Friday, April 14, 2006

The Loner's Last Stand

Really dizzy. Incredibly weak. Difficulty focusing.

All this and more greeted me as I was removed from Dialysis today.

I'm not really sure what's wrong. The last two weeks, when I complete Dialysis, all of the above horrifingly greet me as I stand up straight.

Jaw cramps. Heart palpatating. Stomach clenching.

I know the staff keeps telling me that my regular Dialysis appointments are saving my life, but lately I'm not so sure.

Earlier tonight I did something I've never done before at the clinic and I'm really ashamed of it.

I asked for help.

My difficulty paying bills, my lack of personal freedom and just an overwhelming sense of doom enveloped me, so I asked to talk to a social worker.

It was a crap shoot because one of the social worker's I have difficulty speaking to and the other, I don't.

It's really strange.

Maybe it's because I find one of them attractive. Possibly I don't trust her.

Whatever the reason, the newer one bolted into the clinic.

Wow. That was pretty impressive.

I told her what I was feeling, which was excruciatingly difficult.

You see, I'm a loner and I'm quite used to taking care of myself.

Although I'm not quite qualified for the job.

She gave me a list of numbers to call and people who were available especially for people undergoing treatment like mine.

It's been three days and I haven't even glanced at the list. It's still safe in the dark and gloomy folds of my binder, awaiting some use.

I thought this blog would be enough, that it could be the personal playground for my demons.

The problem is, it's simply not enough.

At least I've discovered that before it was too late.

A number of you kind readers have sent me personal e-mail's in the past, believing simply by reading my blog that I may suffer from some sort of depression.

How perceptive you are.

As I shuffled from Dialysis, I felt an incredible weight lifted from my soul.

But I knew it would return.

And it has.

Why am I so afraid to ask for help? Do I believe it makes me weak? Or worthless?

Am I afraid of the guilt that will eventually arise from just asking?

Or does it simply speak volumes against my willingness to allow others into my life?

So many question marks with their hooks into various parts of my mind and soul and they won't let go.

It's interesting to note that when you strain and struggle to answer your own inner questions, that the punctuation mark itself occasionaly straightens itself out to form a much kinder exclamation point.

I have the social worker's handwritten notes in my hand, I'm looking over the list.

I might as well call. All I've got to lose is myself.

And my precious loner status.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Statistical Anomaly

Another afternoon wasted in the clinical walls of Memorial Hospital.

Even when I have outpatient surgery, they slap on one of the hospital bands. You know what they look like, they all look the same.

I've been collecting them for the past four to five years. I'm not really certain why, but I have over two dozen at home plastering my bulletin board and fifteen here at work.

I could probably tie them together and make a pretty cool yet depressing Christmas chain for the tree this year.

Today I added one more to the collection.

I was informed by the scheduling receptionist on the phone that my Dialysis access would need an ultrasound.

Cool, sticky goo sliding around my arm with that wacky light pen they use. I could take that. It was uncomfortable, but it isn't very painful.

Well, she was wrong.

I was actually scheduled for an angiogram of my access. I hadn't been feeling all to spectacular the entire day. Once the nurse told me the true nature of the procedure, I asked if I could use the bathroom.

I proceeded to allow the anxiety bubbling inside my belly to release itself all over the porcelain shell of the poor, defenseless toilet.

When I exited, I discovered that she had been waiting outside.

At least she's used to it because of her profession. People at work, not so much.

When they ask me to remove my shirt for a procedure such as this, I'm usually embarrassed because over the past couple of years I've been somewhat out of shape. But lately I've been sticking with my workout routine, so when the shirt flew off, in my head I was going, "Yeah, I'll walk around shirtless. Check out this two pack. I'm skinny buff baby."

Ok, that's not really what I thought, but I wasn't the least bit embarrassed about my newfound physique. It's kinda cool actually.

A Dr. Shaw entered the waiting area and without looking into my eyes, explained the entire procedure.

I hate when doctors won't meet my gaze. It means they won't be listening to me on the operating table when I'm reeling in pain.

I would have had them add an IV drip so I'd really be about it, but I had agreed to speak to a number of resident doctors at the local teaching school about the effects of Dialysis. So I endured the pain and just had a local anasthetic.

I was strapped down to the table and my access arm (left) was fastened down to a small table extending from the regular slab.

For what seemed like an eternity, there I lay, vulnerable and defenseless. A huge Matrix-like scattering of monitors were wheeled over me obscuring my view.

"This will pinch a little," muttered Dr. Shaw.

