My nephrologist called me at work to tell me the results of my blood tests. He said he was obliged to tell me the statistical dangers. I think he was talking about the disease. Maybe it was the dangers of the biopsy. Anyway, one in a bazillion was death. Or maybe one in three million. I don’t remember. I was crying hysterically when I hung up. He apologized and said he wouldn’t have called me at work if he knew I would be so upset. I explained that he had just given me a death sentence, and he said that wasn’t the case. But it’s what I heard. I was 32. Biopsy. Kidney failure. Dialysis. Serious chances of death.
My grandmother died in 2000, and Jeff and I had plans to paint her house out of town during summer vacation. So I put off the biopsy until July. I didn’t really tell Jeff that I was concerned. I had plans. We had plans. And I wasn’t letting this kidney thing ruin that.
So in July, I had a biopsy. My mom and an aunt came up from their homes a couple of hours away. Jeff was away for military training. I was terrified of the IV; I hadn’t gotten to the part about being afraid of the biopsy. They said I would be in “twilight” during the procedure because I had to move from the bed to the X-ray table and back. The nurses insisted on placing the IV in my hand. I have had IVs in my hand, and it hurts from insertion to removal. I have small hands, and probably tiny veins.
It took a call to the doctor for Valium and several tries to get an IV in the opposite wrist. Finally we got to the biopsy after Mama and my aunt offered lots of cuddling, prayers and soothing words. We ended up getting a dialysis nurse to place the IV.
The funny thing is that I remember the biopsy. My doctor and an assistant—maybe a tech?—did the biopsy. They took a few samples. It is similar to a breast biopsy. The doctor asked if I wanted to see a sample. And I remember him showing me something and laughing when I said, “It looks like a booger!”
I stayed overnight in the hospital because I had a little more blood in my urine than they liked. During this stay, I found out I had a great friend. Only a GREAT friend would hold a trashcan while you projectile vomit from a drug allergy. My mom stayed around the clock. But she got lucky when she took that dinner break. Poor Bridget.
The doc called a week or so later to say that I was lucky. He said the biopsy revealed that my kidney was so “hot” that a month later I could have been on dialysis from IgA nephritis. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was never sick as a child. It turns out that my body makes too much of the antibody Immunoglobulin A that fends off bacteria, viruses and disease. And by my 30s, that same IgA was gunking up my kidneys and preventing them from properly cleaning my blood. And that’s when I was sicker with a virus than I had ever been.
I went to the office to see what the next step would be. Fortunately I had Jeff with me to try and understand what another nephrologist in the office told us about my prognosis and the “goal standard”.
Are you going through dialysis? Do you have questions? Comments? Please let me know. Details on dialysis are around the corner, and I’m sure we have common fears, thoughts and experiences. Check back Tuesday for more insight!