While beginning to gather information back in February (2017) for my new book, titled Dialing in on DI-AL-Y-SIS, some of the favorite resources were fellow patients at the Premier Dialysis center on the Indianapolis (Indiana) south side.
The facility’s lobby provides a perfect setting for the exchange of dialogue among patients while awaiting open chairs for treatment sessions. It is a time when patients can get to know each other, with topics ranging from sports and general chit chat, along with a good amount of attention given to how the three-times-a-week treatment regimens are going.
More often than not, conversations become interrupted when one party or another is called into the 14-chair treatment room, where sessions begin with patients being hooked up to the dialysis machines to begin a process that will last anywhere from three and one-half hours to sometimes more than four full circuits of the big hand on the room’s wall clocks. When the lobby talk is broken up abruptly, the patient being summoned often receives a send-off chorus of “to be continued.” Sometimes a topic being discussed continues on by those still in the lobby. Sometimes it doesn’t. And likely it won’t be revisited on the next treatment day a couple of days later. Topics tend to come and go.
Those gathered in the lobby for the most part are senior citizens. There are several septuagenarians (like me, in their 70s) and a few octogenarians (in their 80s). And there will be occasional older patients yet, that I learned are known as nanogenarians (in their 90s). And then there is Isaac Garcia, a young man in his 40s, who has encountered kidney disease and dialysis way before his time.
By coincidence, the Monday-Wednesday-Friday conversationalists include three patients with Kansas ties — nanogenarian Charles Sandy and septuagenarians Charlene Niederhouse and myself — along with several other mostly Indiana folks. Sandy and I grew up in Central Kansas towns about 60 miles apart, Charles in McPherson and me farther west in Great Bend. One of the first people I visited with in the lobby was Steve Decker, a long-time Hoosier resident; we both started dialysis treatments on the same day — February 1 of 2017.
It’s always revealing when new acquaintances can substantiate that the world is indeed a small place. Charlene and her husband, Jim (recently nicknamed Dr. Jimbo) Niederhouse, both at one time lived in Wichita, just over 55 miles south of McPherson and about a 90-mile diagonal shot from Great Bend. Generally, Charlene and Mr. Sandy can be found in neighboring chairs during dialysis treatments.
During their first lobby conversation, Decker and myself discovered we had been hanging out at some of the same places during our time. A multi-state service manager, Steve represented Modern Photo Offset Supply for 44 years throughout all of Indiana and Kentucky, along with Western Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Eastern Illinois. Along the way, he serviced lithographic products at numerous newspapers, schools, prisons and an assortment of independent businesses. While I worked at newspapers in Shelbyville, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis in Indiana and Hamilton in Ohio for nearly two decades, the two of us never met up — not until that same first day while making our debut on dialysis.
Sandy, who grew up in a town with three oil refineries, found it interesting that my dad, Bernice (pronounced Bern-ess) Gilmer was a drilling superintendent for Shell Oil Company back in the late 1930s and early 1940s. As a big-time sports fan, I found it eye-popping when Charles began talking about the Globe Refinery in McPherson and its men’s basketball team that represented the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Although not having made it into this world until five years later, I never grew up knowing the historical achievement recorded by the Globe Refinery team and its part in winning a gold medal at the Berlin competition.
Due to that early conversation with Charles Sandy, I included an account of his hometown’s feat, along with a picture of Charles, in Chapter 10 of Dialing in on DI-AL-Y-SIS.
There are many other stories that could be told from those who sit in that Premier Dialysis lobby three times a week. And particularly from those who join in the M-W-F chit-chat exchanges on a regular basis. There are more patients in the lobby than Charles Sandy, the Niederhouses, Steve Decker, Isaac Garcia and myself. There are some patients I know by their first names — Anna Mae, Barry, Bruce, David, Joan, Madonna, Martha, Oliver, patient Pete and his wife Peggy Sue from Mooresville, patient Ron from Edinburgh and his sisters from nearby there — and many others — the O’Charley’s cook, Mr. Flynn (sp), Ms. Lindsey (sp), Mr. Sundhu (sp), and Mr. Singh, for example — I recognize only by their faces.
There are even more that I don’t know very well or at all, but we are all (about 40 of us) there three days a week on a common mission — gathered together to receive dialysis treatment, an end stage renal disease process that is designed to prolong our lives. The group since Steve Decker and I began dialysis at Premier nearly 10 months ago has not remained constant — a few patients have opted to go elsewhere for treatment, at least one has been the recipient of a kidney transplant, and unfortunately the names of a couple others have been found in obituary pages.