No, he's not a mad or evil doctor, although in keeping with the eerie and bloody theme of my Halloween week that certainly would be appropriate.
Actually, Dr. Michael Neuwirth is a very friendly and forthcoming fellow – and since he's the man who someday will insert a semi-permanent tube through my belly and into the peritoneal lining of my abdomen, his cheerful personality makes me happy, too.
Karen and I met recently with Dr. Neuwirth (no relation to the actress Bebe – I know because I asked, which should give you an idea of how our conversation went), the chief of interventional radiology for Carle Clinic. I'm not sure, but I think "interventional" in this case is medical-speak for "I'm gonna stick something in ya."
This meeting was simply a consultation, a "how you doin', glad to meet you" session. None of us have any idea when I will need to begin dialysis – the kidney function numbers will tell us that – but people around here are big on preparation and information, so my nephrologist, Dr. Attia, set up this get-together so I would have an idea of what to expect.
Whenever it happens, the operation will be an outpatient procedure performed while I'm under heavy drugs (yay!) and take about two hours to complete. I get to pick the side where the catheter will live, but Dr. Neuwirth says most people prefer the right side. (Which makes no sense to me, since most people are right handed.)
"I go in four fingers to the right of the belly button and two fingers up," he explained. "That's where I do it. I use ultrasound to look for the entryway in. I insert a needle and watch the needle the whole way, as it goes through the skin into your abdominal cavity. Then I insert a wire and the tube goes in over the wire.
"This is all done with image guidance, so I see what I'm doing the whole time. I don't just open you up, stick a tube in and close you up. I do this with X-ray vision."
He's done this procedure hundreds of times, he says, and I feel really good about the fact that when the time comes, Dr. Neuwirth will be performing the surgery. I don't know, I guess you could call it....
Wait for it....
A gut feeling.