Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hopefully Hopeful Hope

Hope can be a perilous thing.

Too little, and Despair crawls out from the depths of your Soul and mires you downward.

Too much, and you're a delusional fool.

On Tuesday, November 9th, I was invited to take a trip to the beating heart of the Bay Area, San Francisco. The UCSF Medical Center is roughly two miles southeast of Golden Gate Park.

Once inside, I made my way to the 7th Floor of 400 Parnassus Avenue. I took the stairs because elevators are home to body odors of unimaginable strength and duration.

The Surgeon, Social Worker, Financial and Transplant Coordinator's seemed pleased to see me.

After six and a half years of Life Crushing Dialysis, Hope had made its presence known.

I'm at the top of the UCSF Transplant Ready List. Fucking go time.

When I arrived home later that day, I heard something whimpering in the far corner of my bedroom, under my Fortress of Solitude. (That's what I call my bed, for obvious reasons.)

I knelt down and pulled back the comforter that was blocking my view underneath. My computer bag, duffel bag, and veteran backpack were all resting comfortably in their usual locations.

But the whimpering continued. Louder. Filled with suffering and pain.

I moved my meager possessions aside and grabbed my portable flashlight. I had to find out what the hell was going on.

His eyelids cowered in the direct light. His body moved side to side abruptly, attempting to avoid the invasion.

He was a round little fuzzball, about the size of a regulation baseball. He appeared to be originally snow white, but years of neglect had darkened him with the dust and dank of time.

"Hey, I remember you," I said in my softest voice possible. "Its okay. I promise I'll be nice."

His eyes widened and he turned his back to me. I hadn't been very kind to him in the past.

"Listen to me very carefully. I...won't...yell. I...promise."

I reached my hand slowly under the bed and placed my palm upward. My fingers acknowledged it was okay to approach.

For what seemed like an eternity passed before he budged an inch. Trust was being formed, but it would take time.

Eventually, but slowly at first, he rolled his frail figure closer and closer to my hand.

Finally, success.

Once in my hand, I could feel the caked on dirt. It smelled of neglect.

I slowly brought him into the light. We smiled at one another. No other words needed to be spoken.

Hope was alive. Less than healthy, but alive nonetheless.

An hour later, Hope was on the top shelf of my bookcase with an incredible view of the room. I had gently, with great care, cleaned him. Before I was nearly done, he started to giggle. Apparently it tickled.

Suddnely his face furrowed and he looked as though he might finally speak.

He wanted to know where I had been.

The story spewed out of me. Recklessly. Furiously. With abandon and hate.

I spoke of Dialysis and His resurgence in my Life. His macaroni shaped body, covered in lesions and sores, had reappeared with a vengeance this past year.

Each treatment was the same, creating a tapestry of woe and misery I keep to myself. Every evening, roughly an hour in, He would clamp down on my fistula with His razor sharp teeth and leave me blinded by insufferable pain.

There was no relief.

In times like these, Asshole Stacy resurfaces. He's not a pleasant guy. His weapons are words filled with vitriol and spite.

Much like a sobering drunk, once treatment ceases, he fades into the seams, apologetic and shamed.

He's the one that brings the Evil Thoughts.

Over the years, I've experienced many, many comic books and superhero films.

When I was a child, the division was so easy to understand. As a young boy, I rooted for the hero and pitied the villian. That was the way of things in my young, naive brain. I could never quite grasp how the antagonist could be so very bad.

Dialysis has taught me otherwise.

I understand Evil. I've basked in its shadow and thrilled to its strength. It can be so very delightful in its unending machinations.

But here's where I'm fortunate.

True Stacy was always nearby. Waiting. Watching. Pulling back when needed when Asshole Stacy was far too weak.

That's the only thing that saved me. My true Self. The Self from my memories from so long ago.

For some time, even before the call, True Stacy emerged. A joke here. Silliness there. The honest nature of True Stacy.

Although these are momentary moments, for I tire so easily, they are welcome reminders that True Stacy has a chance.

As I used my flailing limbs and stomping feet to share this story with Hope, I finally felt that the stream had ceased. I plopped down in my office chair, exhausted and spent. I finally had the courage to look into the eyes of Hope.

