Friday, January 6, 2012

In Which We Learn How Dexter and Dialysis Relate....

            Everyone has a deep fascination with something that could be considered off the wall. I love serial killers. Next to demon possession, serial killers are the only horror movie topic that honestly scares the hell out of me. Cap’n Tony, my pop culture Obi-Wan and good friend in Buffetology, is the only other person that can stump me regularly on this matter. I don’t feel too bad about it seeing that he wrote his graduate thesis on fear and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
         Dexter is one of my new obsessions. I love watching the drama of how a serial killer deals with his need to hunt within his day-to-day life. Around season three, Dexter has to learn to cope with issues revolving around his decision to settle down with the girlfriend and two step kids. Each episode confounded me as Dexter plays a game of cat-and-mouse with John Lithgow. What got me was how much I was relating to Dexter being in a similar situation (well, except for all the killing). I understood the frustrations of trying to have quality time with a family while trying to juggle a demanding job and a “dark passenger” whose needs must be met.
            I have a dark passenger that I cannot ignore either. It is called end stage kidney disease.
            This morning really cemented that notion into my head. See, I have to do a dialysis treatment six days a week. I am very lucky because I am now set up to do these treatments in the comforts of my own home in my favorite chair “lent” to me by a good friend courtesy of Uncle Sam.
This is where the magic happens...

            But still, having a dark passenger blows.
            Much like Dexter’s need to hunt so he can keep his dark passenger at bay. I have to maintain regular treatments to keep my passenger at arm’s length. I tell myself how this situation could be much worse but it’s frustrating to block out around 4 hours every day just for a treatment. I also remind myself how this part of dialysis is temporary because eventually I’ll be doing it all while sleeping when I switch over to nocturnal home hemo dialysis.
            So why am I not already there? Well, my dark passenger likes to throw up a few issues to keep me on my toes. In order to do treatments, I have had to learn how to stick myself with these two basketball pump size needles into my vein. This is also the part where I should mention that I am terrified of needles. Nothing is ever easy with me.
Since August, I have been rushing home after work to meet my nurse, Crystal. She has been helping me to learn how to access my fistula which is the medical way to say, “Get big ass needles in arm.” If all goes smoothly, the treatments last 3 hours plus with another hour or so for prep, clean up, and paper work. This leaves me about an hour or so for dinner then bed. Next morning the process begins all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
            Five months of amazing training by the greatest home hemo nurse ever and I am proud to say that I have been doing it all on my own for several weeks. I am getting closer to my final goal where I make the big switch to nocturnal.
            The results have been amazing. I am walking better. I have more energy and I just all around feel like my old self. I have even noticed a bit of that old Richardson swagger again due to my new level of confidence. It’s like I’ve been given a daily double dose of Enzyte (not that I need it.) Just like Dexter, I can live a normal life yet keep my dark passenger at bay.
            Until this morning.
            My streak of accessing my arm was broken. I just could not get it in. I had woken up around 3:44 am to get a treatment in early so I could still make it to work due to End-of-course-testing at school. Naturally, my body decides to pick today to screw with me. I swear to God that sometimes I think I must have set nuns on fire in a previous life. Welcome to karma, Richardson.
            So I am sitting in my chair, trying to get the needle in the top buttonhole inserted but with no luck. Fear began to rise as a loop of having to have Crystal help me access begans to play in my head. Another loop begins where I have to rush home like the past few months which leaves me no time to myself or family. Not going well.  
            I began to think over and over, “Not this again and not now. I need to be done by 7am so I can test today.”
            The dark passenger was enjoying screwing with me.
            I eventually had to stop so my arm wouldn’t swell up and I made an alternate plan. If I go into the dialysis center, it will give me time to calm down and Crystal can supervise me. Easy peasy.
            Fortunately, I have several hours to kill at his point so I went back to bed after calling in and making arrangements for testing coverage. It went smooth and no one seemed irritated with me. Easy Peasy, part deux.
            After some breakfast at Panera and a very long phone call to my amazingly, supportive girlfriend, I began to shake the dark passenger and put him back in his place. Oddly enough it happened over coffee. Every morning, I always get a large dark roast with several shots of caramel syrup. It is the perfect amount of sugar and cream plus its caramel. What’s not to love?
            As I poured the dark roast, it trickled out in a sickly stream while spitting out grounds. Not going to work. I got a new cup and went to my back up of light roast. Same trickle and even more grounds.  
Instead of getting pissed, I started chuckling at myself. Sure, I could get pissed but why? It has been a really shitty day so far but I got to have one every now and then to even out the good ones. It’s all going to work out. My day might even get better.
My dark passenger had gotten the best of me this morning but only for a little bit. I realized this morning that not every stick is going to go well. As Crystal and Kim reminded me this morning, “Sometimes you got to have a bad stick.”
Yes, Crystal ended up having to access my site for me but the minute she was done I did something I have always been too afraid to do. I pulled out her needle then did it myself. I got it in right away.
Today, I made some major decisions about myself regarding my dark passenger. For years, I have been trying to keep him at arm’s length but in the end, I pay the price with frustration. Much like Dexter, I have got to learn that it’s ok to embrace the dark passenger so I’ll be able to control the other parts of my life.  To do so, I have realize it’s OK to mess up on the occasional stick and not shut down like I did this morning and times to many to count.
Who knew that in order to be successful, I have got to learn how to fail?
My biggest fear in all this is not that it can kill me but I that somehow I lose my independence followed by my dignity. It finally hit me this morning that I do not have to deal with my dark passenger on my own. I have a strong and trustworthy circle of support that is waiting on me if I ask. But that is the trick, learning how to ask.
I took my first step into a larger world this morning when I asked Kim for help. I asked if she would be willing to learn the whole treatment process including accessing my buttonholes. There was no hesitation on the phone as I heard that sweet Texas drawl say, “Of course.”
My treatment is in the process of wrapping up with about 30 minutes to go. My view of life feels much better than it did eight hours ago. Over the past few hours, I have gotten this all on paper (Ok, hard drive) and even got a visit from Kim. She was worried so she came over to check on me. She even brought over coffee and bourbon bread pudding from our favorite bakery. Score!
There is a lot running through my head as I type this. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I am not fighting off the dark passenger at the moment. I even admit how I am trying not to worry about having troubles when I access over the weekend. But then I just stop, take a breath, and think about what Kim said to me as she hugged when she arrived.
“I’m always here and I’m going to talk to you like you talk to me when I get wound up. One step at a time, Robby. One step at a time.”
 One step at a time........
Kiss my ass, dark passenger. I got this.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I like seeing your strength in yourself and in Kim's love for you. She is a great woman, and I know you're a wonderful man to deserve her love. Keep it up. And, next time I read, I'll try not to get "buttonholes" confused with "butthole." :)

  2. My dad had home hemo for a while and it really made a difference ... I liked the big supply truck that tried to squeeze down my parents' drive every time.

    Hang in there.. Dark passengers, we all have them. Ps - Dexter is awesome!


  3. Thanks for the very kind words. It means a lot. Damn you, Holly S. Everytime I say buttonholes, Kim begins to giggle incessantly. Butholes. Genius....