Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hemodialysis for the Last Time?

Last night as I took Steve off "the hose," i.e. our NxStage Home Hemodialysis machine, we both commented,

"Is tomorrow's treatment our last time for Home Hemodialysis?"

Steve has been on Hemodialysis since September of 2007, and we've been doing Home Hemo since January of 2008. We've had a few breaks, of course, with Steve's various hospitalizations - when he'd get dialyzed in the hospital.

We remember so poignantly the last time we thought we were performing our last Home Hemodialysis treatment: it was in February, 2009 - the evening before Steve's kidney transplant.

How expectant we were! And why not? We had a living donor kidney from Steve's neice Teresa - a perfect match. Steve was in reasonably good health - "all things considered," as he says so frequently.

We remember the chilly pre-dawn ferry ride from Bainbridge Island en route to the University of Washington Medical Center, meeting the whole family in the hospital lobby as we all waited for what we thought would be Steve's life-changing miracle.

Of course, we had signed the Informed Consent for Surgery. Many things could go wrong; Steve could die. But the odds were so overwhelmingly good. And infomed as we all were, you simply cannot believe that calamities will occur to you or your loved one.

It wasn't til that afternoon, while I was waiting for Steve to come out of surgery that I knew in my gut something was terribly wrong. It was simply taking too long, and Teresa was already in her hospital room, recovering from her blessed donation.

The surgeon walked into the Surgery Waiting Room, and led me into a small consultation area.

"His blood pressure went down very low for about a half hour," he explained. He went on to say that Steve was "stable," but that the new kidney hadn't "awakened yet."

Steve had had a mild heart attack during the surgery, and went on to have a couple more during his hospitalization. The blood flow to the transplanted kidney had never been perfect. And an attempt to improve it led to a disaster: bleeding from the renal artery into the abdomen!

I will never forget the most heartbreaking night of my life: the night Steve was taken for emergent surgery because of the bleeding - and Teresa's kidney was removed forever, serving nobody.

Steve recovered, as Steve seems to do - conquering the odds and rebounding as few could ever do. But, it was back to Hemodialysis. Our "last Home Hemodialysis" would then be followed by two years of Home Dialysis - with hospital interruptions, of course.

This time, we are moving from Home Hemodialysis to Home Peritoneal Dialysis - the compelling reason being that Steve is fast running out of blood vessel sites. We have to do something.

On Tuesday of this week, we begin our Home Training. It should be easier this time; we are expecting four days of training rather than five weeks. And there's no question about it, Home Dialysis is always preferable to the soul-sucking environment of any kidney center - no matter how nice the location or how wonderful the staff.

So, we begin a new journey - with hope. As for another kidney transplant? Steve still wants one dearly. Our hope is that he can recover enough to become ambulatory again and wow the next Transplant Team for another try.

Take care,
Linda Gromko, MD

1 comment:

  1. My hopes and prayers go with you. I hope PD will do well for you. It sure was easier than learning the NxStage.