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.
Posted by Jim and Nancy Forest at 3:32 PM