Hope smiled back.

I think I just might be okay.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An Open Letter to the Parking Lot Criminals @ Dialysis

Sometimes I have incredible timing without even trying.

Sometimes the Universe seems like its on my side, if only for a few fleeting moments.

One of those occurrences was tonight.

Post-treatment turned out to be better than I expected. For the last five excruciating days, no one could figure out why I was having equilibrium issues. My world was spinning, or dizziness was rampant.

Once your blood has been removed and replaced for three hours, you certainly don't feel right.

In fact, as the months and years bleed together, they create a river of memories that seem to flow against what the mind can remember clearly.

Its another sacrifice you make for staying alive. Sometimes its worth it. Other times, it never will be.

But a moment of happiness gave me a fleeting hug as I rose from the chair.

I felt better.

Better than I have for over a week.

I quickly gathered my belongings and hightailed it out of there.

You don't want to give Dialysis a chance to see you happy. He deplores that.

The glass encrusted clinic doors has just returned to their original position when I see an elderly Winnebago crawling past my baby.

I start walking slower toward the parking lot because I want all my faculties concentrated on this particular moment.

As the vehicle blocked my view of my little defenseless truck, someone in the passenger seat shone a very bright flashlight into the cab.

I continued my trek toward my truck at a normal speed.

Damn. The driver spotted me.

The light was quickly extinguished and they sped off as fast as a poorly maintained Winnebago can.

There is a giant sign in front of my clinic, and one over the entrance.

They knew who they were fucking with.

There is a special layer of existence below Hell. Its called Super-Double-Probation-Hell.

Hitler is there. So is Idi Amin. Pol Pot seems to enjoy it.

There's even a spot reserved for every cast member of the deplorable "According to Jim."

But stealing from a Dialysis patient? That's famously, ridiculously, mind numbingly low.

First off, its stupid. Most Dialysis patients have very little, and stealing their meager possessions won't net you any income.

Secondly, the individuals housed within the walls of that section of office park have experienced enough indignities in their life. Why would you tempt Fate with such an action?

I got lucky this time. But any time something like this occurs, I do my best to ask myself, "What have I learned from this particular moment?"

So tonight, and only tonight, I have to thank you.

Because I walked into treatment around 5pm and left my wallet in the truck.

You would have had over three hours to use my debit and credit cards until they were depleted.

Most days I'm hanging on a by a thin thread of composure, ready to be broken by any sudden downturn in circumstances.

But now that I know individuals like you exist in this particular neighborhood, I can guarantee you if you decide to break into my Blue Bombshell, you'll be walking away with gauze and a can of WD-40.

And when you are caught (and you will be caught) I'm hopeful your life will become that very deplorable episode of "Oz" where your body is used as a human pin cushion and the inmates can't stop poking you.

If you catch my drift.

But again, thanks for the heads up.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Dialysis Crystal Ball

I am really disheartened by my Dialysis clinic lately.

And, as usual, it comes down to the Almighty Dollar.

I imagine the Clinic Manger and the Board of Directors sitting around a giant conference room table, laughing and chortling, sipping champagne and cheering loudly. All the while, a nine foot tall, silver and fuzzy Dollar Sign sits at the head of the table smoking a stogy with a giant smile on his face.

As every minute passes, another cutback ensues, and the Dollar Sign grows in size and volume.

Keep in mind, my center continues to extol their virtue as a non-profit Clinic.

To me, that means every dollar earned goes back into the Center.

Or so I assumed.

Cutback #1:

After the first of the year, instead of using anti-bacterial sheets to clean the chairs of feces, vomit, mucous, blood, urine, lice, dandruff, skin flakes, ass flakes, alcoholic beverages and Cheetos, the staff has been informed to use paper towels and bleach.

I'm going to glance into the future with my Dialysis Crystal Ball and see this move to its final conclusion. By the end of the year, a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water will be sprayed over the chair and wiped off with one swipe.

Infections will run rampant. Patients will corpse up routinely.

But God willing, we'll save some money on treatment.

