Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Diane, We Hardly Knew Ye

My beloved dialysis nurse, Diane King, has been trying to reach me all week. We've been playing telephone tag, deluxe edition. I naturally assumed she was calling to congratulate me on my recent lab results. My potassium levels were deemed "Very Good," and I received the coveted gold star for my outstanding phosphorus report!

If only that was the news Diane had called to discuss.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving DaVita," she announced, in her ever-cheerful lilt.


"And Illinois."



Clearly I was not hearing the words I was hearing. My own personal AWWOE (Angel Who Walks On Earth), the woman who literally took me by the hand and taught me how to dialyze myself, who came to my home to prepare me for the process – who has drawn my blood and analyzed my urine, for goodness sakes (and there aren't many ways you can get more personal than that!) – my lifesaver woman is announcing that she's leaving me – uh, leaving town?

Say it ain't so, Lady Di!

                                             Diane and me, in happier times.

It's so.

Her husband, a minister, is semi-retired, which allows the couple some geographic flexibility. Diane has found a job with a home Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) firm in Modesto, Calif., where she can be nearer to their son, who's also a minister, and her baby granddaughter. Awwww. How can anybody be upset about that?


Suddenly (so as to date myself), my mind cues up the lyrics of To Sir, With Love. "A friend who taught me right from wrong, and weak from strong/That's a lot to learn....." Although I guess in this version, I would be playing the part of handsome young Sidney Poitier and Diane would be warbling as Lulu. She's a lulu, all right.

Diane tells me her position as my primary dialysis nurse will be taken by some German woman. I tell her I will try to keep an open mind and not be frightened.

"The hardest thing is going to be leaving all my patients," Diane says.

No, Diane. The hardest thing will be us patients going on without you. Godspeed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brace(let) Yourself

Well, I received my shiny new medical ID bracelet in the mail last week, and it's a beaut. Sweet.

It occurred to me that if I was going to be spouting off about kidneys all the time like this, it might be a good idea to become semi-legit. So I sent in an application and donation to the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, and in return the foundation sent me a spiffy silver medic alert bracelet with a red hexagon in the center and that snake wrapped around a stick, so in case I get bonked on the head or become otherwise unable to communicate everybody around me will know I'm not what you'd call 100 percent healthy.

On the back of the bracelet there's room for five tiny lines of engraved text. I consulted with my AWWOE (Angel Who Walks On Earth), DaVita dialysis nurse Diane King, to determine what those lines should say.

We agreed upon my name (although I probably could have figured that out on my own);
 Jim McFarlin 
my treatment;
Peritoneal Dialysis

the name of my nephrologist (though his full name, Abdel-Moneim Attia, is too long to fit on one line so we decided to shorten it to            
Dr. Abdel Attia     
I hope they can find him in a pinch);

his phone number, unnecessary here;          

and my only known allergy.                             

I now have four bracelets on my right wrist. I'm starting to feel like a Jamaican. In addition to the new silver lifesaver, I have the brown beaded bracelet with the butterfly in the center that our 10-year-old, Madison, made for me early in our relationship. I can't imagine taking that off anytime soon; maybe when she gets married. And yes, real men can wear butterflies.

Then there's the bright blue-and-green rubber bracelet I wear from AFSP, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (http://www.afsp.org). It's a cause I support and a bracelet I wear on behalf of Jake Kaidan, a beautiful and engaging teen who took his own life four years ago, devastating his mother and my dear friend Lisa Johnson and her husband, Frank. I don't think there's anything that affects me more deeply or intensely than teen suicide. What an incredibly tragic waste.

And there's the simple green plastic strand I wear because Madison thought it matched the color of the AFSP band. I use it to remind me to stay green (I'm a committed – some might say fanatical – recycler) and to make more green stuff any way I can. Wouldn't it be funny if emergency medical people couldn't find the medic alert bracelet amid all the other bangles? 

Hey, wait! That wouldn't be funny at all!