Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Busy Lives of the Living Dead We recently returned from California, where we attended a reunion of people with whom Rick attended high school when his dad was stationed in Germany 50 years ago, and where we also spent some time with Rick’s dad and step-mom. My husband, Rick, is a dialysis patient, and when you have to be tethered to a machine at regular intervals in order to stay alive, you might not consider travel to be an option. He did not seriously consider trying it until he was challenged by his old friend, Hutch, who photoshopped Rick’s face onto a picture of a guy in a chicken suit, with the legend, “Head South Young Man! I am not a candy-ass wimpy chicken shit. Sonoma or bust. We can do this.” This is known as “guy humor,” at least in my mind. Rick does peritoneal dialysis (hereinafter referred to as “PD”). Rick plugs into a machine that performs the PD process several times every night while he tries to sleep. Once Rick rose to Hutch’s challenge, preparations began. He called an order in to the PD supplies manufacturer two months before the trip, ordering what we thought would be sufficient supplies to get us through the week and a half we would be in California. They would be delivered to Rick’s dad’s place in Sonoma. Then we sat here and worried for two months about whether the supplies would show up on time. They did. When it was time to leave we packed up the usual travel gear plus several boxes of dialysis stuff. We headed out with the trunk and the back seat of the car stuffed to groaning. Every time we stopped for the night, Rick had to set up his machine and all the tubing and bags that PD involves, then tear down the apparatus and pack it back into the car the next morning. When we pulled into the entrance to the parking lot of the hotel where the reunion was held in Morgan Hill, California, Nandi and Hutch, Rick’s high school band mates from his first group, The Balladiers (misspelled intentionally), were sitting on a bench outside the main door and they smiled and waved to us as we pulled in. After 50 years there were only about 20 people who showed up for the reunion. Still, a good time was had by all, and Rick’s only criticism was that he had to leave the party early each night so he could hook up to his machine. When that was over we headed back to Sonoma to spend quality time with Rick’s folks, who treated us royally and fed us superbly. Sounds pretty good, huh? Yep, everything went fine, until… Rick realized he was running out of cassettes. Cassette is the name given to a unit that attaches to the side of the dialysis machine. It holds various plastic tubes and you have to use a new one every night. Rick called the equipment manufacturer, where someone swore that Rick would get a box of cassettes, “by Wednesday at the latest.” Wednesday came, but the box of cassettes did not. Rick was down to his last cassette and we knew it was going to be at least two nights before we got home. He called his PD nurse in Seattle, who suggested he call dialysis units in the Sonoma area and see if any of them had a cassette they’d give him. So I got online and looked up dialysis units and on the fourth call Rick hit pay dirt. We got into my car and made the drive up to Santa Rosa, where the people at the dialysis unit gave him a bag of five cassettes. Which made us feel pretty good. We were set to get Rick home okay, we thought, until… He realized that he only had two nights’ worth of dialysate left, which meant we had to be home in two days. We packed the car Thursday morning, and at that point the box of cassettes that had been promised the day before arrived. This box would not fit in the car, so one of the last packing chores was stuffing thirty cassette units into nooks and crannies in the car. I moved things around in the back seat so there was a line of vision for the rear view mirror, and once more we hit the road. We made it to Eureka the first night, and we drove from Eureka back to Vashon the next day. That’s a long haul, friends. We have learned a little about traveling on dialysis – mainly that you need to take about twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need, so the rule for dialysis supplies is the same as the rule for money. Will we do it again? You betcha. Not soon, but we will do it again. For now it’s good to be home.