis led me to kidney failure bad enough to need emergency dialysis. That mean the insertion of a catheter into my heart and a week in the hospital as they pulled over seen liters of water from my body. That was two weeks ago.

Now I am booked at a dialysis center three days a week for four hours or more a day. It is an out patient center, and we all have turn up for therapy. The center has a few offices up front, but the room for dialysis patents is one huge room. There are around sixty recliners, each with its own dialysis machine next to it. I usually get either number 48, 49, or 50. I call my machine of the day Kevin. They do the hard work, so I figure they need to be acknowledged and greeted every day. The nurses think it is funny. I take it seriously.

Once in the room, we are weighed for water gain. Then the nurse takes you to the chair. While they are getting set up with our Kevin, we are allowed to take out our gear. I take a blanket, because they keep it COLD in there. I take my Kindle, my coloring book and pens, Mp3 player and headphones-and a small snack since I get out after 8:30 in the evening. They have a TV screen above each station with limited stations, so I can watch that if I get bored. I generally don’t bother to turn it on.

Later appointments mean there aren’t a lot of people in the room. Most people nap, so it is very quiet. Most people don’t talk to each other, just with their nurse and aide. The later it gets, the more the medical people talk to each other. I find it interesting to listen to their stories, gossip, and frustrations with difficult patients. It is easy to see who likes whom, whose personalities clash, and those who simply avoid each other. It is even easier to see who is there because they love their work and who is there just marking time until they can move on. Fortunately, my team – always the same people, love their work and it shows.

What makes me sad are the patients. Some are so fragile, and it is clear they are getting near the end of their lives, versus people like me who are just starting out on this journey. I have a good chance for reversal of issues, and if not, a transplant. While they don’t talk in the dialysis room, they too greet each other and talk in the waiting room. They all come on the same day and see each other every time, so they share information, hints, tips, and ideas. They even make sure to greet me and welcome me every time I get there. They haven’t become super friendly yet, but this is the south and it is only a matter of time.

Most of the patients are elderly, the youngest is probably in h is forties. Some are very fragile, and most are brought in by family. But what you won’t see is a pity party or whinging. You will hear them laughing, talking about family, and sharing about their religious beliefs. Being forced to use dialysis as a way of survival brings our lives into a new normal that causes a whole new way of balancing everything, No matter if we go through outpatient dialysis or do the at home program, that means being positive, accepting that it is what it is, and that the machine keeps us alive one more day.

It is exhausting and leaves me tired. I can hardly walk at the end of a session, but it will get better as I adjust to the new normal for my body. Meanwhile, I am sure to greet Keven, 48, 49, or 50 each time, follow the rules, and learn to live this new normal of my crazy life, and keep moving forward. Italy will still be there in a few years, and so will I.

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