View from Room 327

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.

~ Stephen

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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19 Responses to View from Room 327

  1. Marian says:

    Wow… So grateful to hear you are safely out of the hospital. And thank you for taking the time to update us and explain what happened – I really admire your attitude towards this. Still praying they figure out what’s going on.

    • Thank you, Marian. Me, too. Although I’m told I’m an excellent candidate for a transplant, given my overall good health (especially the lack of diabetes, the kidney-killer), I’d hate to have a good kidney placed in me only to fall to the same ailment. In the meantime I’m going to double down on pursuing good health. I need to fight this with every bit of ammunition I can find!n

  2. Angela says:

    Hello, you don’t know me, I’m just some rando that usually hangs out on Goodreads and that’s how I came across your blog. I’ve read your reviews for years and find them inspiring. (although tbh, I’m pretty envious of your reading speed) I like how it seems you read to help you figure out life. Anyway, when I came across your post about your sickness, I was very worried and it makes me happy that you seem to be adjusting to your new situation. I hope everything goes well for you and keep throwing out positive light into the internet ether!

  3. Happy to hear this good news. Take good care of yourself!

  4. Cyberkitten says:

    Can I be yet another person to say.. WOW! When you went ‘off air’ for a while I did get a bit worried about you. Good to see it was tech issues rather than health issues!! It did all sound rather worrying so I’m impressed by your attitude to it all. I do hope that they can figure things out and get you back to 100% fitness *soon*.

    • Thanks! By the weekend I was tempted to give a friend I trusted my password, just so they could post something here on my behalf. (‘Ee’s not dead! ‘E Feels happpyyyy’ — well, not so much.). It’s no fun being a medical mystery, but I went through the whole “falling apart” thing last Monday and Tuesday. Now I’m just trying to play the cards I’ve been given.

      • Cyberkitten says:

        I do so hate it when a medical professional examines you and says…. Oh, *THAT’S* interesting…. NOT a good feeling there! But at least you’re out of the Hospital which is a good thing plus you’re a LOT closer to a keyboard now! [grin]

      • Yes, I’d rather not be at the forefront of medical science. Let me have something boring whose mysteries have already been plumbed and remedies exposed!

        I’ve sat behind a keyboard almost every day since 1998, so suddenly not having access to one — and having to crawl my way through the internet by tapping on a phone — is almost like losing a limb. The “flow” just isn’t there without a board!

  5. I’ve been praying for you, Stephen. I will continue to do so.

    Now on another subject. Dude, you are such a good writer. Have you considered putting your thoughts together and getting published? You need to. Especially with all you’re going through now.

    And how you lost weight. Who knew you had that background once. That by itself is inspiring.

    If you every do publish, let me know. I’d buy it. Heck, I’d even help you promote it. I’m learning to do that now (trial and error, very slowly) with some books I’m getting ready to publish.

    All the best and blessings for healing,


    • Aww! Thank you, Sharon! That means a lot. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, at least since middle school, and even considered becoming a journalist. My then-lack of people skills scared me off of it, and these days journalism seems like a profession whose days are numbered along with steam engineers.. 😦 I continually look for opportunities to put my love for writing to use. One topic I could see working on is the history of some of Selma’s lost buildings, especially the Hotel Albert which I’ve researched extensively.

      ^^ I don’t think I can embed images into comments, but try copy/pasting that into your
      The weight loss happened from autumn 2011 to spring 2012 — it was VERY dramatic. I wasn’t even trying to lose weight at first…the doctor put me on a low-salt diet to combat blood pressure, and when I started avoiding processed foods and started walking (another anti-high HP measure), I was losing 3-5 lbs a week. Unfortunately that rate stopped around 206 and I’ve struggled to break past it ever since. It’s not a bad weight for someone my height, but I would like to get to 185 or thereabouts…

      • I wasn’t going to ask you to put a before and after photo, although I was curious to see the change. You and my husband both have the same weight goals. It is so hard to lose weight. And while getting sick helps a lot, it’s not the way to.

        Please keep us updated on your condition.

  6. I meant to say say, I wasn’t going to ask but glad you did. You’re a handsome cuss. (I can say that because I’m old enough to be your mother.)

  7. I’ve been wondering what was happening and if you’re doing okay. All we can do is take life one day at a time, it’s so true! And speaking from experience, sometimes health challenges can make you appreciate life in ways you never imagined. Do take care and keep that positive attitude!

  8. lydiaschoch says:

    I somehow missed this post earlier this month.

    Glad to hear you’re out of the hospital! How are you doing these days?

    • I’m doing as well as can be hoped for, I think. I haven’t been able to get back to the gym yet, but otherwise life is almost back to normal, aside from the diet. I have to be very restrictive about some of my favorite items (potatoes, tomatoes, okra….) now. Thanks for asking!

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