Saturday, January 5, 2008

A fireplace of welcome

The photo is a view of the reception counter of the kidney illness unit of the AMC’s Polyclinic (for out-patient care). It's a very familiar sight. During the first few weeks following the transplant I was here twice a week. Now it’s once every one or two weeks. Nor are the visits ever brief. I get to do a lot of reading while I await my turn. These last few weeks it has been Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the new translation done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. (If you have never read it, now’s the time. I doubt there will ever be a better translation in English.)

The woman behind the counter on the right, Ruthline, is always a fireplace of welcome, not only eager to know how I’m doing but certain to ask about Nancy as well. She loves speaking English, so we almost always converse in that language. Checking my blood pressure a week ago in an adjacent room, the word “God” entered our conversation. “I thank God,” she said, “that things have gone so well for Nancy and you. I have been praying for you.” “Believe me,” I assured her, “we thank God every day.” “You believe in God?” she asked. “Oh, yes,” I told her. “Isn’t it sad,” she said, “that so many people don’t? How is that possible?” I suggested it might have less to do with God than with negative experiences people have of churches, or the negative church experiences of others they have heard or read about. Also, for some, belief in God is just not fashionable. “That must be it,” she said. “Maybe all those things.”

We started laughing. In fact I laughed so hard that she had to take my blood pressure again as she thought the laughter would have thrown the reading off.

I had thought that a journal about a kidney transplant would surely end not long after the transplant, assuming all went well. In fact the transplant seems to have been entirely successful, and yet, even two months later, an occasional update seems in order, if only to share the post-transplant side of the event, as the AMC’s kidney staff keeps a very sharp eye on how things are going with all their transplant patients, intensively so the first few months.

Tests, tests and more tests. Last week’s laboratory visit at the AMC required filling twelve small vials for twelve specific blood tests. Happily it was only four vials yesterday.

The numbers continue to be good. My kidney function, as computed yesterday, is 88 percent -- a good deal better than is generally found in people four years short of seventy. The maximum might be found in a young person in excellent health.

The latest reading of my creatinine level is 118. Compare that to over 900, as it was on October 30, the day before the transplant.

Another welcome sign: Eight days ago, I had to use a walking stick in getting to the hospital. It was slow going. My left leg had been troubling me for days, which doctors at the AMC assumed was a side effect of the anti-rejection medication I’m taking. Yesterday I was able to make the journey on my own two legs, nor had I used the walking stick at all throughout the past week. Perhaps this has to with the reduced dosage of Neoral, one of the medications they watch most carefully, or the increased calcium I’ve been taking lately, or simply my body adjusting to medication. Still, in order to have a better idea of how the joints and surrounding muscle and tissue look in the area where my legs meet my hips, an MRI is scheduled for January 15.

A note that has nothing to do with kidneys or hospitals: for Russian Orthodox parishes, it’s almost Christmas. As we’re on the “old calendar,” Christmas comes thirteen days later than it does for most other Christians. By this reckoning, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. All this can be a bit confusing for those not living in Russia or part of a Russian parish in the west, but it can have its advantages. In our case it means a two-tiered Christmas celebration -- the days of December 24th through the 26th a time for family events, then a liturgical Christmas mainly centered at our parish in Amsterdam.

Merry Christmas!


Olympiada said...

Perhaps you can continue the blog and just blog for the sake of blogging? I for one would like to read more about the whole atheist/agnostic/believer confusion, especially as it plays out in Holland vs. America.
Do you know anything about the Jewish population in Holland?
And I am glad you are recovering so well.
God bless you!

Sherri McFerran said...

Jim, do you remember how long you had to wait after your transplant to have your dialysis stent removed ? My husband had a kidney transplant a couple of months ago, and we're trying to be very careful so that everything continues to go well.
Sherri McFerran (Russo)

Sherri McFerran said...

"Stent" meaning "fistola"