Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kidney failure can be a laughing matter

“I haven’t seen you for so long, how are you?” Asked a favorite neighbor.

“Good, well bad, but I’m alive.” I was laughing, because it was such a pleasure to see him, to be up, awake and out of the apartment. “It is a challenge, when my kidney’s fail, or liver and heart problems: so much to manage.”

“My God!” he stared at me with his mouth open, “your kidneys’ fail?”

“Yeah, it’s funny, like I drank a couple glasses of wine and to filter it out of the blood, it crashed my system.” I make a flat cutting hand gesture. “Stopped me peeing for three days.” I smile and give a laugh to show that everything is okay.

He’s giving me THAT look, a mix between the horror that I am having body failure, but I’m not in a hospital or on a TV show, I’m here, waiting for the elevator. Helpless Pity might be the name of the look. It makes me want to help him feel better. I make a joke out of it, because that is how I make people feel better; if I am laughing, then it can’t be too bad.

“Yeah, when I stop peeing at all, I’m up in the mirror every day checking my eyes for yellow ‘nope, don’t have jaundice today.’”

He’s not laughing, ‘That’s so awful.’

‘I know, now no more wine for me. It sucks." Hmmm, is my timing off? "So now I just drink apple juice.” I tell him and laugh. Nope, turns out the whole world doesn't laugh with you. Tough crowd.

I’ve been asleep for 2 out of 3 days, and just up, I’m off to the library. The computer says they have the ‘three day free fast view’ of the DVD ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ at Central Library, just over four blocks away and I want to be there when they open.

When I am there, everyone moves away from me. Plus the Abraham Lincoln DVD was stolen, so I am still number 143 on the wait list for the regular library copy (only 60+ more weeks to wait). The ‘fast view’ DVD you just have to happen to be there.

‘It’s okay’ I tell the people looking at the DVD’s when I wheel to the end, ‘I can see it fine.’ They scatter like I am a mobile land mine and stay far away.

I spent two hours getting ready to come. I am freshly showered, nice earrings, nice clothes, some pink grapefruit moisturizer. They continue to scatter if I even turn the chair slightly toward them. ‘Nice earrings’ one girl says, but stays at least six feet away.

After a hour of this, I wheel and murmur, “Please stay, I promise I won’t explode and shower you with meat particles.”

They stay even further away.

Only the elderly will talk to me, or not move away. Perhaps it is because it is too much effort. One man from James Bay in his late 60’s/early 70’s tells me that he is mentally okay but wants to do more, “I’m just so darn weak” he states with bitterness.

“THAT,” I tell him, “I can relate to.”

We talk Victoria history and the changing city. In James bay, the city has sold the largest park to make into condos. Heritage homes are being torn down to use the yard space to make condos. The Province, still overspent from the Olympics and economy crash is selling assets, including one of the handfuls of parks left in James Bay. It too will be condos. My problem is that once a park is turned into a condo they aren’t going to tear down some building to make another park.

“They’ll change the city,” The older man, who had lived here in the 50’s when James Bay was all Industrial and shipyards, “And when they finish, they change it all over again.”

I talk to a older Korean man about the Korean war and Korean films. British Columbia passed a law allowing no Japanese or Chinese and likely no Koreans to move here for over two generations while Europeans, particularly British were welcomed. Before 1900 the city census showed that Chinese alone were almost 30-35% of the population. City Hall passed a resolution that no Chinese would be hired by the city. My grandfather’s grandfather came here, was welcomed here.

The Korean gentleman tells me that it was 30 years ago when most of the Korean’s came. We talk about different Korean dishes and where the good restaurants are in Victoria and Seattle. Both of the men tell me that I must be an expert in history.

I think instead that I am finally aware of where I am in space and time.

