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The D-word.... (Dialysis)

So here's how I spend my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays..... I started at the hospital, but now I go to a center for dialysis four hours for each scheduled day. So I am sitting connected to a machine for 12 hours a week! It's like a bad part time job (one where they pay you by letting you live). The purpose of dialysis is to do some of what your kidneys don't do--filter your blood and remove excess fluid (remember my swollen ankles).

There are some key things that are looked at when checking for kidney function. Two big ones are BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine level. Both of these have to do with waste and the function of your kidneys. The BUN max is around

25mg. In May mine was at 58. Creatinine should max out at around 1.1, and mine was at 7.23. I was feeling sluggish and fat. I had to wait until my arm was healed and ready before starting dialysis. On a July morning at work, I was having a hard time. I had promised my residents that we would do water aerobics. However, I stood on the pool stairs and could barely lift my legs. I excused myself and went upstairs. I felt terrible. I was letting them down. My friend/boss, Sascha, was upstairs. I tried in vain to describe how I felt. I pulled up my chart on my phone. I wanted to check my most recent blood test results. My BUN had raised to 138 and my creatinine to 16.22! I began to cry. "This is crazy? How am I still ALIVE?" I actually felt how sick I was, and I was scared. Sascha hugged me and made me laugh. Just then the phone rang. It was my doctor. He told me I was starting dialysis today and needed to get the hospital immediately. I did two treatments in the hospital. I was terrified the entire time, but the nurses were very friendly. Afterwards I felt like I couldn't move, and my body was cramping in weird painful ways. However, when my parents got there, I was up walking around and asking for Starbucks. I had energy, and I could see my ankles!!

People always ask me if it hurts. The process involves two 15 gauge needles going into your arm so it does sting a bit. There's a sort of numbing spray that was prescribed to me in the beginning. However, it was really rough on my skin and causing to look kind of pink. So I now use a lidocaine cream. I put it on an hour before and then wrap my arm in plastic wrap. Each patient has a target or "dry" weight. Mine is 50.5 kilos. Yup...kilos. So when I arrive, I wash my arm and weigh myself. Then my tech and I discuss how many kilos they are going to remove. When the number is too high, I get headaches and terrible cramps. They insert the needles into my left arm, connect the needles to the tubes, connect the tubes to the dialyizer, then we wait. Throughout the process, they also insert medicines through the tubes. I spend the four hours doing various things like studying French, watching shows, listening to music, talking on the phone, or creating a website and writing a blog. When the machine stops, they remove the needles and patch you up with guaze, bandages, and tape. I apply pressure the areas until the bleeding stops. Then I weigh myself again, and they record my weight.

I'm thankfully able to drive myself back home (or to rehearsal, depending on the day). Most days I feel tired and hungry after but nothing too extreme. The hardest part is adjusting my schedule. If I need to travel, I have to make arrangements in advance to visit another center.

Sometimes I get super frustrated with the whole thing (because I'm human), but like my dad reminds me, "what's the alternative?" So I take a deep breath, put on some good music, and report to my part time job...

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