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The phone rings Part III: The Final Chapter

Two weeks ago today, I was in surgery receiving my new kidney. The hospital kicked me out in less than a week and over the last seven days I have divided my time between the transplant clinic and my sofa, with the occasional shuffle up to Sainsbury's to ensure the muscles in my legs don't atrophy. I've had the pleasure of a steady stream of visitors, all of whom have bought me yet more wonderful and totally unnecessary gifts – I have been royally spoilt and I am stupidly grateful to all of you.

The kidney itself appears to be going great guns. I was initially attending clinic on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and was committed to doing so, but the hospital are so pleased with me they are happy to start seeing me just twice a week. The pivotal result they test for is my level of creatinine, a substance that occurs naturally in the body as a result of muscle break down. The kidney filters out creatinine through the urine, therefore if there is lots present in the blood it is …

The phone rings: Part II

Anaesthetic can do weird things to you. It makes you sleepy (clearly) but in the past I have arrived back from surgery giddy as a chipmunk in spring. When I was wheeled back onto the ward after the transplant, I was not so much giddy as...suffering from delusions of psychosis. This was how I announced myself to Mum and Sam anyway, scaring the shit out of them in the process. I spent a wide-eyed half-hour protesting against the poison in my body before declaring, "I don't feel a shred of hope and I shall never be happy again".

 I remember only:
 1) being told the kidney was not producing urine, and consequently thinking the transplant had failed  2) that I had to stop myself asking the doctors to take the kidney out and  3) despising myself for my ingratitude. It was the first in a range of unexpected emotions I would feel over the coming week. 
After half an hour of drug-induced ranting I finally - mercifully - passed out.
Tuesday
When I wake up, a nurse is prepping a di…

The phone rings: Part I

When I open my eyes, I'm not sure where I am and I can't move. The last thing I remember is having an oxygen mask clamped over my mouth and being told to inhale; it was quick and traumatic and now I feel as if I have awoken in that very scene. I am freaking out. "Where am I? What's happened? What have you done to me?"

"You've had a kidney a transplant," says a genial Irish voice, as though this sort of thing happens every day.

Sunday, 6:10pm

It is 6pm and I am on my sofa, writing on my laptop with one eye on Dinner Date. I feel peckish, so I decide to make myself some bulgar wheat and peas (don't ask) and watch the Strictly results - it's about time Dave goes, the joke has worn thin. The phone rings. A man with heavily accented English asks to speak to "Rosa....Rosymend....Edwards?" and I am about to tell him I am not interested in whatever he is hawking, the words are about to roll off my tongue, when he introduces himself as a su…

Run

I decide to go for a run. I decide to go because when I undress in front of the mirror all I see is my rotund belly and bulbous thighs. I grab at them and pull, as though I am trying to rip off the chunks of flesh. This, in contrast to the tired, dry skin on my face, etched with deep lines like carvings in rock. It has not recovered from the eighteen months when it was not nourished, but elsewhere fat is sprouting. I lace my trainers tightly.

I don't know the time, I have stopped wearing a watch. I start running, and soon I am fleeing. It feels good: I haven't been able to run recently - thwarted by low blood pressure. Every rusty muscle is in movement, together, sliding back and forth in tandem and I feel slow but I feel fluid. I pull up from my core. I think I am the best runner you will see today because once I watched a tutorial on YouTube with Paula Radcliffe.

I run alongside the common, not on the grass; I prefer the solidity of the ground, the heaviness that rises up t…

The Balancing Act

Roll up Roll up! Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, step forward and prepare yourself for the most un-nerving, topsy-turvey show on earth! Your eyes will be deceived, your mind won't believe, you will never be the same again! Your thoughts will be tattered, your soul left shattered, enter only if you dare...behold, if you will, the most wondrous spectacle of the 21st century to date...I give to you....

The Home Haemo Balancing Act!

Standing room at the back.

That's right, ladies and gents: I am currently engaged in a one-woman balancing act in which I try to manage my nocturnal dialysis schedule alongside something much more closely resembling 'normal' life. Everyone's life is a balancing act to some extent: kids, money, work, home...all the elements that make up daily existence need to be juggled, prioritised and considered. My problem is not that I have more to balance than anyone else, but it seems I am profoundly worse at finding the middle ground than all you…

The cold creeps in

I have a problem: I'm becoming cold. I don't mean emotionally frigid (though my ex-boyfriend might disagree) I literally mean physically chilled. In bed. I should probably explain.

