133) Kerrville Folk Festival & Dialysis

May 26, 2007

Kerrville Dialysis Center:
Today I get here right at 5:30 am, even though I left the ranch 10 minutes late and it was rainy and foggy the whole way into town. The story is that I couldn’t get the dialysis shift I wanted in the afternoon, so I had to accept a 5:30 am time for my dialysis. I figured that when I got here I could re-negotiate a better deal for next weekend. (However, they only have two shifts and the other starts at 9 am, so 5:30 is better for me) This center is beautiful, with in floor scales, all new dialysis machines, floating TV’s, and a beautiful patterned tile floor. All of it looking spanking new and fresh and clean. I feel funny walking in with my muddy Chaco* sandals and mud-splattered legs.

I’m muddy because Quiet Valley Ranch** is like a huge gooky mud pie right now. Mostly the foot-deep mud is in the parking lots and all night long we in the staff campground hear people gunning their cars thinking they’ll get some traction and be able to move. But they don’t get traction in the mud, and they slide around bopping into other cars sometimes and generally getting deeper engaged in the muck. The sounds are of engines racing, the wrrrssshhhhhhh of tires spinning in the mud, and the voices yelling encouragement or warnings or directions for the mostly futile attempts at freeing the vehicles. Sometimes there’s wrrrssshhhhhhhing, then yelling, and a crunch at the end, indicating that there’s another victim of people trying to leave the festival. The later it gets Friday night the less we hear from the parking field so we drift off to sleep with the constant rain ebbing and flowing on our tent top.

I worry about the alarm going off so I wake up every half hour or so to check and see if I’m late. I wake up at 4:30 and it’s early. Then I wake up at 5:10 and I’m late. I rush out and walk through the staff tents quietly in the drizzle and fog, up the puddly dirt road to the staff center and out into the parking lot, finding my way along grassy areas that soak my Chacos and then through 6” deep mud to my truck, that I parked up on the grassy side of a hill. It’s downhill all the way to the road so I make it without any problems and I’m on my way into town slinging mud from my tires for the first quarter mile.

So here I am in a new center, hyper conscious about how they stick me and watching carefully to see if they look professional and competent. They do. The only thing I can think of to complain about is that it is difficult to go back to sleep cause they keep their bright lights on all the time. At El Milagro, after they hook you up, they turn down the lights if you want it that way. Here they aren’t set up to turn down the lights because they are long light fixtures that go all the way down the hall-type room that is the center. So I pull my hat’s bill down over my eyes and make the best of it. I actually fall asleep quickly and sleep until about 9 o’clock. Then I set my radio to San Antonio NPR and listen to the weekend programming until I get done at 10. I feel pretty good and shoot outa there to find a place to get an oil change and lube job before heading back to the ranch.

Quiet Valley Ranch: When I get back, I’m too late to work breakfast at all… in fact I’m too late to even eat breakfast. So, I find the girls at the Shabbat services at Threadgill Theatre, help Cari pour the wine and grape juice for Kiddush, say "Hi" to everyone, and then Liz, the girls, and I walk back to our tent. Shayna & Maya want to go swimming in town but I convince them to change their plans because I don’t want them getting stuck in the mud and I don’t want to loose my great parking place near the staff campground gate. The girls are sad but perk up at the idea of walking down the road a half mile to Turtle Creek and checking it out. I go back to the kitchen and help Cari cut apart 100 pounds of frozen chicken for the dinner stir fry. Then I head back over to Threadgill to hear the last of the children’s concert, and then wander over to say hi to the Tod Group at their new Comfy Campsite on the lower high road. Mitch has 'our' pop-up set up nicely right below the group, built a deck, and has out the party lights we never could use cause we didn’t have electric.

