The day after Christmas I went into the hospital for outpatient surgery to have a peritoneal dialysis (PD) catheter placed. So last time, you read about how it ended up that Jeff was right about the stay. So after a few days in the hospital, I had a reaction to the Phenergan given for nausea. Mom and Jeff were in the room, and I remember saying, “Mom, I see big people on the ceiling. They look like those people painted on the side of the building in Lancaster (SC). I think they are here to protect me, like angels.” I don’t know how she held it together, with her 37-year-old married daughter talking of guardian angels, but she did. Then I remember watching my toes move without my intention. “Look, my toes are moving! I’m not controlling it.” I remember being enthused. Mom and Jeff were not as amused. Then I had hallucinations and lost all control of my body and tongue. I screamed and cursed and could not control my flailing arms and legs. But dialysis in a hospital runs on a tight schedule. Only a few beds are available, and if several patients need to be treated in a day, schedules must be maintained. Dr. Peterson masterfully did dialysis in the groin with one needle stick. I remember Bobbi Jo, the nurse, forcibly tried to contain me and said, “Look at me Elizabeth. Look into my eyes.” But the doctor said that would make me fight worse. Thinking back, I wonder how I remember those two things so vividly, but nothing else is clear. I suppose at the time, I was in fight or flight mode, and I fought something I could neither see nor control. But at some point I calmed down. Perhaps they gave me some drugs to counteract the problem.
Next I remember the conversations of several people I knew in my hospital room, real people this time! I was hyper and my great friend Bridget who managed to save the day with a trash can during the previous hospital visit suggested Jeff hold me. She knew that Jeff could fix anything by holding me. He climbed in bed with me and held me close. Bridget corralled everyone out of the room. When I woke up, things seemed much improved. I went home the next day, but not before I entertained my friends in ways that I do not remember. One friend, in particular, loves regaling me with stories of my impropriety and OCD tendencies. I wanted the TV remote clean “the way Granny likes it”. My dad’s mom was persnickety, and she was a nurse. There was one way to do things: her way, and it was the right way! And apparently I had the time to sit and enjoy reading an invisible newspaper. But with a room full, I was fully aware that I should have been wearing a bra. What good friend wouldn’t remind me later in a restaurant that I sat, breast in hands, saying, “Hmph. I need a bra.” Wow. I guess modesty, or some form thereof, doesn’t leave when our presence of mind does.
Mom took me to outpatient dialysis a couple of times, to get me through until the PD catheter could be used. Here’s a story that I probably shouldn’t repeat, but it proves that you just CAN’T anticipate some things. I had my period when I went for another groin dialysis. And a cough dislodged my – um – tampon. The poor nurse—God bless her—Bobbi Jo, had to retrieve the thing and get me a blue pad to protect the bed. Mom, always the practical one, asked in all sincerity, “Beth, why didn’t you bring a spare?” Frankly, I didn’t anticipate a four-hour treatment requiring a new tampon while I lay perfectly flat! And if I had, I couldn’t manage the obvious next step if I had one. I’m sure that sweet nurse would have told me I was on my own for that task! It’s not a suppository.
And that was NOT the last time I had to go in to the hospital for that special kind of dialysis, and it was NOT the last time I saw that nurse, Mary Jo. Poor woman had to handle me screeching like a harpy out of my wits in a Phenergan reaction and then handle my soiled feminine hygiene product. I bet she doesn’t get paid enough.
If you or someone you care about is facing dialysis, please share your experiences and concerns. This is a forum for learning and inspiration.