Fall 2006 started dark when I was turned down for transplant because I was too heavy. Reality was beginning to crash into my stubborn will. Losing 15 pounds seemed impossible. I was already eating minimal meals and was trying my best to at least not gain more weight. Exercise was out of the question. Just getting through a day's work took maximum effort. I was always exhausted. Driving home without falling asleep in traffic or at red lights was a struggle. My days off work were just spent resting. I knew that dialysis was inevitable, but I continued to reject the notion and kept living my life with grim determination and a smile on my face.
I should add at this point that I was not in complete denial. In the spring I had seen the vascular surgeon and had surgery to make a fistula in my left arm. The procedure involves selecting a large artery that takes about 50% of the blood that goes into the hand and connecting it directly to a large vein, creating a super-highway to carry the large amount of blood at the high volume required for hemo-dialysis. As blood flows through, the vessel grows larger. It takes about 4-6 months before the fistula is large enough to be used for dialysis. If emergency dialysis is required, a surgeon installs a port in the upper chest with tubes that connect to the dialysis machine. In my typical style, I had the surgery on my day off, was discharged about 10:30 pm, and was at work the following morning!
I was seeing my nephrologist and receiving Procrit injections and IV Iron infusions every two weeks. The treatments certainly kept me going. I continued to work full-time and sing in the choir at church which meant both weekly rehearsals and several hours every Sunday. Not to mention the occasional work related wine tastings and wine dinners and the occasional bottle of wine (professional obligations, don't ya' know!) I don't remember going to the State Fair that year. I'm sure we did go, but not for long. Just a brief walk-around for a look at the Horned Toads (hand-painted cast replicas, check this guy out!), and a corny dog and a cold beer. It was a struggle through all those years. I can even remember waiting for Susan to get the car and come pick me up. Those who know us will realize the extremity of the situation.
Finally, at the end of October, I went in for an appointment. After waiting for the lab results, Dr. Rinner looked me in the eye and told me that while I had fought a valiant and courageous fight, I was not going to make it through the holidays without a trip to the emergency room with Acute Kidney Failure.
Arrangements were made to enter the hospital the next Monday to begin dialysis. It was the first Monday of November, 2006.