Ah, summer. Remember that? It happened (I think) over eighteen days some time this year and snuck in between the chilly spring and bleak autumn that is now upon us. It was warm once I believe, but now it is freezing and it seems twas ever thus; it is freezing in my flat, it is even freezing in my cosy little bedroom-cum-medical depot, and dialysis is like roses and old people: it doesn't do well in the cold.

I'm a snuggler, you see - not with men, let's not be ridiculous - but I like to burrow down under my duvet like a hedgehog when the winter months encroach. At least I did, until Dermot arrived. When I started nocturnal dialysis, the weather was warm and lying prone on one's bed was a prerequisite for a good night's kip; now you have to get yo' wriggle on to avoid waking …

It's not you...so is it me?

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's seminal speech, I'd like to tell you about a dream I had last night, although mine was fuelled less by the injustice of racial discrimination than the vodka and Diet Coke which constitutes one of my major food groups these days.

I was in my old family house in Kent. Standing in the kitchen, I realised I had two appointments to get to, half an hour apart. The first was to visit a child, a psychic amalgamation of last years' clients and some kids I used to teach; the second was some sort of personal therapy session that was going to be very insightful, and something I urgently wanted to attend. If I was swift, I could make both. Unfortunately my plan was scuppered by the fleeting nature of subconscious time: when I looked at the clock I realised I was now apparently ten minutes into the child's appointment. I could still make the latter half, but it would mean missing my personal thearpy; to sack it off entirely would mean…

It'll be alright on the nights

Never have I had so much to write, and so little time to write it. I penned this entry last week on the bus to work (by hand! The humanity!) and still it has taken me a solid ten days to commit anything to blog. This is due in no small part to Tinder (that will get an entry all to itself) but my internship is keeping me in the office until at least 6:30 most days and my brand new nocturnal dialysis regime - you know, the one that is supposed to free up all my time - is consuming any remaining free moment.

About a month ago I typed out a post that had the working title of "My Life Has Been Ruined and I Demand Your Pity". I never posted it. I spared no detail enumerating the various teething problems I'd been having, none of which felt like teething problems at the time but hulking, insurmountable obstacles that suggested dialysis wasn't my bag and I should just rent a cottage by the sea and wait for death. It turned out most of the problems were caused by human error…

Early nights

A week ago I wrote an extensive piece about my turbulent start to nocturnal dialysis: the alarms, the lack of sleep, the fact that my life was over...the usual stuff. Then I decided not to post it, because in retrospect the majority of the problems were caused by my own incompetence and it seemed incredibly indulgent to whinge about it. The sessions became easier and more efficient, and the article was all but redundant.

This post will be brief; I shall look to write a longer post later, one that details my hilarious nocturnal dialysis antics in full. For now, I shall just say this: I am pretty tired. My internship is hugely enjoyable and rewarding but the days are long and I have only an hour or two when I get home to chew on whatever happens to be in my fridge (ageing salad, questionable tinned tuna) before I have to turn my attention to Dermot. I know it will take time to get used to doing nights, and I am grateful for the additional freedom this regime will give me...but I so mis…

Timing is everything

It turns out it was nothing to do with my cack-handed needling after all. My fistula, my trusty bulging buddy for the last five years and counting, is on his last legs. Not his fault, the poor little guy; he is exhausted, and adding an extra two dialysis sessions to his weekly schedule didn't help. Yet he has chosen to collapse at the worst possible time: I am a week into my internship, and working on the most important opportunity of my career to date.

Here comes the technical stuff...

After Friday's abortive session, my fistula didn't work on Saturday either, so after an hour of good, solid crying on Ellie, I pottered off to the hospital unit, certain that the nurses could do what I hadn't managed and get a needle into the upper of my two insertion sites. The senior matron rammed one in, but no blood came out; when she started frowning and shaking her head I knew something was wrong.

