Friday, December 30, 2011

Week Thirty-six......Facing A New Year.....

Last year at this time I thought I was surviving just about the worst thing that had happened to me, ever.  I was on heavy meds for a run of migraines that literally could have killed me.  I was beginning to believe I had permanent brain damage - I couldn't add small numbers, remember big words, pull sentences together (all things of some importance when one makes a living as a physician).  I was not sure I'd ever be able to work again, and was trying to imagine how we'd survive financially.  I had a pregnant teen in the house and was very worried about her.  Hubby's knee was wrecked, my oldest daughter was suffering from post-partum depression, and I'm sure I've left some things off the list of cares and concerns.  I clearly remember thinking, "I can't WAIT until this year is OVER. 2011 has GOT to be better."

Well, the cognitive issues turned out to be the result of the migraine meds, and are mostly better.  Both my daughters are doing fine, and my granddaughters are delightful. Hubby had is knee repaired and is back to work. We had a loving and happy Christmas despite our financial constraints.

But there are new challenges.  My mom's health has been declining and more of her care rests on me.  I am still not able to work full time, so money is tight.  I have another pregnant teen.  Our kids were displaced by the floods, and lost much of what they owned. Hubby's dad died on Christmas Eve.

And Babygirl still needs a kidney. And we are still unable to get her dialysis paid for by either our insurance or medicare.

I certainly can't say I am sad to say goodbye to 2011.  But I am superstitiously afraid to wish for a better year.  Look what it got me last time.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Turning the corner.....

A minor update for those who have been praying for Babygirl this week:

She is eating a little, and drinking well.  She has been on her feet a couple of times for an hour or two at a time.  She lost all the weight she regained, but seems to have stabilized yesterday and today.  This morning she is sleeping in, as she did yesterday. There was no significant fever yesterday, and the antibiotic seems to be making he throat feel better.

So she will have a Merry Christmas.  And therefore, so will I. 

And I will keep the families who got new kidneys this week in my prayers, and the family of the donor; one group rejoicing but suffering through surgical recovery, one group mourning.

We have much to be thankful for, indeed.

Remember this Christmas to not take your family, your health, and your life for granted.

And sign your organ donor cards.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

"This is the LONGEST......."

So Babygirl's been acutely ill since Monday.  By Tuesday she had a very sore throat and a fever of 102.6 degrees.  The family doc saw her Monday, did a rapid strep and sent her home.  Tuesday got a full throat culture and peritoneal dialysate culture, both negative.  Fever ongoing through Wednesday, with Babygirl looking increasingly ill.  Poor thing - her throat hurt so bad she didn't really want to drink, and eating made her nauseated.

No fever this morning, but tears because the throat hurts SO bad, so we just came back from the family doc.  We went to get blood work after he spoke with nephrology.  I was concerned about possible mono, but it turns out they already tested her and she's immune, but we are rechecking that.  Meanwhile, this is day number four of no school, and Christmas vacation starts tomorrow.

Overall, it's been a bit draining.  I have taken off two afternoons, which is something I really can't afford to do too much of.

But then, there is Babygirl's perspective.  "Mom, you know, this is the LONGEST I have ever been sick!" Well, I guess not counting the Swine Flu for five days last year, and the fact that you are IN NEED OF A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT!!!

Seriously.  I had to laugh, later, privately.  The kid is sick enough every day to qualify for Make-A-Wish!  And somehow, she doesn't see it that way.

I'm proud of her endurance.  And I'm kinda proud of us.  I think that if she doesn't perceive herself as "sick" all of the time, we have acheived something great for her - a semblance of normal life.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Week Thirty-five - What Happens If She's Sick When........

Babygirl awoke this morning with a sore throat, fever and bellyache.  Fever and bellyache scare me. After all, what if it's peritonitis?  But the dialysate is clear, and her tummy is soft.  So I decided that she should stay home from school, and call the family doc and the dialysis nurse for further advice.  Babygirl lays down on the couch and falls back asleep, and I carry on getting ready for work, Hubby all unaware of this little drama.

Then Hubby comes downstairs holding our cell phones, in the middle of a call on his, which he thrusts into my hand saying, "It's the hospital."  The OTHER hospital.

Of course it is.  And like last time, the first thing they say is, "We're calling to see how Babygirl is today."  Well, this time at least I immediately understand the purpose of the call.  Tears burn behind my eyes and I tell them, "She's sick."  I fill them in on the details and watch Hubby's face go from hopeful to bewildered to crushed.  "Well, she was just backup" the transplant nurse tells me.  But I don't need to be told that the reason they HAVE backup is because there have been times in the past when the first and second choices have fallen through.  And last time she was only two spots away from the top slot.

And I have less than twenty minutes to let this all go, get ready for work, and take care of people who come to me to fix THEIR problems.  And that's tough to do because my phone keeps ringing - the family doc ("We can fit her in at eleven"), the dialysis center ("Don't worry about peritonitis if the fluid was clear."), Hubby ("Med list?"), the family doc again ("What shots did they give her at dialysis?"), and some random call I later figure out was a reminder for me to take my mom to the heart doctor later this week.

Turns out its "just a virus." "Can't you just call them and tell them to wait?"  I am amazed at how many times today I've heard this.  No, it can't wait, it musn't wait, someone needs that kidney as soon as possible. And I know that if they suppress her immune system while she's fighting a virus it could kill her AND the new kidney. And it isn't worth the risk either way. So somebody elses' child is getting a kidney today, and Merry Christmas to them.

And many, many many many prayers for the family who, six days before Christmas, have had to decide whether or not to donate their child's organs.  And bless them many times over for choosing to do so.

