Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Old Before I Die

I went to the hospital today. To the nephrology clinic. The kidney specialist, in other words. Members of my family may want to look away now as I recount the tale of this extraordinary, terrifying but ultimately positive and encouraging visit.

Those of you who regularly frequent these pages will know that in the summer, upon my discharge from Whiston Hospital, I was told by a urologist that not much had changed since my last scan six years previously. That news was the culmination of an agonising day's wait for the scan results, made more unbearable by irresponsible talk of permanent catheters and piss bags by doctors who knew about as much about my personal circumstances as I do about The Apprentice.

Imagine my surprise then when I was told by Mr Khalid, yet another new specialist I had never laid eyes on before, that I could expect to begin dialysis treatment for my ailing kidneys within the next two to three years. Two to three years. When he told me I let those words hang in the air for a second, unable to conjure up a sensible, coherent reply. While dialysis treatment is not a death sentence, not by any means, it is at least a life changing course of action reserved only for the desperate. The gravely ill. So to hear this was not so much surprise as abject horror. With all the reassurance of a Tory politician letting us know that we are all in this austerity thing together, Mr Khalid informed me that I wouldn't need to leave work, that they could train me to administer the treatment to myself at home, and that following the treatment a kidney transplant was definitely a viable option. So long as I don't have any heart problems. You know? Like the sort of palpitations that accompanied my raging potassium levels just a few months ago.

So at this point I am trying to think of what I can do in the three years I have before my life changes forever. I'm working on my Bucket List as he talks to us about going along to see the Dialysis Education Team on my next visit which, again reassuringly, won't need to be for another four months or so. I've always wanted to go back to Australia after an all too brief visit to Adelaide in 1993. It was a basketball trip. My fellow basketballers reading this, past and present, will know that that basically means the inside of hotels and sports halls. Not bright lights, wonders of the world or Christmas on the beach. Although we did see a real live koala bear in the foyer one night. So there's that. And I'm going to New York next summer. I'll very probably be in Little Italy on the night England play Italy in the World Cup in Brazil. Which just leaves going on a cricket tour with the Barmy Army and having a novelised version of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard published. It's a lot to cram into three years.

And then the tide turns. I get my reprieve. Early in the conversation Mr Khalid had said that my kidney function is at 24% and that, for a man of my age, that percentage should be somewhere in the 60's. Then later, Mr Khalid places my kidney function at 28%. Looking for something to hang on to I pull him up on this, but he responds by telling me that either way, they are not going to last much more than the two or three years he has already estimated. I'm disconsolate, desolate, inconsolable and all of those things, but I want to know how that can be when the urologist at Whiston had said that not much had changed in six years.

"It was only 30% when I had my scan six years ago." I say;

"How can it be that it has fallen only 2% in six years yet you expect it to pack up completely within three more years?"

"Was it?" asks Mr Khalid;

"I'm so sorry. I did not know that. You can forget that two or three years, then. It probably won't happen that fast. I'm sorry to have upset you."

He continues on this theme, apologising to us profusely while he and Emma have another discussion about how it can be that he can come to wild conclusions when he doesn't have all the information. After Whiston in the summer, I am beginning to think that this is how all specialists operate. Scare the bejesus out of the patient and then everyone will feel so much better when it turns out not to be as bad as first feared. It's dizzyingly clever when you think about it. I came out of there feeling euphoric, a whole new approach to life developing at a searing pace as I plodded over to complete the formalities of the blood tests. If I wasn't doing it before I am going to start living for today in a big way. I will require dialysis and probably a transplant one day, so I have to keep that at the back of my mind and live my life accordingly.

All of which could be bad news for Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard, which considers negativity and cynicism as it's stock in trade.

"Well tonight I'm going to live for today so come along for the ride..........."

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