Friday, November 9, 2007

First long walk with the new kidney

I was the beneficiary yesterday of a newly installed machine, possibly borrowed from the sets of Star Wars, that -- among other things -- can unobtrusively look at a bladder and see if there are any damaged or unhealed areas. Happily all is well. Thus the longed for moment of being released from the catheter happened on the spot, alleluia, alleluia. I felt a little like Pinocchio at the moment the angel freed him from his strings.

I had been told that, assuming my bladder passed inspection, I would be released and was avidly looking forward to a homecoming in Wendy’s company and a nice meal at Kanisstraat 5 in Alkmaar, but soon after getting back to my room the doctors paid a visit and let me know they had decided to keep me one more night. They want to do another round of blood tests tomorrow and meanwhile want to be sure my kidney doesn’t just look good under high-tech inspection but is functioning well in actual life (which happily it seems to be doing quite well).

I also learned that my creatinine level, for the first time in about five years, is now “normal,” normal signifying anything between 80 and 120. It was 900 when it was checked last week on our arrival at the AMC and was 110 the day before yesterday.

The delay in going home was disappointing, but, on the plus side, no longer hobbled by the catheter, I was free to go for a walk and eager to take a closer look at the hospital, inside and out. I put on my street clothes (trousers tighter than they were ten days ago) and set off.

I’ve never been in a hospital anything like the AMC. The view of the complex from the outside suggests no-frills efficiency. Indeed the efficiency is there -- the hospital seems to operate like a Swiss watch -- but once inside the main entrance one enters a corridor that leads to a large glass-roofed plaza dominated on the ground level by a café and bookshop (where I bought a copy of Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns). The plaza serves as a kind of public living room -- lots of places to sit, have a cup of coffee and read a book or newspaper. An adjacent corridor leads to a similar plaza which is home to a cafeteria, a café and an upmarket restaurant with the elegant name Basilico, plus a row of shops: a small supermarket (I came away with a bottle of strawberry smoothie), a gift shop (I bought an anniversary gift for Nancy: a music box), a barber shop (but Nancy is my barber), etc.

Photos I took during my walk are now on our Flickr site in the set of kidney transplant related images:

As night fell, it was no longer walking weather outside the hospital. It was suddenly raining with a passion. On the evening news I heard that the entire Dutch coastline were being closely monitored for the first time in thirty years because of a severe storm in the North Sea coupled with exceptionally high tides and waves expected of up to ten meters. Coastal areas were preparing for a possible four-meter rise in water levels. Ferry services to the Wadden islands were cancelled while the islanders themselves were hurriedly laying down sand bags at vulnerable locations. Similar conditions in 1953 caused dike-breaking floods in the province of Zeeland which cost more a thousand lives.

It may be a sign of healing that what is happening outside my hospital window isn’t overshadowed by the kind of myopia that illness can occasion.

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