I am the guy who does the theatre rush at 6 and gets our usual seats 5 rows front center left. The concerts are great (especially Michael Smith*** and Denise Frankee****) and it is again like “being home”… that feeling that many of us get, I suspect, when we settle into being on the ranch, weathering whatever the weather does, chilling out (as the kids would say), listening to great music, and seeing good friends. I am totally tired out by halfway through Johnsmith (
http://www.kerrvillefolkfestival.com/2007_1_5.htm ) so I walk back to the tent and turn in early. Later I hear Liz getting the kids all settled in their tent: its as if it is a distant radio broadcast in my dreams, and I poke back into semi-consciousness as she bounces onto the air mattress. I’ve modernized our 10x8 tent this year by cutting a piece of 3/4” exterior plywood in the shape of the air mattress, routing the edges to a nice roundness, and leveling the downhill side with rocks so we have a perfectly level platform bed. No more sliding down hill on the air mattress and I contend that now its as good as the pop-up. At about 4 am we hear Shayna softly calling “Mom?”…. “We’re all wet cause you left our door open”. Rather than start a midnight discussion about 10 year olds and 'responsibility', we just want to be quiet and get back to sleep. We bundle the kids into our warm and dry tent and they immediately go back to sleep… and their wetness changes the humidity in our little blue tinted universe inside the box (tent). When we get up to do out morning kitchen duty at 6:30 we hafta crawl over little girl bodies spread out in our entry hall. Liz throws them on the air mattress and we’re out in the crisp morning air and on to work on the Kitchen Krew.

Today we’re making egg-artichoke casserole and I’m doing food prep (17 hotel pans serving 28) and Liz is making coffee. We actually made too much (highly unusual) for the over 400 people who made it over for breakfast before we close at 11, and I label the remaining 40 servings or so and put them away for the weekday crew. Nightly rain and the festival’s aging population bring more and more people to breakfast. We think it’s the popularity of our menu tambien.

As I’m about to get ready to go to Threadgill to hear the New Folk Concert Lizzie springs it on me that the girls wanna go home. Liz is tired and wants a quiet day at home for a change, Maya has a rash that itches, and Shayna misses Chelsea. I relent easily and we pack up the truck, batten the hatches on the tents, and find Cari and Stuart to make our excuses and get on the road. Another first Kerrville weekend is done with and we’re heading up the long hill to Fredricksburg talking about the highlights of the two days back at the festival for year number 13!

Notes: In at 73.9 and out at 72 Kgs.
* Chaco’s Headwaters available online at
**About QVR retrieved online May 2007 from the KFF website at
*** Michael Smith retrieved online May 2007 from the KFF website at
****Denice Franke retrieved online May 2007 from the KFF website at http://www.kerrvillefolkfestival.com/performers/2007%20KFF/k07_denice%20franke.htm
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132) A Good Day

May 17, 2007

El Milagro:
I got here on time today and as Jason was canulating me, I noticed that Jennifer the Dietician was going around the room reporting back to folks on their latest blood work. On my right, there was an older woman and her daughter who are here for the first time and being taught the process by Ron the Nurse. The older woman seemed not too sure about the whole thing and her daughter was trying to be upbeat, saying things like, “Wow; if I were here I’d just take a nap or watch TV.” and “this place is really pretty nice, isn’t it?”. I imagine the older woman is her mother, and she sees right through her daughter’s fa├žade of fun-ness. Nobody is thrilled to come here the first time. Later on, after the daughter leaves, the old woman pulls her red tartan plaid blanket up over her head and doesn't come out for hours. At times she peeks out like a turtle peeks out of it's shell to see if it's safe.

Jennifer the Dietician comes over and reports to me that all my blood work was excellent this time! My phosphorous and potassium are great and my blood count is back up. This is two good lab reports in a row! WOW! I can run out and break my diet rules with impunity!