Cutback #2:

As any veteran Dialysis patient will tell you, Plastic Tape was created to hold needles firmly in place.

What they may not mention is, Plastic Tape is pure Evil.

Tubes and tubes of Neosporin has been slathered on inches and inches of forearms to cover the painful areas where human skin has been removed.

Last month, I started to ask Stilted Accent Tech, Jolly Happy Tech, and Very Merry Tech to start using Awesome Paper Tape on my needles. They were hesitant, because honestly, those aren't the rules. But after six years of soul stealing Dialysis treatments, I do get my way sometimes.

Unfortunately, not long after this became routine, Evil Paper Tape debuted.

Although appearing the same as Awesome Paper Tape, Evil Paper Tape happily, merrily steals skin from your poor, unwilling body.

Apparently there are two tons of this cheap, abusive product in the back offices of the clinic. You can hear it giggling to itself when you use the Far Side Bathroom.

I believe its use to be twofold.

1) It saves hundreds upon thousands on top of hundreds of dollars to use.
2) It is part of a clinic wide venture to steal each patients DNA and use it for military purposes.

Somewhere in the middle of the New Mexico desert, there is a hidden complex where each and every patient's DNA is collected, treated, and then repaired to remove the kidney failure.

In place of that malady, they place military knowledge and combat experience. Those individuals are deposited in a nearby country whose mineral resources we desperately need.

But I digress.

Cutback #3:

If you are a patient at our clinic on Saturday, God help you.

In the worst example of Dialysis Economics in 2010, there is not enough staff to cover all the patients that need to be treated.

The last three Saturdays it has taken forty-five minutes to get hooked up.

Remember the first years of cinema, where everyone's actions were sped up because the technology of film hadn't been fully created?

That's what the staff looks like every single Saturday.

The math tells the story. Less staff = More mistakes = Mortality rises.

The Dialysis Crystal Ball is now brightly luminous. Dark clouds and sharp lightning fill the interior. The thunder is deafening as the storm of Dialysis Future begins...

Dialysis Chairs

Before the end of 2010, Dialysis chairs will no longer be provided. They're too expensive to clean and repair, so patients will be forced to bring their own chair.

For those in wheelchairs, that's the chair you will be assigned. If your blood pressure bottoms out and you need to lie back, quite frankly, you're on your own.

The Center recommends bringing one of those fold out pool chairs. You can pretend you're at the beach. Or enjoying a pool party. It will be fun for the patient, yet terrible on the staff's backs spinal cords.

Dialysis Tubing

Before the close of this financial quarter, patients must bring their own garden hose as tubing. Make sure to bring two of those triangular spouts that shoots out tiny, yet strong streams of fluid. That's what we're shoving in your arm from now on.

Dialysis Machines

They will also be eliminated. Too much electricity is being wasted on these monstrosities. From now on energy saving, Kenmore washers will clean your blood. It will cost you twenty-five cents for each fifteen minutes of treatment you need. There will be no change machine and you will not be reimbursed by insurance. But the Clinic will be.

Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers, Nutritionists & Techs

In their place will be one television monitor that will be pushed by the custodial crew from chair to chair once a month. You will have sixty seconds to ask each one of these individuals questions about your health care as they appear on the monitor. If your answer cannot be given within the allotted time, you will be forced to wait until next month.

Clinic Floor

All the above mentioned treatment will take place in a barn outside of the city limit. The Clinic is not responsible for cows, pigs, chickens, hens or horny farmers interfering with your treatment.

Please note: said Clinic will still charge Medicare and other insurance companies the same as before. But the above treatment parameters will still be mandated.

The Dialysis Crystal Ball can take no more of these futuristic images. It stars to bounce, slowly at first, and then more violently, on the table. The final bounce is tremendous and causes the crystal to shatter into thousands of pieces.

Each one is sticking into a fellow Dialysis patient right now as a reminder of the Future of Dialysis Yet to Come.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Glomerulonephritis: The Musical

As the final guests envelope their seats, they have no idea they are about to bare witness to something extraordinary, finite and beautiful.

Whether you believe the theater to be nostalgic or classic, it doesn't matter. It dates back to an earlier time, when stage performances were fully appreciated.

