Bad, Bad Kidney

September 30, I will have been on dialysis for two years. The average time spent before transplant is six years. Trivial little facts on the Second Anniversary of Dialysis:

Total Weeks: 104
Total Days: 312
Total Hours: 1,092
Cost per hour average: $1,143.00
Total Cost for two years: $1,248,000 (yes, that is almost one and a quarter MILLION)

In the last two years, I have had four surgeries, multiple doctor visits, 20 drips to unclog my site, bitten by a dog in my dialysis hand once, had my blood pressure crash about 40 times. (This morning, for example - 60 over 40 and still breathing)

Every dialysis day is an event. I call them “Bad Kidney” events. Like, a bad dog. They simply misbehave. Even though they aren’t functioning – those little guys continually act up.
  • First you get poked by two needles – and there is every chance just one of the needles will not work, or will infiltrate, or will hit a nerve. Sometimes, when any of this happens, you have to go home (they charge you anyway for the needles and the prep of the machine) AND you have to come back the next day! AND, this little scenario is all you think about every time you start dialysis. Will it work? Are they using the right needles? Will the flow be sufficient?
  • Then once you start – you have to worry about your blood pressure crashing. Which usually happens towards the end. Alarms go off, they have to add back fluid, and you leave needing to have fluid removed but you wait until the next time.
  • Also, once you start, you have to worry about the blood flow both going into the machine and coming back into your arm. If it is too low or too high, it sets off alarms.
  • Every time the alarm goes off (an average of 9 times for me each session), it intermittently STOPS my dialysis and then restarts and adds that lost time to the total time spent on dialysis.

I love the other patients at my dialysis center. You get to know each other, say hi, you run into each other at stores – and more often than not – at restaurants – where there’s lots of forbidden foods loaded in our no-no ingredients (sodium, potassium, phosphorous). And there we sit, eyeballing each other – knowing we are indulging in our favorite foods with sinful delight.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an ugly trend at my center –around Christmas. Winter is not kind to dialysis patients – we’re worn down, our immune systems are compromised, we get flu shots – but we still get the flu, or something kind of mundane to healthy people. And then we lose people – usually in droves. Last winter, it was two women who both died from heart problems. And then there was that one young kid, 35, paralyzed from the neck down, who went home from dialysis one day and decided not to come back – he died after only four days of no dialysis. It gives you pause. (My Dad did the same thing – lasting seven days.) We lost them all in one weekend, so that Monday morning, I came in and noticed the three empty chairs immediately. The techs aren't supposed to tell us what happened, but they tell me because I have that open honest face and people tell me their deepest secrets - including what patients died this weekend. Yeesh.

Oh – add the above trivia to the 90 patients my one center has (Spokane has seven centers) and these are the center’s numbers:

Total hourly earnings: (this is what insurance pays, not what they charge) $102,857 (an hour)
Total annual earnings: $56,160,000.

Ever wonder why insurance is so high?

P.S. I'm thinking of creating a second blog - called Bad, Bad Kidney just for journaling - except that I've said in this one post what happens to me every day, 156 days a year.


Bennies of Being Old

There are many benefits of being old, and being an old woman:

1. No periods. I know - if you are a guy, you don't understand, unless you live with someone who has them.
2. No menopause - I'm too old. Again - you don't appreciate this unless you have a gazillion hot flashes in one hour; sleep with someone who has a gazillion hot flashes in one hour; drive behind someone with a gazillion hot flashes in about a two mile stretch, screaming her head off with a string of expletive deleted words.
3. No rush hour traffic. We avoid them. We don't need them. They are a total waste of our energy.
4. No paying for parking downtown at $150 a month. Whoopee!!!!
5. No dressing up - I can go out in my tattered jeans and baggy t-shirt. Pretty much anywhere.
6. I only need two pair of shoes - one pair for the single party I go to a year (to go with the one dress I own)
7. No alarm clock.
8. I'm so old that Medicare pretty much pays all my health bills (about $600,000 a year)
9. I don't have to work. Ok, so I'm disabled and on social security. Still - no work.
10. No boss - unless you count Mechanic Man, and I pretty much humor him.



This Bites!

I was bitten by a dog yesterday.

Writing those words seems so bland. Like I just said I was bitten by a mosquito.

No, I was ravenously gnawed on by a large dog with a very strong jaw. Mechanic Man and I were doing our usual browsing through various yard sales. We routinely meet and greet the various dogs and cats who act like we have arrived solely to visit with them and give them our attention and pets. I look forward to these visits because we don’t have room for pets, and I crave the cuddling and warm fuzzy feel.

But not this time.

This time I was going back to the car – and the dog (on a chain inside the owner’s fenced yard) ran up to the fence, both paws on the fence, acting so much like all the other yard sale dogs – I thought in a friendly, “pet me!” attitude.

I was wrong.

He bit down hard on my hand and chewed, then grabbed my other hand as I was trying to get his grip off of me. I came away with dozens of puncture wounds on the top of my right hand, and deep bite marks and cuts on the top of my left hand and middle finger. I now have steri-strips and gauze wrapped around both hands, and a splint on my left middle finger.

More worrisome is that the bites narrowly missed the large vein going across my left hand – my dialysis hand. I have dialysis in my left upper arm – and all dialysis patients need to keep their arms and hands SAFE for future dialysis sites because they always fail eventually and a new site needs to be ready. It’s very scary.

Anyway – three hours spent at Emergency, including the “scrubbing” of all the wounds, sending in a Dog Bite report, and now home – typing with about five fingers.

I will not be petting strange animals anymore. And that is really, really heart breaking for me. It makes me cry.