A Day On Dialysis

Three days a week, I go to dialysis. On those days, I have preparations I have to do, every time. I have a dialysis bag, with pillows and a blanket, because dialysis is exhausting and I usually wind up falling asleep about halfway through. I have my tablet, because it usually takes me a couple of hours before I fall asleep, and I need something to read or watch until then. I have to either make myself a lunch or go someplace to get a lunch, because dialysis makes me hungry, as well, and if I don’t have something in my stomach through treatment, I’ll throw up (always such fun, right?).

bc1dfb6ea57711e3a434127828ff3a77_6Tammy | Tammy J Rizzo

An hour and a half before we are supposed to arrive at the clinic, I have to put on my numbing cream, so I won’t feel the HUGE HONKIN’ NEEDLES they have to put into my access. Have you SEEN these monsters? And I have to have TWO of them shoved into my arm for treatment. Half an hour before we are to leave the house, I have to wake up my sister if she doesn’t get up in time by herself, because she, too, has dialysis at the same time and place as I do, and she likes to shower JUST before leaving. Her sleeping schedule is one major reason why I usually end up buying my lunch instead of bringing it, because she will need to buy her breakfast anyway, so since we’re stopping I might as well get my own lunch, too, right? A burger or some other fast food sure does taste better than salami on rye, anyway.

And, of course, I have to have my snacks and drink, because after I’ve finished my lunch, I still need to keep my stomach from going empty, because dialyzing on an empty stomach is a real good way to throw up. The staff at the clinic really don’t like cleaning up puke all the time, so I have learned from experience to graze for the first two hours, even after I’ve had my lunch. And that’s about when I fall asleep anyway, so that’s good. By the time I doze off, my stomach is well-fortified with protein and carbs so I won’t hurl during my nap. I’ve done that, and it’s no fun.

After all this preparation, I’m certainly ready to sit in my dialysis chair and relax for a few hours. My treatment runs for four whole hours, during which time I’m strapped into my oversized-and-uncomfortable recliner chair, with those two monster needles in one arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other. I’m lucky; my dialysis graft is located on my upper arm. My sister’s graft is on her forearm, and located in such a way that she cannot move that arm once the needles are in place. I can move my arm, I can use my hand, I can bend my arm for brief periods of time. My sister used to knit during dialysis, until she got her graft. Now she sits and watches TV instead, going slowly bonkers because she can’t move her access arm. If I had ever learned to like knitting, I might have made several afghans by now at dialysis, but I really never did learn to enjoy knitting. It bunches me up and tenses everything. I can’t relax into it at all. So I read on my tablet and listen to music, or watch movies or the like on my tablet, or on the clinic’s TV that each chair is equipped with. I prefer Netflix to the clinic’s TV; they don’t offer movie channels, only cable with commercials. I had forgotten how much I disliked commercials until I tried to watch “Dredd” on SpikeTV a few weeks ago, and it was interrupted every five minutes with commercials. The movie took three hours to play, and it wasn’t even a full two hours long in the first place. At least on Netflix, I don’t have commercials.

After dialysis, we leave for home and I’m wiped out. Sometimes I even need help getting myself from the car to the house, let alone lugging my dialysis bag and my oxygen canister along with me. One time recently, I was so knackered after treatment that it took my brother and my nephew TWO stages to get me from the car to my bedroom, with a layover at the dining room table to sit and catch my breath. And then I’m hungry again, and I need to eat right away or throw up again, and then it’s often straight to bed for me for a much-needed nap before bedtime. Yes, that’s a thing, napping before going to bed. I have pills I need to take with dinner, and pills I need to take at bedtime, and they need at least a few hours between them.

Then I get a day off, which is often filled with doctor’s appointments or the like, and then it’s back to dialysis again.

This is my life.