Strong like bull
For years before I was diagnosed we had a small farm out in the country and a 5th floor condo in the city. For exercise I worked a 2 acre garden and at the condo I would jog up 5 flights of stairs rather than use the elevator. I had endless energy from the early morning until the late evening, as president of a trading company, travelling globally, my farm, my boat, to my condo, working on one project or another.
I started to notice my capacity for exertion becoming less and less. It started on a trip to New Zealand a few years earlier where hiking up Mount Egmont was beyond me, I could have done it a few years earlier but now, I was old beyond my years.
At the farm I frequently hired people to help with tasks over a two year period I went from working along side the helpers to watching the helpers wondering why I was so tired.
Over a period of about 6 months I went from a slightly reduced level of activity, to having to go to bed at 8 in the evening and sleeping until 8 the next morning, then I couldnot make it up the stairs, then I found myself sitting on chair in the garden wondering why I did not have the energy to walk 100 yards.
Before I could tolerance any sort of spicy food or type of alcohol, that went to zero; I developed constant and intense GERD symptoms and started foaming at the mouth. It was the foaming at the mouth that finally got my attention and sent me to my family doctor for blood work. Over a period of 6 months I visited the doctor 3 times, and each time the doctor gave me a requisition for blood work and each time I found something better to do other than spending 30 minutes going to a clinic to have a sample taken.
Dumb like Ox
When I finally did get blood work done and the results came back my creatinine level was over 1,000 mL/min. Normal creatinine clearance for a healthy man is 100 mL/min. When my family Doctor could not get in touch with me, she called my wife who came to get me at work, I was then driven directly to the hospital.
It was explained to me that with a creatinine level of over 1,000 mL/min I was about to have a heart attack, if not today, in the next few days, but I would not survive the next few weeks without immediate intervention.
Must be a mistake
My wife drove me strait to the Queensway carleton hospital, the doctor who saw me in emergency said it was impossible for anyone to walk in off the street with blood work like mine so he sent us home. The next morning my GP called to check on me and was furious to discover that I was sent home. She then made arrangements for me to be admitted at the General Hospital.
3 Great Options
The 3 great options that everyone who has kidney failure gets are:
~Peritoneal Dialysis (PD)
~Do nothing and die (Die)
Hemodialys is filtering of your blood on a machine in the hospital 3 times a week for between 4 and 5 hours at a time. This involved a temporary catheter being installed in your chest near your heart. No more showers and the worry of infections are high so keep clean. After 3 months of training you can do dialysis athome, if you can insert the 2 one and a half inch long needles into your arm yourself. What was that? What is this thing you call a fistula
Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), this involves the installation of a catheter in your belly. The PD you can do at home, but you’ll have about 3 liters of sugar water in the lining of your stomach, it’s a bit uncomfortable, it slops around, but you get used to it. But not an option for me right now, because I was a “drop in” there was no time. You need dialysis today.
You Can die. It’s a nice death, you just get sleepy. I am told palliative care workers hope for a kidney death as it’s the most peaceful. You’re really quite lucky I was told. At this point I did not feel lucky.
At first I told anyone who would listen to leave me alone. By that I mean a long string of obsenities would be brough forth to any unsuspecting Doctor, Nurse or orderly. I really was a grumpy asshole.
My plan was to paddle into Algonquin Park and not come back. I liked Algonquin Park but on reflection while we all die alone, I don’t really want to die that alone. That and the practical reality of not having the strength to drive for 5 hours, paddling into the wilderness, setting up a camp and waiting for the grim reaper was lost on me.
I was not really thinking that clearly. There is a phenomenon called the Uremic Brain or Uremic Encephalopathy that was clouding my judgment. Despite telling everyone to leave me alone my sweetheart did not and she sat patiently at my bedside holding my hand for hours on end. At one point my anger and hostility cleared.
Life is worth Living
It came as surprise, a sudden insight, epiphany really, but eventually I clued in that my wife was there, holding my hand and I decided “Life was worth living as long as you are holding my hand”.
I have not looked back from that decision and started to look at my whole situation as “That makes me the lucky one”. That change in perspective is not really that difficult when you are in the critical care dialysis ward of the General hospital and you see many who are not going to make it another week or month and you realize that at least you have a fighting chance if you will just let people help you.
I started noticing the blessings in my life rather that my misfortune. It was still a drag, but at least now the strings of obscenities returned to a normal level and I could at least smile and say thank you. The elapsed time to that transition was a miserable 4 days.
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