THE ROUTINE – PART DEUX
When I left you all last time, before Helene provided her perspective and before my little wine tangent and book review tangent, I was talking about my hospital routine during those days that my remaining “good” kidney was trying to pull itself up by the boot straps. I will, by the way, keep travelling along those tangents more regularly in due course, but first, let’s return to the hospital for a little bit.
The Choice – So, it’s morning, I’ve eaten breakfast, and I’m not yet well enough to walk or do much. It then becomes a choice between reading the newspaper and watching TV. Now remember, I have to make that paper last for the next 18 hours or so, which is not that easy – it’s mainly pictures. For those of you who are too young to remember or are overseas and never really knew, this paper – the Herald Sun (affectionately known by some as The Hun) – actually used to be called The Sun News Pictorial. Its name has now changed. Its quality – well, what can I say? …… the pictures are better?
Morning Television – So I invariably choose TV. Morning TV in Melbourne is awesome! NOT! Remember, there are five channels. Two of them have absolutely identical morning magazine-type shows. When I say identical, I’m not kidding. A handsome man and an attractive woman anchoring, making little snide remarks at each other, all in good spirits. Another attractive woman sits at a desk on the side and is a touch more serious because she presents the news. And a number of outside correspondents present little snippets of “interesting” information about the latest diets or the latest houses which have blown away in a freak wind or whatnot.
And just to annoy us poor punters at home – or in the hospital – the shows seem to be totally synchronised with each other. When one has an ad break, the other one does too. So if you’re a channel surfer like I am, there is no escape from the ads.
Two of the other channels have children’s shows. But where are most children at this time? On their way to or already at school! So, these shows aren’t meant for those little sophisticates. No, they’re aimed at pre-schoolers. Innocent little cartoons on one, and on the other – bright and bubbly young men and women dressed in bright and bubbly colourful overalls speaking in bright and bubbly tones with constant wide bright and bubbly smiles….. and talking about bright and bubbly things like Wheels of Busses Going Round and Round and Bananas in Pyjamas Coming Down Some Stairs!
And finally, we have a channel which has good, serious, hard-hitting, and credible news ………. in Greek, or Chinese, or Turkish!!
An hour or so later, I’d wake up!!!
And so the mornings would go – look at some pictures, watch some TV, doze off, wake up – on and on. They were going to bore my kidney into submission. Zis time, Herr Kidney, you vill get better or ve vill beam more Australian morning television at you!!!!
My Parents’ Visits – By now it’s lunchtime. I looked forward to this time because that’s when my parents come for their daily visit. This whole drama was hardest on them. My father is 82 and my mother turned 80 four days before my first surgery. Now they are pretty healthy and very fit and get around really well. But this whole thing really knocked them about. First, the suddenness of it – you know, one day we’re preparing for my mum’s 80th birthday party, the next day I’ve got the Big C and I’m getting ready for an operation. Second, the magnitude of it, especially the kidney failure. Well if it scared the shit out of us, you can imagine what it did to them.
They came every single day at around noon. If I was asleep they’d just sit there and I’d wake up and see them, and I knew all was right with the world. We wouldn’t necessarily talk a lot, and they didn’t always stay long, but it was one part of my daily routine that kept me sane.
My father, who I’m convinced must have wanted to be a doctor back in the day, would ask about all my numbers – What’s the creatinine level today? Are they checking platelets? And he absolutely loved that Hospital Hand Wash Gel thingy, a bottle of which was in every room. He’d use it every 10 minutes or so.
My mother would come in, say hi, and then disappear to the hospital cafeteria for 15 minutes to get a snack, I suppose. One day, after not having had a good coffee for about 4 weeks, I pleaded with her to bring me one. I really had to beg because she wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I finally convinced her that one little cup wouldn’t hurt, and she returned with it. It was the best long black I’d ever had, although if I were you, I wouldn’t go rushing off to the Cabrini hospital cafeteria for a coffee. It is possible that my judgement might have been slightly impaired at the time…..
The Afternoon – After lunch, just for a change, I’d usually take another nap, and then get stuck into the afternoon TV – basically old cop shows and more news bulletins. I’d also try getting excited by the Herald Sun’s daily quiz and crossword and Sudoku puzzles. Are you getting sleepy yet, dear reader? I am, just remembering those days!!
Treatment & Recovery – Throughout this time, I’d have my blood pressure taken hourly, my blood sugar taken every two hours, and full blood work done twice a day. And since I was still having some kind of magic fluid continuously pumped into me intravenously, they had to tend to the cannula – the sharp needly thingy that gets inserted into the vein and attached to a tube. Hospital policy is that the cannula has to be taken out and changed to the other arm every three days. This recannulation process could take anywhere between five minutes and half an hour depending on the experience of the nurse. It could get quite funny because with both cannulation and full blood tests, another hospital policy is that you only get three goes at it. If you don’t succeed in those three, you have to call another nurse or doctor and let them have a go. It reminded me of a baseball game and every time they didn’t get it into my vein correctly, I’d quietly whisper “Steerike One!” or “Steerike Two!” under my breath. I never pitched a no-hitter, but I reckon I had a pretty healthy ERA…
And importantly, my creatinine level did start going down. If you remember, a healthy level is between 60 and 110 µmol/L (don’t ask me what those units actually mean!). Mine was at around 450 µmol/L at the beginning of this adventure. By the time I was really present to what was going on, Marco (the renal magician) had managed to get it down to around 200 µmol/L; and every day, it went down a little further.
I also started feeling better every day. In fact, the more bored I was getting, the more I knew my health was improving. Interestingly, I’ve found this period the hardest to write about, and I think the reason is precisely because once I started improving everything tended towards routine – tedious, boring…
I still had my moments, but by the end of May it started looking like I was going to pull through!!