But for now, the lights have dimmed and an eerie silence blankets the audience into submission.

Before anyone can catch their breath, a single, solitary spotlight fills the middle of the stage.

It is white and bright and gives life to our setting.

The curtain opens to find the stage empty, soulless. Except for a single, generic hospital bed.

To the left of this metaphoric coffin, an IV pole with a fluid bag dangling helplessly from the top.

Cradling the right, an EKG monitor with a screen large enough for the entire audience to see the large chromatic BLIP dotting the video's landscape.

The figure lying perilously in the bed, his upper torso angled up thirty degrees, is STACY WITHOUT AN E.

A low hum can be heard emanating from the orchestra for what seems like an eternity.

No movement. The mood is uneasy.

Slowly, and effortlessly, STACY'S torso rises from the bed, resting in a position perpendicular to the bed.

The spotlight moves upward from where it had been placed the entire time, the bottom portion of the bed, to reveal the face of our protagonist.

His eyes, closed. The face, unremarkable.

In perfect falsetto, he begins.

STACY
(slow and deliberate)

Glom...er...u...lo...neph-right-is.
Its...so...wonderful...to...say.

The bed slowly wheels itself, along with the accompanying equipment, to the front of the stage.

The orchestra begins to follow the syllables, using as few instruments as possible.

(slightly faster now, still in falsetto)

Glomerulonephritis.
It will stake your day.

STACY flings off his hospital assigned blankets and slidSe off the audience's right side of the bed.

The BLIP of the EKG begins to increase in speed, if only slightly.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis.
Its a curse, not a blessing.

STACY moves in front of the bed and we observe that he's only wearing a hospital gown. His upper left arm is wrapped tightly with gauze and its soaked with blood. He motions toward the reddened part of his arm.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis.
Just take a glance at this rude dressing.

The orchestra begins to slide all their instruments together, building toward an inevitable crescendo.

The full stage lights rise to reveal a giant, six foot tall, fully formed DIALYSIS FILTER to the left of STACY, beginning to dance to the full musical power of the band.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis!
My body's filled with hurt!

From the right side of the stage dances an equally giant, six foot tall, fully formed HYPODERMIC NEEDLE. All we can see of each character is the lower portion of their legs, jutting out from their bodies, dancing in sync with the music.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis!
How long before I'm dirt!?

As STACY danced in unison with the characters on stage, he spins around to reveal the back of his hospital gown.

And the fact the he's not wearing anything underneath.

The continual BLIP of the EKG is keeping in pace with the music as joy and despair fuse into one incredible, unified dance.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis!
You'll wish for cool, clean Death!

Suddenly, two six foot tall, fully formed KIDNEY'S enter from each side of the stage.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis!
You'll beg for your last breath!

STACY instantly stops dancing.

The TWO KIDNEYS, once dancing with the DIALYSIS FILTER and HYPODERMIC NEEDLE, have pushed them forward into the orchestra. The instruments create a voluminous crashing sound, bringing the entire show to a halt.

As STACY begins to crawl back into bed, the TWO KIDNEYS dance slowly, arm in arm. The EKG BLIP returns in sound to a body fully at rest.

Its beautiful and shocking simultaneously.

STACY
(his voice returning to falsetto)

Glomerulonephritis.
It has stolen my life.

The TWO KIDNEYS cease dancing arm and arm, both falling by the wayside, taking the stage floor as the bed moves to the rear of the stage. STACY is now back to his earlier position, blankets covering his now frail form. The spotlight turns from bright white, to deep red.

STACY

Glomerulonephritis.
I'll never meet my kids and wife.

STACY leans back into bed as the EKG BLIPS for the final time.

Curtain falls.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Stacy Dialysis Patient Awards 2010

I often have people of the internet persuasion ask me why I'm so angry at the patients at my clinic all the time.

For those of you not on Dialysis, let me answer hypothetically:

Imagine you're wandering around the downtown of your city. Gather forty-seven of the nearest people you can and plop each of them into a giant, oversized chair. They must each stay in the seat they're assigned for the next three hours.

They can't move. They can't change chairs.

