Annnnnnnnnnnd I’m out! Free! Very much walking wounded, very much in possession of a radically altered life — but I’m out, out in the air and under the sun, free to walk without a beeping, hissing IV bag following me, free to take a Tylenol without waiting for an hour for the doctor’s permission. I’m back behind a keyboard and it feels so good.
I read quite a bit when I was inside, but I’ll share some thoughts on that a little later. For now I wanted to provide an update for those of you who have been following my scattered updates here. The hospital’s wifi didn’t work, and my LTE connection failed on Friday, so I’ve been offline for several days now — hence my radio silence more recently.
I knew back as early as 2017 that my kidneys were not as healthy as other people’s; at the suggestion of my doctor, I had an ultrasound that indicated they were only operating about half as effectively as they should for a person of my age. The nephrologist speculated that they’d been damaged when I was morbidly obese (a status that ended in late 2011), and that provided my blood pressure stayed at a healthy level, I should still be able to enjoy a healthy, normal life; kidneys are fairly resilient, he said.
In recent months, and particularly in the last month, my health had fallen dramatically. I am am active, energetic guy with a gym membership who despite knees and ankles damaged by obesity, moves faster than virtually everyone else in Wal-Mart. Because I have personal experience with obesity and hypertension, I maintain a fairly healthy diet, with few indulgences — my ardent love for Mexican food being one of them. Despite this, however, I seemed to be falling apart — with crippling sinus headaches, chronic restless legs that destroyed any chance of sleep, forcing me to shamble through days on 3-4 hours of ersatz rest, obtained through sleeping pills. I was having frequent, inexplicable vomiting episodes — inexplicable because I never felt any stomach distress, and more often than not that I had these episodes when I was still in my early-morning fasting state. Multiple people commented that I was abnormally pale, and I felt as though I was freezing most every place I went; despite the high temperatures outside, I couldn’t make it through the work day without wearing a sweater.
I finally admitted that I needed to see the doctor; the restless legs were chronic, torturing me throughout the day and night, and I didn’t want to become dependent on sleeping pills. Maybe he could prescribe something like Requip — I didn’t want to take it,but….I had to. Something had to change, because my status in September was unsustainable. I was becoming a wreck.
My bloodwork alarmed my physician, who said my creatinine levels were twelve times their acceptable limit. He referred me to a specialist, a nephrologist, and on last Monday she looked at me and said, “You need to be in a hospital. Now. This afternoon.” I had an hour to to go home and pack a bag, which I did in a daze; I paid off my bills for the month, not thinking I’d be in the hospital for a long time but knowing I would miss my usual Friday financial reckoning. I made a few calls, saw a few people, and admitted myself to the hospital.
It was good that I did. Many of my body’s mineral counts were critically low; the doctors informed me that I was a seizure risk. They originally thought that one of my blood pressure pills had effectively starved my kidneys to death over the last decade, pushing me to drink more and urinate far more than necessary, bleeding myself of needed minerals. After an IV cured my hyponeutremia, though, my kindey function continued to decline. The doctors were confused. I didn’t have diabetes; my hypertension was well under control; I hadn’t been abusing any substances that would tend to destroy kidneys. Why were they failing?
That is…still unknown. I am an “Interesting” case, but one whose damage frustrates attempts to assay it. My kidneys proved too small and wasted to sample safely, so a biopsy was cancelled. I’m being referred to specialists at UAB, and in the meantime will be taking dialysis three times a week in the early mornings. Although I was horrified at that prospect — I saw what dialysis did to my grandfather — the outstanding nurses at Vaughan Regional talked me through my fears, and turned my dialysis sessions into periods to be looked forward to and even missed — I daresay the clinic I’ll be attending from now on does not have so many angels among its staff. Dialysis has a delayed effect on me, with the sudden weary sleepiness striking two to three hours later. Initially it also did strange things to my head, making me have near-hallucinations when I closed my eyes. I seem to be adjusting to it, though.
Life has suddenly become more challenging, but I will take it one day at a time. That’s all I can do. I will make the most of it. I now have nine dedicated reading hours in every week, and even if I am not able to work I will put the time to productive use by obtaining my IT certifications. I am optimistic that I will continue to be able to work, however.
Thank you all for your support, prayers, and kindly wishes in the last week. It’s been a humbling time for me, and I hope this strange twist in my life’s plot will give me a newfound appreciation for all the people in my life, and indeed for my life itself.