The past week has been an extremely sad one at the Premier Dialysis center for myself, other end stage renal disease patients and their families, and staff members. We lost two dear patients whose battles with kidney disease and associated ailments came to an end.

The past week, and perhaps on half a dozen other times since I went on dialysis on February 1 of this year, is a reminder that being on this treatment routine becomes a time when coping is most difficult. Dialysis is a treatment process that is designed to prolong lives of those who reach the end stage of renal disease. At some time during the treatment process – perhaps days, weeks, months or years along the way – the prolonging of life unfortunately must come to an end.

About three decades ago, I wrote a newspaper column titled THE NATURE OF THE BEAST handed down to me by my older brother. Somewhere within the writing of that column might be a message that can help those of us on ESRD who try to cope with everyday life. What I gather each time I re-read the column is that if I can learn everything possible about this beast we know as dialysis, then perhaps it will not devour our hopes and beliefs.

The column follows:

By Bernie Gilmer Belvidere Daily Republican
Saturday, February 7, 1987

This handed-down story goes back many decades … back to when plantations flourished in the South. Owners of these large operations – throughout Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, for example – took time almost daily to “sit a spell” on their front porches.

It was meditation time. Cogitation time. Time for reflection. Or whatever, perhaps a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade. It was time to mentally cover the expanse of the plantation, to admire what one powerful individual – with a labor force of slaves – could accomplish by working the land properly and could acquire through shrewd exchange at the marketplace.

One particular plantation owner was accustomed to his daily “sit a spell” routine. He would pull up his basket-woven chair, prop his feet cross-legged on the railing in front of him – right next to one of the two-story white columns that majestically fronted his mansion – and lean back on the two rear chair legs.
Yes, it was meditation time. Cogitation time. Time for reflection, and perhaps some freshly-squeezed lemonade.

It was an era before Lincoln … before Selma … before Wallace … before Cumming. It was an era of peacefulness on the land. It was a time of prosperity for barons of the land.

This particular plantation owner had an unusual companion during his daily “sit a spell” sessions. Lying close-by, tongue wagging in the heat and with sweat running down beside restful eyes into a thick hairy growth that extended over slightly moistened lips was his pet – a fully matured lion.

Now, not many plantation owners in those days had pet lions (most had a few hounds and maybe some cats), but this unusual beast had been acquired during a trading session while it was still a cub. During its growing years, the lion became known throughout that part of the country, and you can bet your Confederate flag it soon became respected by any unsuspecting visitor, not to mention the slave contingency. In fact, many acquaintances recognized that the plantation owner and the lion had over the years become rather inseparable.

One day this particular plantation owner was “sitting a spell” next to one of the big white columns when his balance shifted backwards on the two rear chair legs. To keep from tumbling backwards, the plantation owner tried to catch his left foot on the closest of the two-story white columns. In so doing, the outside of his leg dragged across a protruding wooden nail, cutting the owner’s leg to the extent of drawing a trickle of blood.

The blood proceeded to drip rhythmically – splat … splat … splat – down onto the paw of the lion, which was resting in his customary spot on the porch beside the landowner. After a few drops had saturated the paw and splashed onto the floor, the lion began licking – first slowly, then a little more quickly. It was the lion’s first taste of human blood.

Without hesitation, the plantation owner regained his balance in the chair, eased himself up and crossed the porch to where he had propped his shotgun against a window facing. Slowly and sadly, he crossed back to where the lion was still licking his paw … and with one pull of the trigger he killed the lion.

The moral of the story: Understand the nature of the beast and it will not devour you.

Somehow, this story and its moral can be applied to many present-day situations. We need to recognize who and what we are dealing with in our daily situations. It might help in coping.

Meditate on it. Cogitate on it. Reflect on it.