The Dialysis Blues And How A Kind Gesture Changes Everything

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In March of 2007, quite a bit of life happened in a short amount of time.  I quit my job on the 6th, went to the hospital to start dialysis on the 7th, and scheduled for discharge on the 9th to start work at my new job two weeks later.  Then a whole lot of things went all kinds of wrong.

The fistula in my left arm was accidentally infiltrated with a needle by the nurse.  My very 1st experience with dialysis. Yeah!  Infiltrated means:  the needle the nurse inserted went through my fistula, vs. into my fistula for dialysis.  (Warning: it’s about to get real real.)

Blood shot out of my arm like a geyser.  All over my arm, sheet, me, the nurse, and the floor.  Her eyes were so big, and I was strangely calm. Staring as my blood kept making it’s debut I thought, “Wow, this is weirdly funny.”

The nurse panicked, friends of mine were outside my room chatting as I was bleeding out.  A call for backup, gauze and more gauze, “Mr. Lane I am so sorry”, “Where’s the spankin’ tape”, and I was patched up.  She held my hand and apologized profusely.  Her holding my hand made a huge difference.  Onto the next day, where again, I bleed my own blood!



The Next Day (Or “I Knew I Should Have Escaped”)

The next day, I was scheduled to have a a catheter placed in my spankin’ neck!  Dialysis had to happen to keep my 8 foot tall self alive, and since my left arm with the fistula was swollen like Popeye, my neck was the next option until my arm healed.

I can’t tell you how much I did not want anything surgically implanted into my neck, but apparently when medical science is trying to keep you alive, you don’t have much say so.

My man James came that day as they wheeled me into surgery.  “Oh, I’m going to be awake for this?”  “Oh, your going to stick the second biggest needle I have ever seen into my neck to numb me to the pain of the surgery.” Ummm, if I were wearing pants, I think I would have tried to make a run for it.  “Security, we have a naked black man wearing black dress socks with wires sticking out of his body running through the hospital. Be advised!”

I felt like Frankenstein as the Doc started working on my neck.  It took quite a while because, if you haven’t guessed it, I’m a bleeder and it wasn’t connecting correctly (part of the catheter went down my jugular into my heart. Fun!)

One of the nurses, of her own accord, held my hand during all this.  She had the nicest British accent and told me it was going to be okay.  This made me feel so much better.  My fears, calmed. Until…



A Bloody Timeout

An alarm went off, I was quasi patched up, placed in a wheelchair, put into a corner and was told not to touch my neck or move. An elderly gentleman was having a heart attack in the room next to me and everyone ran to assist.

There I sat, with apparatus sticking out of my neck, and then the blood came. Slowly, a crimson stream flowed down my chest and started collecting into my belly button.  “Don’t touch anything” the nurse had told me. Umm…

I started laughing at the craziness of the situation. Then I started singing to push back against the fear starting to overtake me.  Blood, laughter, and song, such a strange cocktail early on a Thursday morning.

The man was stabilized, I was removed from timeout and patched up.  I dialyzed through the catheter in my neck for the first time that afternoon, and I was discharged about a week later.

(Side note:  I was informed not to get my catheter wet because, like Gremlins, bad things would happen. Two months later, I was at a funeral in the rain and, yup, bad things later happened. Another story for another time.)



We Are Made For Each Other

All of our showmanship of disguise is peeled back in the face of whatever hardship we are facing.  Our humanity shines through, connecting us through our words, through a timely hug or outstretched hand.

We prepare in the quiet moments, in the peaceful times we become complacent or strengthen our resolve through faith, through connecting with ourselves and other people.  So many of my friends came to visit and sit with me during this 10 day hospital stay.  (Two of my friends, on two different visits, snuck me a Frosty from Wendy’s.  If you are admitted to the hospital, have your people hook you up with a Frosty. Trust me on this.)

Calm comes from a place outside of us to sit with us like an old friend.  A gentle touch, a friendly hand can make such a difference. That’s why telling someone to be calm is much less effective than being with someone, holding their hand and telling them it’s going to be okay.

Have you experienced something like this, someone holding your hand or you holding someone’s hand in the middle of a bad situation?



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  • Thanks for the post. You are right that people are designed to help and be helped by others. We aren’t supposed to do life on our own. I am glad you got the gentle assurance you needed during that extrememly difficult time.

    You were a comfort to me during my most difficult time. You are a blessing to me and to many people.

  • Ah, that hideous stretch of chaos. How amazing that a touch from a stranger can make that into such a different experience.

    Mine was not a horrible medical experience, but I remember standing on campus walk, crying to a friend over fear and frustration for another friend’s life situation and God bless him, Timotheos (who I knew but had never spoken to, and vice versa) was walking by. He stopped, put a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, nodded and went on his way. No words but a full conversation. I know he walked away praying for it. But something about a virtual stranger’s hand on my shoulder made all the difference in knowing that it would be … okay. Go figure.

    Here’s to reaching out a touching someone – in a small way that might be exactly what they need to get through the day.

  • Thank you for this wonderful piece sir. What you said struck something inside of me in a very positive way. I am a dialysis nurse here in the Philippines and I can relate to what you’ve been through. Your words really inspired me to become a better nurse to my patients.

    Godbless you sir and take care! =)

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