And we get to celebrate Christmas at home.  We almost missed Halloween last time.  Well, if God doesn't want us to miss a holiday at home, there's lots of non-holiday time between New Year's and Easter.  We'd be happy to go anytime......


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Week Thirty-four - Sing We All of Christmas......

Sing we all Noel!

That's the song in my head tonight.  I sang Babygirl to bed with "O Come All Ye Faithful" a couple of hours ago while the machine hit an alarm I've never seen before ("check to see if heater bag is on the heater and check if heater bag clamp is closed").  Odd one to get when the machine has ALREADY  been pulling fluid from that bag for five minutes, but hey, I checked, the machine believed me and it's been quiet since.

So how are we all doing in our Christmas preparations?  We have our very obese Christmas tree up.  Usually our Nativity set goes up before we have the tree decorated, and setting that up is a family event.  This year I wasn't able to manage it, and my middle daughter set it up on her own (nice job, sweetie!) and got all the empty decoration storage bins out of the dining room where they had been sitting unattended for a week.  There are no outside decorations up.  And our mantle could use a string of lights.  I needed that one to replace a tree set and haven't had the time to get another.

And as for Christmas shopping?  Well, I missed Black Friday.  And I haven't really done anything else.  What I do have, I have wrapped.  But I'm starting to feel a bit pressured - a lot to do, not much money to do it with, and less time.

The bills are starting to pile up.  We haven't heard from Social Security on our Medicare appeal.  I need to get on the phone and talk to them, but tomorrow is already so booked I hardly know what to do first.  And no matter what else I choose to do, I have to be home in time to put the dialysis machine together. I keep asking people to be patient, but you know in your gut that sooner or later you'll owe someone so much that they'll just say, "Hey, we can't treat your kid unless you pay."  And the dialysis bill is the big one - we're up to nearly $5000 and it's being contested by our insurance company.

I despise the idea of using a credit card for either Christmas spending OR for medical bills.  And my paycheck is already showing the 20% cut I had to agree to this year to balance out what I know I am not going to make because of my illness.

"Peace on earth, and good will toward men."

Peace sounds good.  Trust, better.  Faith, great.  Hope?  Wishful thinking some days.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week Thirty-three - Mixed News From the Dialysis Team......

We spent yesterday morning traveling to and from our monthly meeting with the team.  And the "team" designation is really not an exaggeration.  Nurse, nurse practitioner, dietician, social worker all see us each and every time we go.  Every three months we have to collect a twenty-four hour urine specimen (yeah, I agree) and a sample of dialysis fluid to take along, and this was THAT month.  They drew blood (each visit) and informed us that somewhere between last summer and last month, Babygirl managed to lose her immunity to Hepatitis B. There is no real way to explain why.

Well, that just stinks. It turns out that they screen all donors for hepatitis B antigen (the actual virus, indicating active infection) and antibodies (indicating immunity).  If the donor is antigen positive, they are crossed off the donor list no matter what because they will certainly transmit that virus to the recipient.  Since the recipient will be deliberately immunosuppressed after the surgery, that is an unacceptable risk. But if the test positive for the antibody only, it means that either they were vaccinated and it "took", or that they had the disease, got over it and are immune.  But there is an ominous third possibility - that the donor has so little virus left in their blood that we can't detect it and partial immunity, in which case the virus could still be transmitted to a recipient who is not immune.  Therefore they won't give an antibody positive kidney to an antibody negative recipient.  And since nearly everybody under the age of twenty-five has been vaccinated, that eliminates a LOT of donors. 

So.  Babygirl rolled up her sleeve and got a quadruple dose of Hepatitis B vaccine divided into two shots (her choice to divide the large fluid volume).  And she'll get it again next time we go, and again in six months. And the only complaint she's made about that is that the bandaids all itched. Really? Three pokes and that's it?  I am, as I frequently am, humbled by her.

On the good news side, she is growing again.  Her appetite suddenly went out of control a couple of weeks ago and she has put on two pounds and grown half an inch.  It's not much compared to last year, but we'll take it! Her last labs were all okay, and we're hoping that this batch is okay too.

One of the things I noticed while waiting for our next appointment info was another child's urine collection container.  Babygirl's had nearly two liters.  The other had barely a tenth of that.  We are so blest that she continues to get rid of water and potassium on her own - this would be unbelievably more challenging if she didn't, which is, frankly, frightening to imagine.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Machine Machinations......

Just about the time I think I can take advantage of the machine, it decides to make that impossible. After nearly two full months of peaceful coexistance, we drew The Red Screen of Doom again last night.  The machine gave us a bit of trouble the other night, and the scale needed to be reset.  But last night! Arghhhhh!

Hubby was setting up and one of the bags (eleven pounds, remember?) slipped out of his hands and landed a bit hard on the scale. So the remainder of set-up was challenging, to say the least. We had to get tech support again. Nothing we did reset the scale.  And the Doom screen popped up, this time because the internal pumps were out of sync somehow.  Forturnately, we were able to get over it, get it all reset, and make the Red Screen go away.

I suspect that we may be having trouble with the scale because of the cat.  Sometimes we don't have time to fully disassemble everything from the machine, and a nearly empty bag sits on the scale (which is also a heater) until we get the chance to pull it off - sometimes toward the end of the day. I'm guessing that the cat probably finds this a cozy place to hang out, and although she's very small for a cat, leaping from the floor to the heater/scale may lead to a pretty solid landing. 

I'd keep the cat out of the room, except that Babygirl wants her door open when she sleeps.  And since this kitty is a hider, once she's in, I can't find her, nor can I find her anywhere else to prove she isn't in there!

So we just have to keep resetting the scale as needed. And go back to meditation when the situation allows.