I knew my great grandmother. She raised rabbits. She fed them, I fed them. She skinned them, ate them, then stuffed the skins and gave them to us kids. I still have one. My grandfather’s house, which he built in part with the salvaged timber from the first ship built in the Esquimalt shipyards, the SS Fort Camosun. The ship was loaded with timber, even up on the decks. A ship built in 1941 for Britian, it was torpedoed by Japanese sub I-25 just outside the harbor, right where the Alaska cruise ships wait before unloading day trip passengers.
Capital Iron in Victoria, which is now a building and exterior design store was a ship salvage store until the owner died in the 1970’s. For 20 years after the basement was full of old ship lights, rowboats, and gear.

The SS Fort Camosun should have sunk. But all the fir timber kept it afloat. They towed it back, fixed and filled it and off it went. But it left a shipful of cheap lumber, which was several feet short in length (they cut off they wet and damaged parts). That worked for my Grandfather, he was a ‘make do’ kind of guy.

His front yard is now a shopping mall. Change.

When I was in my 20’s I was new in this ‘New World.’ I had no sense of place, probably because I was more interested in how I wasn’t going to be like parents, siblings, etc. Only in my 30’s did I understand enough of history, both family, social and local to realize that there wasn’t much of a gap between 1900 and me.

Canadians proved themselves a country in WWI, dying at battles which are known mostly for the high number of Casualties, like Vimy Ridge. My Great Grandfather was wounded at Vimy Ridge, which is why his pregnant wife travelled from Victoria to Britian, and while there, gave birth to my Grandfather.

That made my grandfather British, which made my mother British and let me live, work and study in the UK. All because of Vimy Ridge. My Grandfather told me about growing up, and my Nan, and my father. Except that my father kept telling me how easy it was to get a job, except his first big job was at a paint plant in James Bay. Now there is a luxury Hotel on that site. Nor are there jobs on the DEW line, watching a screen in Northern Canada for Soviet missiles coming over the arctic. And one of my mother’s only jobs, working at City Hall, requires more than high school education now. But at least City Hall is still there.

It was a good day out. I waited to hear Carols, but the time advertised was wrong. They yesterday. The day I was asleep all day. I’d flown out of the wheelchair when hitting one of the curb cuts. It made my back funky.

I’m glad I went out.

But between juggling energy to keep the internal organs working, the sleep I need to recover and seizing the day when I can, I find that I’ll likely be ready for Xmas, gifts and letter by Feb or March – right now I’m almost ready for thanksgiving.

So maybe not so in tune with time and space as I thought.


Neil said...

Guess I'm lucky: my kidneys didn't fail. But they tried to! Actually, my immune system attacked my kidneys in 1989, but with some good drugs that suppressed the immune system, I survived.

I'm glad you got out for a roll, Beth. but no falling out of the chair, please. It's just not cool.

Love and zen hugs,


Anonymous said...

Dear Beth,
It's me Sharon MV.
I'm glad you got out & got to go to the library. Time passes in spurts for me lately. Sometimes a day (or night when I'm up to 4 or 5 am) seems to crawl by and the week will pass in a flash.
I'm so sorry you'r going through so much failure & suffering with your illnesses. I guess some people think you'd like to sleep when you are so sick. Even without the fact that it is a sign that organs & functions are failing, it isn't much fun to sleep fitfully or in a stupor, to feel that you are missing out on life that is passing by. I only get the stupor sleep for short periods, but I don't like it at all. For me, I think it happens due to blood sugar spikes or medications interacting and when I'm coming down with a bad infection with a fever. Thankfully my organs are still functional. I wish you could have more days of functioning, of being awake & able to go out. You always have interesting talks with people despite those who won't come near. And we get to read your observations, perceptions & stories.

I hope you got your movie. I'd like to hear what you think of it. I haven't seen it yet.

Do you have a seat belt on your chair? Maybe that would hamper rather than help. But please no more flying out of the chair.

Love, Sharon

Elizabeth McClung said...

Too true, when the choice is awareness, however limited, and sleep, I choose awareness.