That’s kind of how my day went yesterday. I went to bed early Sunday evening so that my full eight-hour dialysis session could be completed in time for me to make it the hospital according to my appointments.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I live near the University Hospital, where London Health Sciences Centre’s Transplant Unit is located, so I walked there. My first appointment was scheduled for 7:30 AM, but I had to first register as an outpatient for the day, so that meant getting there at 7:15, which meant leaving the house at about 6:30 AM. Suffice it to say, in order to get out of the house on time, I got up while it was still dark.
The first stop was to cardiology, where two tests were run, an echocardiogram and an ECG (electrocardiogram). I don’t yet know about the results of the first test but the ECG was “normal,” which is good. (Unlike at Lake Wobegon, the goal is not to be “above average”).
The next stop was to the lab to give some blood samples. I’ve been going to this same lab location at least monthly for the last two years for dialysis blood work so the nurses knew me and recognized the significance of me coming in for a different set of tests. The funny thing, though, was that, until now, they were having to draw blood out of the veins in my hands so as to “save the arm veins” for any potential need for hemodialysis in the future. Since, that seemed to no longer be a concern, we agreed she could take the blood out of my arm. Unfortunately, thanks to spending a great deal of time in the cool air-conditioned hospital, the veins in my arm were less accessible than usual and she couldn’t get to them. So, back to the hand vein. But, there were so many tubes to fill that the blood stopped coming in the one hand. Another nurse came over and they coaxed the last little bit out of my other hand. Thanks to an injection of gas into my arm earlier during the echocardiogram, I wound up with bandages on both arms and both hands! Another man in the lab was looking on at me somewhat aghast. When all was said and done, it wasn’t all that bad and I managed to leave under my own steam. No fainting, etc.
‘I’m concerned about the high levels of blood we found in your blood test.’
Following a routine chest X-Ray, I done for the morning. In the afternoon, I had three appointments. The first was with the pharmacist who reviewed three anti-rejection drugs with me that I would most likely be prescribed. If you’ve ever seen those drug commercials that are on American TV channels, that extol the virtues of the drug before highlighting all the unwanted side effects, that is a little what this appointment felt like, minus all the beautiful scenery and marketing glitz. One of the positive pieces, though, is that likely a number of drugs I take now will be discontinued. On the negative side, the anti-rejection drugs will compromise my immune system somewhat, which will make me more susceptible to, among other things, skin cancers (although such skin cancers tend to be of the more treatable type), so I guess it’s good that I live in the snow belt and will be covered up for several months of the year.
My last appointment was with the surgeon who will do the transplant. He was very busy yesterday so I waited quite a while to see him, but I finally met Dr. Alp Sener. He came across as warm, personable, and very intelligent (that probably goes without saying for physicians who have a PhD and an MD). I was delighted to hear that, if the kidney is functioning well right after it is transplanted, that he would proceed to remove the peritoneal dialysis catheter during that surgery. Although peritoneal dialysis has maintained my health in a way that I could not have experienced otherwise, plugging this line that comes out of my body into a machine every night is not only a physical tethering; it feels symbolically like I am tied down and restricted.
Dr. Alp Sener
Having said that, it is a restriction worth putting up with, given the alternatives that were available to me. I remember that not everyone has the benefit of the kind of medical care that I am receiving, almost entirely paid by our taxes, so that we don’t have to choose between life and poverty. For those in different circumstances, such option may not even exist. It is a reminder to be grateful for the many gifts that I have, by virtue of living where I do.
My final appointment was to have been with the Transplant Unit’s Research department. In fact, it had gotten so late in the day that I simply forgot about it and went home. I had left home at 6:30 that morning, and didn’t get home until 5:30 that evening. It had been a long day. I have another series of appointments later next week, so I expect my meeting with Research can be rescheduled.
With all that walking and all those meetings, I slept very soundly last night, which has been rare for me since beginning dialysis.
I’ll conclude with the request that, if you have not yet registered as an organ donor, please go to this page, locate the link for your province, and take the very few minutes that it requires to become an organ donor. Thanks.