This very cold month of January (2018) will conclude my first year of being on dialysis.
I am not looking at month’s end as a time for celebration; there are no plans for a party in behalf of surviving one year in partnering with Count Dracula, the name I have given my dialysis machine. Rather, I consider the month’s end as more of one as recognition – a time to acknowledge that my life likely has been prolonged. And done so by a process that three times a week circulates the 10 or 11 pints of my blood, while methodically filtering it each treatment day (about three complete cycles) in removing any excess fluid and cleansing the bloodstream of any bad-boy toxins.
As a result, I generally feel pretty good going into and coming out of dialysis, along with the time in between. Maybe that is reason for celebration.
What I do savor about the past 12 months are the conversations with fellow end stage renal disease patients, and several of the people who I have become acquainted with in doing research for my new book titled Dialing in on DI-AL-Y-SIS and some others who fall into the category of book writers. Among the latter are World Series baseball champion Ed Hearn, University of Cincinnati professor emerita Angelene J. Hall, and noted kidney disease advocate Jim Dineen.
** I have known of Ed Hearn since he was a member of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, and soon after involved in a trade that took him to the Kansas City Royals, my favorite team ever since the team’s inception in 1969.
Hearn, whose lengthy Minor League run (eight seasons) but very brief Major League stint was shortened by injuries, was featured in a chapter of my book. Following his baseball career, he endured medical struggles with several very serious diseases – chronic renal disease that forced him through years on dialysis followed by three kidney transplants, a life-threatening sleep disorder, and battles with carcinoma, a type of cancer that requires radiation and a multitude of prescribed pills.
The Florida-born Hearn in 1996 wrote a book titled Conquering Life’s Curves that I discovered while researching my book. I ordered a copy of Ed’s hardcover offering and found it to be an uplifting find. It took me only one overnight read to finish it, and soon thereafter I enjoyed a memorable telephone chat with him, the first kidney transplant recipient I had ever indulged in conversation.
In the past couple of decades, Hearn has become one of the top 10 inspirational speakers in the country.
** I came to know of Angelene J. Hall just this past holiday season when my second-oldest daughter, Erin Gilmer, provided me with a book receipt in a festive bag beneath our modest window-box tree. The thoughtful reading titled Duck Summer was en route, arriving a few moons after Christmas Day. Angelene’s interesting book chronicles her six-year odyssey on dialysis that preceded her eventual kidney transplant in 2004.
After reading Hall’s book, I was able to connect with her by telephone. She still resides in Cincinnati, and Summer Duck, her most recent literary writing, represents her efforts in using her experiences with ESRD to educate the public about renal decline and ultimate failure, dialysis treatment, and the urgency of organ donation.
** Even more recently, I have had an occasion to hook up through Facebook and by email with dialysis patient/kidney transplant recipient Jim Dineen. The West Chester (Ohio) former steel industry manager penned a poem titled Those Who Go, Those Who Stay that appears in my book as a very appropriate presentation.
Jim wrote the poem in 1990, when someone asked him about his experiences during the Vietnam War. His daughter, Shari, then painted a picture for him using his poem as her inspiration. The picture has the same title and depicts a Vietnam veteran kneeling at “The Wall” memorial in Washington, D.C.
Dineen was diagnosed with kidney failure in 1998. After three years on dialysis, he received a kidney in November of 2003 from Joyce, his wife of more than 40 years. In June of 2004, their story was featured in Readers Digest, focusing on how kidney disease dramatically affected their family and brought them together.
In addition to his poetic prowess, Dineen has authored two books – one titled Life’s Just Not That Complicated and another titled Stand Up, SPEAK! He also since his transplant has dedicated hours upon hours of time and effort as a spokesman for kidney disease at various levels of advocacy.
Though Dineen’s poem originally was written with a specific subject in mind, the words, according to the author himself, “also ring true for everyone, and especially for those of us with kidney disease.”
Dineen’s poem – Those Who Go, Those Who Stay – appears in Dialing in on DI-AL-Y-SIS as follows:
Those Who Go, Those Who Stay
By Jim Dineen (dialysis patient, transplant recipient)
If time were a day, or a week, or a year,
and friends were the fluid that creates a tear;
Then life for me continues a dream ….
Bear with me a moment, here’s what I mean.
I’ve lost a few throughout my life,
Some ’cause natural, others ’cause strife;
And through it all some things remain …
Life’s really not cruel, it just has some pain.
When we rise each morning, sun shining or not,
Don’t think of who’s gone, but think of who’s not;
And give them respect and warmth and love
to get through their day on the wings of a dove,
Or maybe an eagle, an osprey’s wing …
Give them something to make their hearts sing.
You see, our friends, through life’s perils and strains,
are always ours, regardless of pain;
Always seeing the good, forgetting the bad,
that each of us shows whether happy or sad;
Whether times are good or sometimes hard,
they’re there for us, they’ll deal the card
That’s best for us when we’re in need …
No questions asked, simply planting the seed.
The end of this piece is nowhere to be found,
’cause just like our lives, it flows ’round and ’round;
New friends will come, and old ones will go,
But the ones we know best continue to show
The need for our presence, the need for our trust …
Look around you, my friends, those folks are us.