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Fistulas, and Grafts, and Catheters… Oh my!

So I’ve talked about my fistula on here before. As a reminder, it’s my super vein access in my left arm for dialysis. Over the past three years, I’ve gone through periods where my fistula would get an aneurysm. It would basically get painful and swollen due to a narrowing in the vein. I have a great vascular surgeon, and each time she would talk me through an angioplasty or a stent. Recently the fistula had gotten so swollen that my skin was starting to thin a little and turn pink in some spots. My Dr. and I decided that it was time to add a graft. I had two choices: a bovine graft (most common) or a plastic one. The bovine one would require a three week wait time before it can be used for dialysis. In the meantime, one would have to get a dialysis catheter placed in their chest until the graft was ready. The plastic one could be used immediately. So of course, I chose the latter. Can you imagine? Tubes hanging out of your chest? I can’t think of any fun costumes or outfits (specifically a princess dress) that would compliment a chest catheter. On Wednesday April 17th, I had a surgery to have a graft placed.

On Friday it was time for dialysis with my shiny new graft. The first stick was so painful. Ouch!! Then…nothing. The blood did not start to flow into the needle as usual. Dark slow-moving blood eventually came. Clots. The dialysis tech tried again. Nothing. Back to the hospital. Back to the operating room. This time they added a stent to the graft. After the procedure they sent me down the hospital’s dialysis center. The nurses there attempted to insert needles into my sore swollen arm. Then strong, I-got-this, no worries Krystle started to cry. This was the worst dialysis session I’d ever endured.

Next Wednesday my arm was still sore and swollen. It was dialysis time. Time to try this again. I put on my headphones and tuned into some old school hymns as the technician pushed the needle through my thick arm to the graft. More pain, more blood clots. Back to the hospital. After several doctors and nurses looked at my arm and felt for a thrill, a nurse came in and told me that they couldn’t continue to put me through dialysis attempts while my arm was slowly healing. They would need to do a chest catheter.

I immediately began to breathe heavily, and tears started to fall into my glasses. I tried to explain to anyone that would listen about how this wouldn’t work for costumes, auditions, and rehearsals. I explained how I couldn’t wrap my stressed mind around the concept of tubes hanging out of my body. Finally, the nurse said “You can’t do anything WITH THIS ARM like this! This is temporary. We gotta do it, and in a few weeks after you’ve had some successful sticks, I will take it out myself.” I understood, but it didn’t make me feel any better about the situation. So Wednesday afternoon, doctors went back into my arm for the third time. They did what’s called an angioplasty. Lastly, they placed a dialysis catheter in my chest.

I felt physically and emotionally sore and exhausted. I called and asked my parents to come and take me home to Georgia. So far, I’ve gotten to see my niece show me that she knows first position, see my silly apartment dog be a backyard dog, and spend some time with parents. I don’t’ think I’ll ever like this thing, but I have had two successful dialysis sessions using it so far. So right now my strategy is to be patient and let my arm heal. Four days and counting….

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