Well, maybe I can have one enchilada and take my Fosrenol right afterwards. Actually, I’ve been taking ½ a Fosrenol in the middle of each meal cause if I take a whole one afterwards, it makes me nauseous. I got tired of that real fast so I changed my order to taking ½ in the middle and that has led to these fabulous lab reports. Before I had to take so many meds, I used to wonder why anyone would not follow their prescriptions to a ‘T’, but now, as one of the medical guinea pigs, I see the reasoning behind patients ignoring their doctors and experimenting with different doses at different times than the doctors prescribe. Its like taking back some control over your own self: I have more autonomy when I decide how and when to take my meds. And this time it is working. I must admit that since my Fosrenol (an outrageously expensive medication; which is why it works, maybe) has helped my phosphorous get back into the “normal” range, I have been experimenting with eating small tastes of a few of the foods on the “NO NO NO” list, just to see what would happen. And wha-da-ya-know… this month’s phos numbers are still okay. Makes me wanta cheat just a little bit more. Lets see… I think I’d like some mixed nuts.

So Jennifer reports and leaves and I get back to listening to All Things Considered and then turn over to some PBS show since Survivor is over. I drift off a little and then…

POOF! Right in front of me is my smiling son Johnny, looking scraggly and extremely huggable. “Hi dad” he says, and I say, “Johnny!” and he bends over to hug me but that really isn’t gonna happen in my prostrate position so I just put my hand up and pat his face as he bends over. He’s smiling and I can’t even describe how it is to open your eyes to see your son after 10 months of not seeing him. He looks just the same! His mom brought him by after picking him up at the airport and we converse a little before they go out to dinner. He’ll be around all weekend before going down to Center Point to work at Camp C.A.M.P. for the summer. What can I say? The boy’s back and he brought all his parts back from Hawaii. It is a good day!

Notes: In at 75.2 and out at 72.2


131) Trying for Luxury

May 12, 2007

El Milagro: I'm on time and I saunter into the dialysis clinic as if it is a spa and I'm gonna sit and relax and get my blood done. Matt hooks me up and everyone seems to be in a cheery mood, like the spa workers would be. Actually, it would be neat if they had people her to do your nails... well, I mean it would be nice for the women, of course. As Matt is canoodling me, there is the new woman next to me again and today she has two of her friends over here, seeing what kind of torture she is going through (at our spa). One of them goes on with Kim the Nurse about being from Arkansas (Little Rock) and came over just as soon as she could, and she had no idea Mildred was in such a state. Matt interupts her to say he's from Memphis, and I remind him Memphis isn't in Arkansas, and he replies that East Memphis is in that state.

I settle back with my radio tuned into the rest of Folkways and read the new New Yorker. I pretend we're at the spa and this is all luxurious treatment. In our spa Crystal is the Toe Girl, Matt and Heather are these Swedish massage people that climb up on your back and beat your muscles into a relaxed state. Kim and Celeste are the Asian accupunturists that go around with prayer hands, nodding their heads in agreement with everything you say. "Ah yes. We have much pleasure to fix you." as they stick skinny needles in your eyebrows and earlobes. I guess Gladys wold have to be the Chinese Doctor and Phyllis would for sure be the manager of the place, running around enuring everything is going just so.

I read on and listen to Live Set after Folkways and hear a great little band from New York: the Slackers. Off and on through the afternoon I think about Moritz dumping me and decide that it's unprofessional to not clearly tell your patient your're transferring them, especially after 10 years of the doctor / patient relationship. I am sure Moritz doesn't think of it this way... in fact he may not of thought of it at all. And, I may be hallucinating this whole thing, cause Jennifer the Dietician may have been wrong. Time will tell. More on this story as it develops.

Notes: In at 73.9 and out at 72 even. BP running in the normal range.


130) Dr. Moritz Ducks Out

May 10, 2007

El Milagro:
It seemed like it was gonna be a normal dialysis day, which I’m not writing about so much anymore, cause some readers complained that my “normal” dialysis is boring. YES! It is boring lots of time; and that’s the point you all!

