Sunday, July 22, 2012

Learning about Dialysis

I visited a dialysis center for the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was definitely nervous, but it was an important day for me. And it was completely humbling, since I was there with eight kids who showed a type of bravery and dignity that sometimes escapes me.

I was up in Flint visiting a Kids Camp put on by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. The Foundation makes it possible for 25 kids with kidney disease to go to camp each summer, and I was there to see the camp in action. The kids who are on hemodialysis leave camp twice during the week for treatment.

What struck me:

  • The way the Davita staff interacted with the medical team from the camp -- a U-M doctor and a nurse from Children's Hospital of Detroit. They were true pros.  
  • The different vascular access points the kids had. There were arteriovenous fistulas, arteriovenous grafts and one venous catheter.
  • The way the kids knew the routine and could answer all of the questions the staff asked about their specific treatments. This center typically serves adults -- not kids -- but everyone collaborated beautifully so that these treatments could happen.

As I stood there and observed, my knees were a bit wobbly, and my breathing was shallow. I won't lie. I've been very afraid of dialysis. Will I ever need it? And if I do, what type of treatment would be best for me? I may never get to the point of needing to make those decisions, but if I do, I hope I handle it as well as those eight kids did. They reminded me that courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes, courage is quietly doing what you need to do, even though it's not all that fun.       

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I'm Going to Walley World

There's a scene in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) stands at the edge of a hotel pool -- naked -- contemplating what he's about to do. His wife and kids are back in the room, yet he's moments from jumping into the pool to skinny dip with a woman, played by Christie Brinkley, that he just met on the road.

He swings his arms wildly in front of his body and manages to say, "This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy." before jumping into the water. Like most events in the movie, it doesn't end well for ole Sparky.

I've had my share of "This is crazy." moments in my life. Some were borne of peer pressure. Others were the result of stupidity. And a few were because I thought I was invincible.

Example: In 2009 I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) without training. I was out of shape and had no business pushing my body that way, but a friend said "hey you should run this race seven days from now" and I somehow thought it was a great idea. On race day, I stood at the starting line, thought "this is crazy," and then made it the entire 13.1 without walking. 
I hadn't been diagnosed yet, but I was going through testing and knew something was wrong with me. I think I ran that day to prove that I was OK -- to show myself that I was still me

I tried another half marathon later in 2009 but it was a complete disaster, and I haven't run since. 
My big news: I signed up to run a 5K in September. I'm medically cleared to do this, but that doesn't diminish my nervousness. Right now, I can only run in two-minute intervals before transitioning into a walk. I'm following a training program designed for people who have never run before, because that's my new reality. I need to forget my athletic past.

The race is in Jackson, Mich., and while it's not as close to home as I would have liked, I chose it for three reasons:

1. I need a race with a big field. Races close to where I live are smaller, and that means there's a good chance I could finish last. Who needs that kind of ego crusher? 

2. The run is hosted by a hospital, Allegiance Health, and is part of a family wellness day. I like that. And I like knowing there will be lots of doctors and nurses around!

3. I spent eight days at this hospital back in 1997 with a bacterial infection that most likely caused everything I'm enduring today. This needs its own blog entry, and I'll try to get to that soon. But I really like the idea of running on the same site where I was once so sick.

The race is September 8, 2012, and although it's only 3.1 miles, I'm having a bit of a "this is crazy" moment. Can I do this? Am I healthy enough to train? I think these things, yet all I want to do is jump into the pool and take my chances. When Christie Brinkley asks,
"are you gonna go for it?", the only reasonable answer is yes!

I can think of two ways that friends and family can help me achieve my goal:

1. Consider running with me or being there that day to cheer.
Race information can be found here.

2. Consider training with me. I will be running on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Join me! Let me know if you're in town, and help me get prepared for this race. I need every push, every good vibe, and every ounce of energy I can get.