Nothing I imagined about what goes on inside those places, however, could have prepared me for the experience of what I lovingly term "Dialysis Boot Camp."
Because I chose the option of Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), which is self-administered at home instead of at a clinic, my DaVita nurse Diane King wanted to make absolutely certain I could perform the procedure on my own before giving her consent. So for the better part of an entire work week in December – from 9 a.m. to mid-afternoon Monday through Wednesday, a day off Thursday to stop my head from spinning from the overload of information and training, then a four-hour "final exam" Friday at our home – this sweet little woman who had guided me gently through the stages of my renal disease suddenly turned into a drill instructor. She became Sgt. Carter to my Gomer Pyle.
"I've been told I can be a little demanding in these sessions," Diane said softly on the first day. No kidding! It was like going to a job again! No, worse: It was like cramming for a master's degree in Dialysis in one week. She even gave quizzes!
Over and over again she drilled me on the steps involved in dispensing PD: Sanitizing the worktable; the seven essential items required to begin (bag of solution, thermometer, plastic clamps, mask, hand sanitizer, new end caps for my catheter, paper towels); inspecting the solution; preparing the bag; hand washing and sanitizing; connecting and disconnecting the bag of solution to my catheter.
We learned the difference between "sterile" and "clean." Every time I thought I was getting the hang of things, there were new details to absorb. My wife, Karen, and my mother-in-law, Linda, patiently sat through the entire ordeal with me. Whenever I felt as if my eyes were about to glaze over, I looked at Karen, who reassured me with her warm smile and compassionate eyes.
We created a "cheat sheet" so we can review the steps in case we forget something. And on "final exam" Friday, Diane visited our little house on the prairie, inspected the lighting, layout and area where the PD would be performed, and deemed us worthy to fly solo. I've been proud and happy to pass a lot of tests in my lifetime, but few that were actually a matter of life itself.
I can dialyze myself now, thank you. Let the cleansing process begin!