Some other things that stand out is what seems like the prehistoric use of the beeper. This is only nine years ago! I cannot imagine that they still use those things. Also, the flat, nearly fond way I remember coming to in the ICU after having my kidneys removed is striking to me. I certainly did not enjoy that experience, as evidenced by the blog I posted another time describing more bluntly and dramatically how that experience went down (this can be found here). And finally, I cannot believe that people have started using the nasal tube (as feeding tube) as a method to lose weight quickly. What a horrible idea!
Thursday, August 7, 2003.
I have a beeper now. Things are really moving along. Seven people have tested their blood to donate for me. Unbelievable! The generosity of my friends continuously amazes me. Why do they even care? I am so grateful that I cannot put it into words, but I also wonder if I deserve such kindness. I am such an asshole most of the time and have become even more tedious to be around since losing my kids. Maybe they offer in order to shut up my stupid mouth. Somehow, however, no one has been a match. Same blood type, but the old “positive cross-match” rears its ugly head every time. I’m not sure what this means. The “positive” must mean that my blood reacts negatively to the potential donor’s blood. The consensus seems to be that this is happening because I’ve had too many blood transfusions in the past (eight units in one sitting one time after bleeding internally for a few days post surgery). Yet, the lab cross-matched my blood to their 20 test samples on hand and they were all “negative cross-matches,” which apparently is a good thing. And there it is again. A sentence I have continually heard since this disorder (VHL) was discovered in my body: “I have never seen anything like this.” This is not something one wants to hear from a doctor. I hear it at appointments all the time. Every time I try and believe that I am somehow normal, I get reminded that I am a freak mutant without the fun super-powers that all good mutants are supposed to have.
Carrying this beeper is really crazy. It could go off at any second. In fact, it has gone off. It seems to “beep” on occasion for no apparent reason. One time I called the number on the display and it was a guy looking to get his car detailed. I don’t really know what that means, but it felt like a cruel joke. Other times, the number has led me to a non-stop ringing when I phone in. No one home. Wouldn’t that be a kind prank over at the transplant office? Or maybe unused or dead phone numbers come alive and contact other phone numbers. Maybe there’s an entire culture of zombie phone numbers out there hunting down other numbers to feed off of. Or maybe this is part of the Matrix that everyone is so afraid of nowadays.
The beeper is attached to me at all times. I play with it and check it and supply it with fresh batteries every few weeks to make sure that it’s fully empowered when it comes time to alert me when a kidney becomes available. It’s all the hope I have in the world jammed into that little plastic box.
I had a dream the other night that I had lost the beeper. Everyone around me had their cell phones and pagers ringing and beeping, while I was without. I was frantically trying to remember where I’d left it. Was it stolen? Did I drop it into a storm drain? Those storm drains have been daring me to accidentally drop my keys into them for years, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Was it going to alert me, when I couldn’t hear it? Was I going to miss my chance for a transplant, because I was without? Would I be dropped back to the bottom of the list? To search for it, I decided to climb into my Dad’s van. His cat Demando was driving. We were off to find the beeper. It began raining and the cat was struggling to keep the speeding van on the wet road. I was in the back seat, but leaning forward watching this cat work hard to turn the wheel around sharp corners, while wondering how its tiny legs could reach the pedals. We suddenly turned 90 degrees onto a side street that rose steeply uphill and then drove inside a Taco Bell. The cat ordered some food at the counter from the driver’s side with several “meows” and I paid for the food, when Demando and the kid working both glared at me. My friend Wil was already in the Taco Bell and climbed into the van with us. I woke up to my alarm at that point. Not to the beeper.
I have somehow convinced myself that I will miss catching the beeper if it does actually go off with the big news. Logically, I know the transplant people will try and contact me via phone at home or at work or at dialysis, before resorting to the beeper, yet I continue to believe that if I set it down or fall asleep or listen to music too loud, I will miss my chance to receive a new kid.
I’ll never forget coming to in recovery after the surgeon took my kidneys. There’s that first question they always ask after shouting your name repeatedly to get you conscious: “How do you feel?” and/or “Rate your pain.” In this case, my pain rating on a scale of one to ten was something around “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!”
The second memory I have is waking up in the ICU. I had missed my chance at being in the ICU the year prior when I had that giant cyst removed from my brain stem. The ICU was too full, so I spent the entire night in recovery with an ICU nurse nearby. ICU is the coolest place. You can receive complete nurse attention at all times along with a very private room and you’ll be surrounded by all kinds of high-tech equipment that beeps and squawks and hums all the reading things that your body is doing. It is difficult to move around in ICU, not because of the pain from surgery, but also because they have so many tubes stuck in all kinds of places. One wrong move and something serious could go haywire. My personal favorite tube was the one they stuffed into my right nostril. I didn’t know what it was or could be for. It made my nose itch, so I found myself scratching around that tube frequently very carefully. As my consciousness grew, my aggressiveness with the scratching the itch did too. It didn’t take long before I realized a correlation between my movements of the nose tube and the soreness of my throat. When the nurse caught me fiddling with the tube she strongly advised against doing that. I asked her what it was for and she explained that the tube is placed through the nostril and down through the throat and into the stomach. The idea is to suck out any bile that one could otherwise throw up, in order to avoid any disastrous events from the trauma that a violent vomit would cause to my freshly wounded abdomen. Well, that made sense, but her warning did not stop me from scratching carefully at that itch. The irritation was too much for me to avoid constantly thinking about it. I had nothing else to do in that dark room. Every time a caretaker of some sort entered the room, I would beg for it to be removed. Unfortunately, the act of removing such a device is exactly how one might think it would come out. Someone comes in and yanks it out through your nose. And, yes, it burns, the entire way and for a long time after. It was a relief to have it gone, but it didn’t seem worth it for a long time after it was gone.
Once some of the tubes and wires and machines were dumped and dragged from my room in the Hotel Intensive Care, I tried my best to enjoy the peace and quiet of the quiet room in the secured wing. They had all of this advanced technological equipment in there, but somehow the TV was awful. Every channel was fuzzy and shaky on the screen and the volume was set so low all I could ever hear was a low buzz or mumble. Maybe it was time to move to a regular room. I don’t know if I would be ready to face the world again. I knew I’d never be the same again.