If you knew me before this blog, there is a good chance you have already read this, but if not, it gives insight to my husband Albert's condition! I was taking a speech class last summer and one of the assignments was to interview someone. I was lucky enough to have someone right in my house whom was interesting enough to write a speech about....so without further a do!
I have chosen someone very close to me to interview. I wanted someone that could teach through the experience, someone that is able to open the eyes of those around without even realizing what has been done. That person is my husband, Al.This interview was conducted at 9:30 am Monday morning, the beginning of the work week. Al is hooked up to his machine, he is almost through his 6th cycle. This is after 12 hours of being hooked up. He will get off the machine within the hour, and head off to work, to complete a day as a hardworking man, supporting his family.You may wonder what this machine is that I am talking about. I will tell you. My husband, is a dialysis patient. Dialysis is a life line.
Al grew up in a family of four. A mom, dad and a brother who is only 14 months younger than he is. When asked about his childhood, he had fond memories of the times he and his brother would reenact the fight scenes in Popeye. Al was an athletic type too! He loved gathering friends through "pick up games" which translates to calling everyone in the neighborhood, if they "pick up the phone" the details of the game would be given. Most times it would lead to everyone meeting up in a field to play a rough game of tackle football or an intense game of baseball! Al had quite a smile on his face remembering the fun times he had as a child, and when asked to recall his favorite memory, he mentioned Christmas. He loved getting the presents that go along with the holiday and he enjoyed spending a lot of time with family. We both laughed at the fact that recalling these memories only reminded him that he is still a child at heart!!
Al became very sick while growing up. I asked him to explain in detail what happened.Maybe a week before I got sick, I didn't feel right, I felt like something was really wrong. I finally started getting symptoms, cold symptoms, started really stuffy, then I got deathly ill. Finally after a week of being sick, I started throwing up about 20 times a day, I was white as a ghost, and I was sitting in front of a heater all day long, I was really really really cold, I would have it full blast and I was still cold. We called in to the doctor, I was given medication. Finally, I went into the doctor's office, we took blood, the doctor said, GO TO THE ER IMMEDIATELY. That was from one quick test. I got to the hospital, had more labs done, We were told that it was critical. I was then airlifted to Loyola. It was like a ton of bricks. My kidneys were failing, toxins were SO high in my body. They were telling us that I should technically be dead.
I was in Loyola for weeks, but it felt like months, ….on a machine, constantly running. Two hemodyalisis ports were put in, one in each shoulder, just drawing and draining all the toxins from my blood. It was very uncomfortable when they put them in, they go into your collarbone, putting the port into the vessels inches from the heart, "I was awake, when they put them in"
When I came home, I now had three ports. The two that were put in at first, had to remain in place as a back up, and a new one in my belly to perform peritoneal dialysis at home. "In PD a soft tube like catheter is used to fill your abdomen with a cleansing liquid called dialysis solution. The walls of your abdomen cavity are lined with a membrane called the peritoneum, which allows waste products and extra fluid to pass from your blood into the dialysis solution. The solution contains a sugar called dextrose that will pull wastes and extra fluid into the abdominal cavity. These wastes and fluids then leave your body when the dialysis solution is drained. The used solution, containing wastes and extra fluid, is then thrown away. The process of draining and filling is called an exchange and takes about 30-40 minutes. The period the dialysis solution is in your body is called the dwell time." Quoted from the Internet.
When I was asking him details of various parts of this time, he had a hard time recalling details. We concluded that he had blocked a lot of this experience from his memory.
Al's next challenge came when he was told he would need a kidney transplant.
His dad was tested to be a kidney donor for him. He said from the very beginning he would do it if he was a match, and it turned out he was almost a perfect match! This was a topic that Al spoke of very fondly. Al stated he was uplifted to hear that his dad would be his donor, and he was excited to live a normal life again! He also said he felt embarrassed that someone would have to donate one of their organs to keep him alive. After a successful transplant came the recovery. As soon as Al got out of surgery, he was in so much pain, and the drugs administered for the procedure are equivalent to heroine withdrawl when you are waking up. He remembered snapping at his brother, just for innocently tapping his foot in the ICU.The next day after the transplant, he was up and moving around, he felt good and his energy was coming back more and more everyday. He was able to come home from the hospital about 5 days after surgery. Full recovery occurred about 4 months post operation.
Al became sick again almost 2 years ago. The dynamic of his life was a little different this time. He was a married man, he had a 3 year old daughter, and was working at a local company as one of the best electricians they had. He started feeling the familiar symptoms of kidney failure again. He felt himself getting angry with his body and he just "had a feeling". Transplanted kidney's only last for a period of time, and Al had exceeded that. His eyes began to turn yellowish. People noticed his skin color changing to a gray tone. After some persuasion, he ended up in his doctor's office, having blood work done. Even though he knew he was going to hear it, when the words "Your kidneys are failing" left the doctor's mouth, he was in denial and didn't quite accept it. At the same time, he was horrified. A flood of questions came into his mind. How would he continue to support his family? Does he want to have another transplant? Or does he want to live the rest of his life on dialysis, feeling sick and uncomfortable?
Some of these questions remained unanswered. Al has been on dialysis now for what will be 2 years in November. He has continued working incredibly hard to pay bills and he has added another child to the family, a little boy born in February of this year.
These are the things he is most proud of. Being on dialysis is a commitment you don't get much of a choice in. He has only allowed that to be one part of who he is!
A person that has lived a life that tests strength often, is a person that has a right to share wisdom with others, from a perspective that not many can see. When I asked Al to put into words one thing that he would like to share, he was able to conclude quite clearly. "Enjoy your life to the absolute fullest. Don't forget to spoil yourself once in a while. And make sure the person you are with loves you!"