I managed to start a one-needle dialysis session, but it offers a very mediocre sta…

The wrong place

It is Friday night and I am not dialysing. This is not because I am drinking Kopperberg with friends on Clapham Common as I would liked, but because, having rushed home from an incredibly tiring week, I managed to misplace one of my needles. I don't know whether my fistula is "blown" or whether the needle was just in the wrong place; a different solution is needed for either eventuality. Being late on a Friday night, I couldn't get hold of any of the nurses, and never having misjudged my needling before, I didn't know what to do. I So I cried for a bit, then decided to sack off the session and sit on my sofa eating ham and hating myself because I wasn't even hungry. I haven't dialysed and I need to; I will miss three hours worth of treatment this week and now tomorrow's session is pivotal. I am terrified it is going to happen again, or that there is something wrong with my fistula, and everything is going to turn to shit; as it will be Saturday, I do…

The Running Classes

I have started running again, much to my own delight. I was out on the common at 10 this morning, basking in the warm sunshine and my own sense of superiority, happy as a clam that I was neither crippled by foot pain nor suffering the ill-effects of a haemaglobin level stuck somewhere between 5 and fuck all.

It occurred to me as I bounded along that just as the population of London delineates itself into tribes - the Trendies of Dalston, the Yummy Mummies of Stoke Newington, the Poor People of Tower Hamlets - the running world is also comprised of a number of different sub-sects, creating its own little microcosm. I have identified them thus:

The Pros

You have to get up early to see a genuine Pro. Easily recognisable by their attire: expensive lycra, sports sunglasses and niche brand trainers. Sometimes they wear hats. They run faster than you, and look more determined; running is not exercise - it is a way of life. Get out of their way and don't try and make eye contact - to a Pr…

The nights are closing in

The final step of my home dialysis journey (bleugh, journey...sounds like I'm on The X Factor) begins on the 22nd July when Nurse Carla will arrive with a sleeping bag and, presumably, some strong coffee, and sit on my sofa all night whilst I perform my first nocturnal session. It is the dialysis equivalent of hiring a wet nurse.

During a regular daytime session, nothing should go wrong unless I have lined the machine carelessly with one eye on Only Connect and consequently forgotten to connect/un-clamp/tighten something pivotal. Dermot should behave, stay quiet and not do any of his ghastly alarm-yelping. At night, however, the chances of rolling over onto the tubes and occluding the blood flow, or the needles falling out and slowly bleeding to death, are much higher, what with all the concurrent sleeping I'll be doing; when this happens Dermot senses DANGER and screams at me. Undoubtedly, my first session with Carla will be seamless; I know from experience that it is only w…

Card Bored

Nobody mentioned the cardboard.

What with all the excitement of starting home dialysis, and all the ominous warnings about machine spanner alarms "that will happen once in a blue moon" (and went off four times within the first month), nobody thought to tell me that within a matter of weeks I would have enough empty cardboard boxes to open my own Parcel Force franchise and that they would transform my front room into a Calcutter rubbish tip. With home dialysis, you see, first comes the plumbing, then comes the machine and once  you sort of know what you're doing and are desperate to get going, finally you get the stuff, and it all comes in fucking enormous cardboard boxes.

The stuff IN the boxes is crucial. There's packets of plastic tubing; dialysis filters; bicarbonate stacks; put-on packs; take-off packs; saline; needles; syringes; gauze...and every item plays it's part in the harmonious symphony that is a dialysis session. I tear through this shit: doing five…

The doctor will see you now

I saw my Consultant yesterday for the first time in...well, never. I have never seen my home dialysis Consultant. This is more to do with scheduling than dastardly NHS cut-backs or wanton neglect, although we can put it down to both if you feel like it. Shit, let's sue.

I have met Dr. C before, briefly, although I wouldn't imagine he remembers as it was over five years ago and he was standing at my bedside telling me my kidney had failed and I was fucked...he may have used different words. He probably tells a dozen people a day that their kidney is on the blink, so there's no reason for him to have committed our encounter to memory, but the thing about Consultants is that by default they are educated and successful; they are powerful, replete with knowledge, and frequently male, ergo they are Alpha, charismatic and whether I know them well or not, I usually fancy them a little bit.

Seeing my Consultant is a sport: it is a game of wit and verbal dexterity in which the Cons…