Bad, Bad Kidney

September 30, I will have been on dialysis for two years. The average time spent before transplant is six years. Trivial little facts on the Second Anniversary of Dialysis:

Total Weeks: 104
Total Days: 312
Total Hours: 1,092
Cost per hour average: $1,143.00
Total Cost for two years: $1,248,000 (yes, that is almost one and a quarter MILLION)

In the last two years, I have had four surgeries, multiple doctor visits, 20 drips to unclog my site, bitten by a dog in my dialysis hand once, had my blood pressure crash about 40 times. (This morning, for example - 60 over 40 and still breathing)

Every dialysis day is an event. I call them “Bad Kidney” events. Like, a bad dog. They simply misbehave. Even though they aren’t functioning – those little guys continually act up.
  • First you get poked by two needles – and there is every chance just one of the needles will not work, or will infiltrate, or will hit a nerve. Sometimes, when any of this happens, you have to go home (they charge you anyway for the needles and the prep of the machine) AND you have to come back the next day! AND, this little scenario is all you think about every time you start dialysis. Will it work? Are they using the right needles? Will the flow be sufficient?
  • Then once you start – you have to worry about your blood pressure crashing. Which usually happens towards the end. Alarms go off, they have to add back fluid, and you leave needing to have fluid removed but you wait until the next time.
  • Also, once you start, you have to worry about the blood flow both going into the machine and coming back into your arm. If it is too low or too high, it sets off alarms.
  • Every time the alarm goes off (an average of 9 times for me each session), it intermittently STOPS my dialysis and then restarts and adds that lost time to the total time spent on dialysis.

I love the other patients at my dialysis center. You get to know each other, say hi, you run into each other at stores – and more often than not – at restaurants – where there’s lots of forbidden foods loaded in our no-no ingredients (sodium, potassium, phosphorous). And there we sit, eyeballing each other – knowing we are indulging in our favorite foods with sinful delight.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an ugly trend at my center –around Christmas. Winter is not kind to dialysis patients – we’re worn down, our immune systems are compromised, we get flu shots – but we still get the flu, or something kind of mundane to healthy people. And then we lose people – usually in droves. Last winter, it was two women who both died from heart problems. And then there was that one young kid, 35, paralyzed from the neck down, who went home from dialysis one day and decided not to come back – he died after only four days of no dialysis. It gives you pause. (My Dad did the same thing – lasting seven days.) We lost them all in one weekend, so that Monday morning, I came in and noticed the three empty chairs immediately. The techs aren't supposed to tell us what happened, but they tell me because I have that open honest face and people tell me their deepest secrets - including what patients died this weekend. Yeesh.

Oh – add the above trivia to the 90 patients my one center has (Spokane has seven centers) and these are the center’s numbers:

Total hourly earnings: (this is what insurance pays, not what they charge) $102,857 (an hour)
Total annual earnings: $56,160,000.

Ever wonder why insurance is so high?

P.S. I'm thinking of creating a second blog - called Bad, Bad Kidney just for journaling - except that I've said in this one post what happens to me every day, 156 days a year.

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