the unfortunate reality part 1

I have been home for 2 weeks now. But the events of my last hospital visit still race through my mind. Hospital stays for me are not memorable, I have done it too many times. I know the routine as well as some of the nurses. But this one was different. The great Epiphany. The realization hit that denial, positive thinking and good ‘ole piss and vinegar weren’t going to cut it anymore. My illness needed to be reckoned with as a worthy adversary.

About a month ago I told my wife that I would be hospitalized soon. I knew by how I felt. It was a familiar feeling; one that any renal patient knows too well but others don’t get. I felt washed out, always tired. After work I was sofa-bound. Going anywhere or doing anything after work was not even considered. Not long after I told her this I caught the “Office cold”. The one that took my coworkers down for a day had kicked me square in the teeth. For 2 days before I went to the ER, I was easily winded and coughing violently and constantly. I couldn’t sleep. Finally, after barely getting through birthday dinner with my family, I went to the ER. I drove myself. I was admitted .

Hospital ER’s are like Dr’s offices. You don’t go right in you go to another room. In the ER that is triage. I hate triage. You have to answer a million redundant questions. Just read my fucking history for Christ’s sake. You wait forever to see if you will be admitted. And it’s cold. As if you suddenly came to life on a slab in a morgue . I suppose a happier me would have thought of wet bathing suit when the sun goes down at the lake cold.

The chest X ray easily showed Pneumonia. I suspected that. A suppressed immune system plus a cold equals pneumonia. But I wasn’t prepared for the lab results. While I knew my kidney function was not great I wasn’t prepared for how badly it had deteriorated. A healthy creatine is under 1.  2 years ago post transplant I was a healthy .75. Last year I jumped to 2.5 (not good)where it remained for a while. That day my creatine was 3.8. I was admitted.

After the first day of “orientation” where I answer a thousand questions over and over, like the one about harming yourself,  I settled into the hospital routine of bed checks, vitals, blood work and being woken constantly to remind me that I needed to rest. What was not routine was a lack of a diagnosis. They had no idea what kind of pneumonia I had and could not explain the drop in kidney function. I was there 13 days, 12 before I could walk one lap around the hospital floor without an extreme coughing fit. On the 13th day, still without a diagnosis I was transferred to another hospital, one that could hopefully do better. Another hospital, same old bullshit and I was seriously depressed.

That much time on my hands is never a good thing. When the only voice you hear is your own it is easy to have a biased opinion. All I could think about how screwed I was. I knew that the pneumonia would go away eventually but the kidney stuff was scaring me. At my current level of kidney function I was now stage 4. I was soon going to be as sick as I was before my transplant. But unlike before I felt none of the drive and determination I used to have to beat it. “Where did it go, where’s the old Bill?” my wife would later ask me. I didn’t know but this Bill was looking at dialysis, another transplant or a medical breakthrough if I was lucky. I was most certainly looking at finally (reluctantly) going on disability and the hope of getting the family back together under one roof was fading fast. For the first time in my life I didn’t give a shit. I had reached the bottom. A stared at my swollen legs, the omnipresent IV bag, the view from the window that doesn’t change and the depleted vein on my arm and thought “this is my life”.

As I sit on the sofa at my mother’s house, 100 miles away from my family I am still thinking the same thing.

how do I answer that?

“Sir I need you to answer that last question.”

How the hell do I answer that? She was a cute little thing, one of the many 21-25 year old LNA’s that have been parading in and out of my room prepping this and cleaning that. She thinks I didn’t hear her but truth is I was just put off by the question.
“Sir, it’s a standard question we have to ask, and you need to answer it. Have you recently thought of harming yourself?” Today? I thought to myself. Does the fact that I have started writing my own obituary count? Or that I instructed my youngest son that I want him to play Soulshine at my funeral? I shouldn’t have done that, I needlessly worried him. The longer I wait to answer the question the less convincing I will be.

“No.” Too much time has passed to maintain credibility. If she were a lawyer I would get the chair. Well, it’s official I am now what I detest, a liar. But if I told the truth, that if I owned a gun or had a spare bottle of Oxy’s we wouldn’t be here today, I would certainly have the hospital shrink and priest in my room.

Give yourself a break, you’re sick. I yell at myself to shut up, I’m not in the excuse making mood. I’ve been sick for years and I have always gotten by. Now I am sick(er), broke, separated, living in a friend’s guest room and most likely unemployed. I’ve only worked there for 6 weeks and now I’m in the hospital and the pattern continues. I get well, I get back to work, I get sick and I lose my job. By all (my own) measures of manhood I’m a 52 year old fucking failure. Financially, Maritally, and Vocationally I was at my lowest point ever.
But your kids love you. Yes, that’s true. That’s one thing I have gotten right. I put in the work in that department and it has paid off. They are great kids and wanting to see them get married and have their own family is what keeps me going.

I got up to go to the men’s room. Screw calling the nurse, I’ll unhook the IV tower and drag it with me. Any thrill of having a cute nurse come in will be negated by the look she gives me when she sees me from behind in this ridiculous hospital gown. Chicks don’t dig me anymore, I’m almost a “sir” and not far from being a creepy old man to them. The walk, all six feet from the bathroom to my bed, proved to be exhausting. I coughed so hard, so violently that I threw up into my hand. Yeah, this is fun I thought to myself. Pneumonia. The added bonus, my new kidney is failing at a faster rate than thought. I wasn’t really prepared for that. I am showing levels of kidney function that I haven’t seen since before my transplant. 4 1/2 good years and now I need another kidney. Yay me.
After another coughing fit I am exhausted and my head hurts. I instinctively reach for my Superman emblem pendant on my chain. I rolled it in my fingers. Well Superman you’ve finally reached that point, your world is collapsing and there isn’t a phone booth anywhere to dash into. Good thing I need time to think because that is one thing I have plenty of right now.

to be continued