A cute kidney

Saturday, May 11, 2019

On Monday, April 29th, I turned 49 years old.

On Tuesday April 30th, I was admitted to the hospital with acute renal failure.

They didn't know that at first, of course.  The ER doctor, though I am sure well meaning, was fairly dismissive of my description of my symptoms.  I was trying to explain that my dizziness had become so pronounced that I could move only if I stared down at my feet and never looked up. I explained that my appetite was gone, and I was only eating one very small meal a day. Oatmeal. I didn't even have a cupcake for my birthday, because I felt so bad.

I explained that on Monday I'd tried to teach class, but had to sit down because of the dizziness. That quickly became dry heaving, then full body sweating leading to my releasing class early because I was not doing well.  The poor startled and concerned students were rather beside themselves.

I described that on Saturday I had dry heaved and vomited a little in the parking lot at Walmart. I did this while a man in a white truck watched me, and Terrance looked on with concern.

Yes, of course I was drinking fluids. That's all I could do, really. Green Tea and Water. No, I hadn't been sleeping either but who can tell with a 49 year old body. Sometimes you just wake up and stay awake.

The ER doctor told me that I could control the dizziness with over the counter medications! Why he too suffered from Vertigo - Right now, even!

Could it be ear infections, I asked? Maybe some kind of weird ear infection that was making me so dizzy? Grudgingly, he looked. Nope, no ear infections.

He left me alone on the ER bed, feeling foolish and overreactive.  Nurses came in. They took more vitals, someone took blood.  When it was determined that I was dehydrated, a kind man came and got an IV started. He was very kind and patient, as my veins were just about invisible and he had to work hard to find any place to get this started. After he was successful I asked, "Can you get my husband? He's in the waiting room."

Terrance arrived. He sat down and asked me what the doctor had said. I shared that he thought I must be dehydrated and there were no ear infections.

Now, what I am not explaining here is my utter insistence that I am fine.  This is a little virus. Maybe a small bacterial infection.

I am *always* like this. ALWAYS.  Everything is no big deal.  Earlier this spring right before class was starting, I ran to the washroom and vomited profusely. I hadn't realized that the door had kicked itself open, meaning that ALL of my students got to hear me vomiting profusely. In fact, the whole first floor got to listen to me puking.

As I returned to class, I faced an entire room of startled students who just put together that the person they had just listened to was, in fact, their professor. 

Readers, I taught the class. For the full 2 hours.

For me to say "I think I need to go to Urgent Care" is the white flag of defeat in Dawn world.

A nurse came in and asked me to take out my earrings as they wanted to do a MRI to make sure I wasn't having some kind of tumor or stroke issue.  I lay there feeling utterly ridiculous. I was just dizzy, terribly dizzy.  And nauseated.

They wheeled me back into the room. I lay there, eyes closed.  Terrance stared at the walls.

Here is where the dramatic moment of hospital shows happened. The doctor whips open the curtain and exclaims that my blood tests are showing something very wrong and they are admitting me right now.  People appear. More things are done. Terrance is handed my purse and told to go get things from home because I am being wheeled upstairs now.

Truthfully, I am now feeling guilty because this is all a bit much. For some dizziness?  I've had two liters of saline pushed into my body in such rapid succession that when they hook up the third, I am confused because I thought we had just started the 2nd one. I am transferred into a hospital bed. I am covered in warmed blankets.  I lay there and begin calculating how much this is going to cost us and how soon I can get out of there because we have a child in college and I can not afford a 20K hospital bill.

Sidenote: Thanks, American medical and political systems for that extra tidbit of stress.  As if I am taking a spa break, or a fancy vacation,  I worry about the cost of the bill for my portion of the hospital admission.  In fact, I begin to cry in the hospital because I am thinking of how much this is going to cost.  I apologize to my husband when he arrives because this is going to cost too much.


The first doctor arrives.  The next bag of saline is being hooked up and pushed through my body.  My doctor says they aren't quite sure what is happening yet.  Something is going on with my kidneys but they don't know what. They are going to keep pushing saline. A nephrologist has been called.

Terrance arrives with a backpack full of things. We sit in silence as I cry about the cost and he reassures me. The IV pump hums aggressively.  After about 7 hours of continuous IV fluids, my appetite returns in the smallest way.  With the nausea controlled with medication, I might want to eat a little.  I want a salad. I want a little hamburger. Maybe even a few fries.  Terrance does what he does best - he manages food for me.

The nurse smiles when she sees me eating, even if it isn't much.  It's good.  I still can't stand without getting dizzy, but I am peeing lots now. My indignity is enhanced by the fact that I have to pee into the "hat", a large plastic container that measures my urine.

I am wildly grateful that I went with the boy shorts underwear instead of the usual thong given my hospital gown and the frequency with which I am now peeing.

I am still optimistic that this is just all an overreaction and I am fine. Terrance goes home for the night.

The nephrologist arrives at 9 p.m.  I am laying in bed actually trying to grade papers and respond to  emails from panicked freshman asking about registration. ( See: Dawn's inability to admit she is ill, above)

This startles me for a couple of reasons. First, I was told that he wouldn't see me until tomorrow since he had left for the day. Second, he seems *very* serious.

He is kind. He is clear. He does not talk down to me. He takes a history, asking me about medications, health, any changes I had observed in my general well being.  He then starts talking me through what they suspect has happened.

My kidney's, he explains, had simply stopped working. When I arrived at the Urgent Care that morning, I was in acute renal failure. I had lost 95% of my kidney functions by the time I was admitted. A few more hours of waiting and I would have been in the ICU.  He explained that they weren't sure if this was reversible yet and that they would need to wait and see my numbers in the morning. The ultrasound of my kidneys and bladder showed no tumors or obvious blockages, so it could be an infection inside the kidney, or a combination of other factors.  A biopsy may be needed.

After he left I sat in my very dim room and considered my fragility. This was the moment that I got scared.






1 Baleful Regards:

AS said...

I've been reading your blog for years now, and even now I always enjoy reading your old posts. I'm not very good with words, but just know that I care, and you have my support. Judging by what a strong person you are, I bet the universe that you'll definitely get through this. You're one of my favourite writers on the Internet, and your blog has both entertained me massively (making me cry laughing in occasion) and given me really good food for thought. I hope you get well soon, and just know that I'm rooting for you.

 
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