Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rip van Winkel

(Today’s photo: While Nancy recovers from the surgery of eighteen days ago, she finds herself needing a nap or two each day. Our cat Beckett almost always volunteers to assist her in napping, one of his great talents. Double-click on the photo for a bigger version.)

Over the past five years, when the kidney illness was first detected thanks to a blood test, I’ve many times said to friends, “If I didn’t know I was sick, I wouldn’t know I was sick.” I was able to continue my usual work. I wasn’t in pain. I didn’t feel at all diminished. In most regards, life went on as normal. Writing seemed to take more time -- The Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life ended up being a three-year project rather than one, as I had imagined when I signed the contract with Orbis, but was a better book for all the time it took.

The most obvious major change came when dialysis became necessary a year ago January -- that took about a 60-hour bite out of my usual work schedule each month, but even then I was able to use the time for reading, which proved a god-send. Travel became far more complicated (it’s time-consuming and sometimes frustrating setting up dialysis in other countries), but even so I managed to get to quite a few places in response to lecture invitations: France, Italy, Spain, Greece, England, Canada, the USA.

Probably because the disease had been noticed at an early stage, I was one of the more fortunate people coping with renal failure. Treatment began earlier than is often the case. I was the one dialysis patient coming to the hospital by bike rather than taxi.

But now that I’m living with a healthy kidney, I suddenly realize just how much impact the illness had on me, though it came on so slowly that I was hardly aware of the changes. I feel a little like Rip van Winkel waking up from a multi-year nap. The world seems brighter, colors more intense, tastes more intense. I find myself looking at familiar things with a sense of surprise. A friend told me how her brother, after receiving a donated kidney, felt like he was seeing the sky for the first time in ages. Even though I’m still recovering from surgery, I find I tire much less easily than before. I was often sleeping eight-and-a-half hours a night before; now it’s typically seven-and-a-half.

The doctors at the AMC are pleased with how it’s going. I see them often -- two appointments per week the first three months following the transplant. I was there again yesterday.

A question: Will this remain an approximately daily journal? Probably not. The recovery is coming along nicely for both of us. Nancy’s kidney, Super-K, is working with enthusiasm. There have been no signs of organ rejection, the primary worry of any transplant patient. I cannot even complain about side effects of the various medicines I take each day -- luckily so far they have given me a miss. It doesn’t make sense to make a daily posting that basically says “all is well.”

There’s the possibility of turning this it a journal that casts a wider net and in which the transplant is no longer the arch stone. We’ll have to think about it. What are your suggestions? The advice-needed sign is out.

3 comments: said...

I like this format for reading about your life and goings on, Jim. I'm thankful that your surgery went so well! Blogs are great, as you can save the spot to your favorites and check in with people frequently. We're doing one for Adessa, our five month old. Love, Keidi

Snarfff said...

I say keep A Tale of Two Kidneys alive and strong. I'm finding a blog is a great way to keep friends, espcially those at a distance, up to date. I feel silly, sometimes, writing in my blog (it feels so self-centered), but my friends who read it, in particular those abroad, tell me they like knowing what's going on in my perfectly ordinary life. So, A Tale of Two Kidneys, the ongoing adventures of Jim and Nancy, seems like a great idea to me and you'll have at least one dedicated reader out there!

Else10 said...

I agree. I would keep reading. I appreciate both your insights and the lovely example of your marriage. Your positive and holy outlook is an encouragement to me! So I say, AMEN to continuing the blog in some fashion! :)