And neither can you.

Some will mutter endlessly about nothing in particular. Others will go to the bathroom right in their chair.

A few haven't bathed since the Bicentennial. One seems to have a wonderful stale anchovie, burnt Spam musk to him.

The entire time your senses are on overload. Wasted flourescent light from above will bathe down upon you mercilessly.

Being placed among forty-seven other strangers isn't fun, is it?

And that ladies and gents, is why we're here tonight. And why these awards are necessary.

Each winner on tonights show will win a FAPA.

"Fucking Annoying Patient Award."

Once awarded, each winner will be handed a doll-like Dialysis chair. In said chair will be a figurine with its head up its ass.

The entire award is wrapped in gauze and stained with my personal blood, sweat, and tears. All wonderfully excreted by me because of your intolerable actions.

Good luck to all of our winners.


WTF Are You Thinking Award

And the winner is: Chippette Voiced Goon.

I have a regimen I follow every single, stinking (and I mean that literally) time I enter the clinic. Once I forcefully place my items in the ridiculously oversized clown chair, I proceed to the bathroom. I can still urinate once or twice a day, so I like to empty it before I weigh in and get started.

What has happenned the last six times? Miss Chippette doesn't lock the door.

Imagine having that image burned into your memory for the remainder of all existence. Tiny, shriveled frame seated on the toilet counting God knows what on her fingers.

The best part is when she walks past my chair. Her nose is slightly elevated and her spine is straight, straddling by like I should be proud of what I've witnessed.

Nose Thumb of the Year Award

And the winner is: Bushy Moustached Dude


Once the needles are inserted and my blood is being ripped from my soul, I like to settle in to a great movie or well crafted TV show to take me away from this torcherous cave.

I'll admit. My first mistake was glancing upward.

Bushy Moustache always sits perpindicular to me, about four chairs away.

Every single time I make the eternal mistake to glance up in his direction, that thumb is jutting in and out of the right nostril.

Its worse when he finds something.

He likes to place said nasal Gold on the side of his chair.

Does he bury them in his garden at home? Does he create a Lego hut for them in his living room?

I don't really know and I couldn't care less.

And people wonder why I don't bring food to the clinic anymore.

Dirty Look of the Year Award

And the winner is: Raven Haired Temptress.

RHT is a petite little thing with jaw length raven hair, full pouting lips, and a sour look on her face every time I have smiled in her direction.

You may remember Angelic Blonde Babe used to do the same thing. She received a kidney from her sister, so I don't receive dirty looks from her any longer.

One day they seated us directly across from each other. It seemed like every time I looked up, she was staring at me.

I imagine she was thinking, "Who is this skinny fucker across from me? Fuck off with your appreciative, yet harmless glances."

Yeah, that's exactly what she was thinking.

Once she was finished and was sauntering out of the clinic, she shot me the Dirtiest Look Ever. She took extra effort to crumple up her face completely, her eyes dripping with anger.

As her punishment, or due reward, I haven't glanced her way since.

Biggest PITA (Pain In The Ass)

And the winner is: Complain-O-Matic-2000

From the moment her withered frame met the chair:

"I'm thirsty, I need a drink of water."

"I feel weak, get me some Ensure."

"Its too hot in here, take my blanket."

"Get over here, I'm freezing."

And my personal favorite of the night:

"I have to crap my pants!"

She yelled, pouted, squirmed, and protested.

"You have twenty minutes left. Can you wait?" asked the sheepish looking Tech.

And then, the moment we've all been waiting for:

"I crapped my pants!"

Rotten swiss cheese melting in the hot sun crossed with three day old infected gout simmering in skunk ravaged BBQ sauce.

I had to wear a hospital mask for the entire treatment and choke down vomit. Imagine sitting next to that for forty-five minutes.

We've reached our final award, and its well deserved:

Worst Patient of the Year

Every year I select one patient who causes me the most emotional, physical, mental, harrowing pain of all and they receive the ultimate prize.

Not only do they receive the coveted FAPA, but I get to punch them squarely in the jaw.