This is a doctor's favorite cliche and it's always understated.

He rammed an ice pick sized needle into my wrist to numb the forthcoming intrusion of wiring into my looped access.

As the two previous times, it burned longer and more intense than any previous Dialysis treatment. I was trying to be quiet, but my lower body was reacting to the pain by performing an impromptu dance of uncomfortability.

"How long have you had your access Stacy?" They were trying to distract me. Fools.

I managed to mutter, "Ten years." I did the math again in my head for my own personal amusement and found it was actually nearing eleven.

"You're a statistical anomaly. I've only known one other..."

"Ooooowwwwwwooooohhhhhhh," was all I managed to return in the delicate art of operating room conversation.

As he finished his Roto Rootering of my arm, the same phrase kept burning in my memory.

"You're a statistical anomaly."

Is this all my life boils down to, when the hours wasted in medical institutions is reduced to steam, what remains of the core of my life??

"A statistical anomaly."

It's true I don't quite fit into my demographic.

I'm in my mid-30's.

No girlfriend or wife to speak of.

No house or any real estate.

No functioning kidneys.

"Statistical anomaly."

Sometimes in science, when someone is confronted with a statistical anomaly, they can do one of two things:

1) Add the anomaly to the present data and see if it continues, thus creating a pattern.

2) Toss it aside and start all over again.

That's truly what a "statistical anomaly" is...a do over.

I really wish my life were a do over.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Stacy Spring Mini-Vacation 2006

Outside of the painful needles and weekly blood washing, outrageous debt and tiring career, I am really lucky in many respects.

And one of those would be in the BFD: the Best Friend Department.

I have known Ted for over 15 years now and whatever hospital I happened to be residing in, or dopey backwater radio station I was broadcasting from, he'd always kept in touch.

So when his wife decided to visit her family in Texas, he cordially invited me to his place for the weekend.

Now if we were typical "dudes", this would be a frivolous weekend of strip clubs and beer joints.

Fortunately, when it comes down to it, we're more like "dorks."

And I'm very happy about that fact.

I managed to get all my work done Friday night so I could leave Saturday morning for the two hour drive without any responsibility.

I'm North Bay, he's South Bay. Together we rule the Bay Area (except for that pesky East Bay, but the highway system is so convoluted and the people so full of themselves, we don't believe we're missing anything.)

It was good to see Ted, it had been too long. After initial greetings it was time for our first stop: the local arcade.

This rings back to our affiliation with Generation X. We both grew up with Ms. Pac Man and Asteroids lighting up our imagination. And since we're guys, we'll never fully rid ourselves of our adolescence. It's in our DNA.

After a two hour binge, it was off to the movie theater where we saw "Lucky Number Slevin", an interesting if slightly frustrating film about a scam the audience isn't even aware of until nearly the very end.

It starred Bruce Willis, and he makes any film exponentially better, so I think we enjoyed it. I'd have to go back to watch it again to see if everything holds water.

Then it was off to Mountain Mike's for 2-for-1 pizza night. Two large pizzas for the price of one.

I ordered anchovies and Ted didn't even flinch. That's what I love about him. He accepts the fact that I devour disgusting little salty fishes and allows me to indulge in my tastes.

The rest of the night was spent flipping around the tube and inhaling pizza.

I've loved pizza my entire life. After my first kidney transplant I finally had my appetite back and all I wanted to eat was pizza. One of the nurses ordered some for me and I ended up getting sick. She was reemed by the doctors simply for performing a kind deed.

I'll never forget her.

Anyway, Sunday Dialysis reared his ugly mug and almost ruined my weekend.

I awoke Sunday morning feeling really weak, so I wandered downstairs and plopped myself on the couch.

I stayed there until 7pm that night.

Sometime around 12:30pm, I just couldn't hold it any longer. I didn't want to stain the silence of my friend's beautiful townhouse, but I couldn't help it.

I ran upstairs and threw up in the upstairs bathroom.

I'm sure it didn't sound pleasant.

But Ted didn't make a big deal out of it.

I collapsed back on the couch and surprisingly spent half the day sleeping.

And this is what kills me about my condition.

Even when I make the absolute best effort to have a good time and enjoy myself, Dialysis won't hear of it.

Even on a weekend when I'm hanging with my best friend, Dialysis reminds me that He's in control and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

This is where I try to remember how lucky I am.

My parents are alive and doing well for their age. My sister is pregnant with her second child and as happy as can be. And my best friend is just two hours away and I can visit whenever I wish. And I'm still managing to continue my career.

Take that Dialysis.