The initial phase of dialysis is very stressful. If a fistula (the connection of a vein and artery made either on top of the wrist or on the forearm) wasn’t made earlier a catheter is inserted directly into your neck, which is used until the fistula is ready for use, which takes from six to eight weeks. The catheter is around twenty-five centimeters long and is held up by a strap around your forehead as you go about with your daily activities. My nephews said I looked like Pocahontas!
Anyway, you look like a circus attraction on two feet. You have to sleep in a sitting position and take care not to move the catheter. Talk about a change of habits! So stressful! The usual dialysis procedure: after arriving, when you enter you get a paper cover to put over your shoes (should be done, but isn’t always necessary) and go into the dressing room to change into the clean clothes you brought from home and you put on your slippers. Another paper cover should be put over your slippers (again, should be done, but isn’t always available).
Centers sometimes try to cut costs on the most trivial things. After getting changed you go to the dialysis room, where you are measured to determine your fluid intake. It would be ideal if the threshold of 2 liters wasn’t crossed, although I mostly have around 3. When you’re used to drinking up to four liters daily (with a healthy kidney, of course), it’s difficult to cut back so drastically. After the intake is determined in relation to your “dry” weight, you go to a prepared chair or bed, located next to a machine. When you’re as comfortable as you can be, two 1mm needles are inserted into your left (right if you’re left-handed) arm, provided that the fistula is developed. One of the needles goes into a vein and another into an artery.
The dialysis process lasts around four hours, the duration is determined by your doctor taking into account the condition you’re in, or rather what your test results are like. There’s usually a TV, one or a few of them, but agreeing on what will be on them isn’t something that happens as often as you’d like! Bring a book or some magazines, or headphones, if you like listening to music. My preference is a tablet preloaded with movies and TV Shows because I feel it’s unparalleled in its ability to make time fly by. An hour or two into the treatment, a snack will be brought to you, because dialysis is very harsh on the body, draining your system which now needs feeding.
The arm which is used for dialysis is useless, doesn’t hurt much after placement, and at all after you get used to it. Scars form on this arm, and the vein and artery used to become very prominent. After dialysis is finished, and the needles extracted, I have to hold and press gauze to stop the bleeding. A bandage is then applied, which needs to stay on your arm until the evening of, you have measured again, to determine how much liquid was lost. And then, free as a bird, until the next one. Three times a week, every week…