And the winner is: Fucking Redneck Douchetard

After just two treatments of being seated next to this waste of human DNA, I had to instruct the front desk not to seat me next to him.

What's funny is, when I said Fucking Redneck Douchetard, they knew exactly who I was talking about.

Have you ever met people who, when you looked them straight in the eye, you knew immediately that there was nothing going on behind the scenes. The show was on stage, but the backstage crew had left years ago.

That's him.

For three excruciatingly annoying hours he talks and talks and talks...

About nothing. Absolutely nothing. Excruciatingly nothing.

This man has never said anything in his entire existence that amounted to anything except, "Ugh, yeah, (snort) why don't you go ahead and Super Size that for me? Heh, heh."

The treatment before Thanksgiving, he told every single staff member about the $20 Wal-Mart Thanksgiving Meal.

Over and over and over and over and over and over.

I looked for his string to yank it out of his gelatinous form, but it was nowhere to be found.

Here's some more nuggets of wisdom I garnered from his blubbering lips:

"I need me some bacon. Just plop it on my belly and I'll eat it like my dog."

"Jack in the Box makes a damn fine tater."

"I love 'According to Jim' Makes my belly wiggle."

"Ugh, heh, heh...heh...heh...heh,heh...heh...heh" (I have no fucking clue what he was laughing about...no one was around and his TV wasn't on)

Imagine. No, I'm serious. Close your eyes and imagine you're stuck in a chair for three hours straight. IQ points dripping from your scalp while you grab the nearest sharp object in hopes of engorging your heart and ending your life quickly and deliberately so you don't have to take in one more sentence from his Medicare draining schlub.

Fuck these people are tiring.

P.S...If you missed the awards from 2008, make sure to click HERE.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Precious Toll of Dialysis

5 years, 9 months and one week.

Such an arbitrary amount of time.

Its all mine. And yet, it isn't.

It was ripped from the fabric of my life and morphed into an alternate time line of insufferable suffering.

Through the power of regret, lets travel back to the fall of 2004.

I was thirty-four years old, in good shape and enjoying the lifestyle afforded me by my radio career.

Translation: I was at the top of my game.

Her name was Rene and I had stopped dating other women to spend time with her exclusively. She was an enchanting little redhead who drove me literally insane. She was sarcastic and silly and could have been the poster child for quirky.

My favorite kind of woman.

"You've just got a little flu bug. It'll pass."

That was the last time I saw her smile.

When I finally tried to explain my condition and all the wonderfully annoying idiosyncrasies involved, she bolted.

The last words I spoke to her were "cough, cough" as her Road Runner smoke filled my once pleasure filled bedroom.

At the time, I was angry. Today? I believe she's one smart cookie.

Little did I know that 5 years, 9 months and one week later, she would be the first of many luxuries that would slip through the tattered fabric of my life.

We now return to Stacy Prime, already in progress.

The one aspect of Dialysis that those with stethoscopes adorning their necks fail to want to talk about is The Toll. The price your body will pay over and over and over again until you're left with a shell of an existence so abhorrent, you'll beg for Death to come.

Sure, there are certain aspects I can learn to live with. Going legally blind in one eye. Vomiting up at least one meal a day. Giving up jogging because my joints are shot. Ceasing to date because my skin is so revolting.

At some point you simply have to give in and wave the white flag of indignity and realize certain aspects of your life are lost to the grip of Dialysis.

But that isn't the worst of it.

Its that you slowly start to lose the one friend you knew had your back regardless of what Dialysis ripped from your soul.

Your mind.

"Well, at least you're alive," is always the mantra of the Overly Cheerful Psychologist.

Wonderfully whiny pablum. Was that cliche stuck between the seat cushions where so many hopes and dreams go to die?

Until you've endured The Wash. The completely soulless, life crushing, demonizing Wash, I don't wish to hear about "being alive."

Before this escapade into the Abyss, I was energetic, quick witted and prone to bouts of silliness the bounds of which you'll never know.

For he's gone now. Sucked out of my existence like so much toxic blood.

I liked him. I miss him. And now, because of 5 years, 9 months and one week, I can barely remember him at all.

All things being equal, that's the Precious Toll
of Dialysis.