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Risky Kidneys

I’m participating in the March BlogHer challenge and some days I feel have things worth blogging about and days I don’t.  This is a day I don’t.  However, the good people at BlogHer made up daily prompts for just such an occasion.  So here is my answer to their question for today.  It’s more personal than I thought I would be in this blog, but I felt it was important to write so I’m sharing it with you.


What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?  How did it turn out?

Well, considering that yesterday was three years exactly since starting dialysis I would rank that right up there with the riskiest thing I’ve done.  The riskiest thing I will do still lies ahead of me whenever I get the call that a kidney has become available.  I was thinking a lot about my first dialysis session three years ago.  First of all, I thought I’d only be on dialysis for a few months.  My mom was going to donate her kidney and dialysis was just until she and I could jump through all the hoops at the transplant center. 

I had a subclavian catheter access for hemodialysis, which in plain English means there was a 19-inch tube threaded through the subclavian vein in my neck down almost to the heart and came out just above my right breast.  That end, or port, is where the techs down at the hemo center would attach an incoming and out-going tube hooked to “the machine.”  My blood would be sucked at a rate four times faster than blood normally travels and filtered through a machine and pumped back into me at the same rate.  For. Three.  Hours.  In a room that reeked of bleach and blood. 

That went on for five long months punctuated by numerous trips to the ER, including one memorable one when I was carted off by ambulance right from my chair at the dialysis center.  I also had to have that accursed catheter replace 5 different times.  During that time I found out my mom had been disqualified from donating (all my other family had already been ruled out for other reasons) and my “few months” on dialysis was extended to years.  No way was I doing hemo for that long.  Even if I got a fistula access (where they hook an artery to a vein in your arm and stab you with 2 huge needles three times a week to get the blood out), I hated being chained to the chair for hours at a time and afterwards feeling worse than I did when I came in. 

Luckily, I was a good candidate for peritoneal dialysis and have been doing dialysis at home for 2.5 years.  There is another tube surgically implanted, this time in my abdomen; it exits my body about 6 inches to the left of my belly button.  I do 3 manual exchanges a day.  In the morning I “fill” which means I put in 1.5 liters of sugar water in my peritoneum through the catheter (the peritoneum is the sac containing your abdominal organs like stomach, gall bladder, liver, etc) and let it dwell for 6-8 hours.  Then I do two exchanges throughout the day where I drain the old fluid (the peritioneal membrane has been doing the job of a kidney) and replace with 1.5 liters of fresh sugar water.  Each exchange takes about 30 minutes and I even do one of them in my car when I’m at work.  Most people who do home dialysis do peritoneal dialysis but they use a cycler at night that can be programmed to do the exchanges while you sleep.  I chose not to do that as I refuse to be hooked to anything for that length of time at all. 

Overall, my attitude towards dialysis is that it’s a necessary evil.  I don’t really like it but it beats dying.  It’s a risk I have to take and it probably is what makes me cautious about most other things in my life.  There is enough risk in my life just trying to stay healthy without taking chances in other areas of my life


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