At any rate, today I come in and I’m a bit late (30 minutes) and Carol the Tech informs me that I’m not gonna get my full dialysis cause they hafta take me off at 8:30 pm. So, tonight I’ll only get 3.5 hours of blood cleansing…. Damn. And I’m the one who can’t understand other people “coming off early” or not running their full session… and, here I am doing it too. I must work on getting here on time. I used to make it on time every time. I’ve slipped up; probably because it has become such a normal part of living that I take advantage of it… or, something like that.

Well, at some point, Jennifer the Dietician steps over from the long meeting she has been doing with one of the new patients who is sitting right next to me today. She says my blood count is up again and supposes that the added Heparin is helping and nod acceptance of that fact. At some point during our little conversation I think I say something about Dr. Moritz and she replies something like, “Well, he’s not your doctor anymore, now it’s ___”, “the new doc” that I’ve called Nicholas and Lt. Fuzz at times. My reply is “WHAT? I don’t think so. Moritz is my doc!”, to which she replies, more cautiously, “No. Crowder (or whatever his name is) is now your doctor, because he is doing the rounds and signing things.”. I say, “Well my insurance shows its Moritz and I just had to get a new permission for him to keep seeing me.” And we went on like that for a few minutes with me unbelieving and her for sure.

I don’t want a new nephrologists! I’m happy with the grumpy Dr. Moritz! So, now I have to figure out what to do about this situation. I can always make an office appt. to see him, but then it’ll cost me $35 bucks to argue with him about staying as my doctor. I’ll have to be thinking this one over for awhile. So, as Roseanne Roseannadanna always said, “It’s always something.”

Notes: In at 74.9 and out at 72.7 Kgs. In 3.5 hours.
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129) Short Post (or, the Phosphorous Blues)

May 3, 2007

El Milagro:
I arrive on time today, get poked by Jason the Regular Guy Tech, and have a nice session of listening to NPR and watching TV. Jason is fairly new around here, and very careful and considerate in his cannulations. It is good, because I hallucinate he is learning and is motivated to build rapport with patients and do a pain-free job on them as much as is possible. He and I have begun to talk some when he is assigned to my chair.

I notice by reviewing these posts, that exactly one year ago today I posted (#6) about talking to Jennifer the Dietician and beginning to learn about the phosphorous blues (all the foods that I shouldn’t eat, how high phosphorous impacts the body, etc.). It seems that those blues have been playing in my life most of the past year and maybe I have now adjusted my diet sufficiently, found the right binders, and had my machine time adjusted enough to move beyond these blues. If I hadn't escaped them, I coulda been the old dialysis blues man, singing and playing the phosphorous blues.

Oh I can’t eat no pancakes, nor enchiladas eitha,
cause if mah phos gets too high I get the phosphorous feva.
Its been years since ah seena,

mah avocada and sardina….
and ahm singin da blues. Dose phosphorous blues.”

Well, I guess you can tell I’m no singer songwriter, but I do respect those guys (and gals). If any of you songwriters happen along here on this blog, please feel free to write me a song about my phosphorous blues.

Actually, my phosphorous is a lot better these days; I’m just waxing romantic. Its almost as if it's too scary to be funny about when it's on top of you so meanly. Such is our lot in life, I guess.

Notes: In at 74.6 and out at 73.3 (ending BP = 126/60) And Again: Now readers can google my blog by typing Jack’s Kidney Adventure in quotes on google and it’ll take ya right there.


128) International Worker’s Day

May 1, 2007

El Milagro:
I noticed another new patient here today and mentally noted that I need to introduce myself to the patients on my shift (who don’t already know me) to let them know I’m their representative on the El Milagro Advisory Committee. I am also now on DaVita’s Patient Citizen’s Group now so today is a serendipitous occasion for celebrating patient’s (worker, client) voice in our care. I am sitting here considering these things as Matt the Tech is poking me and going on about something or another while I half listen and half recall past May Days from the sixties. It’s funny, I think, that May Day is simultaneously a holiday of cheer with children dancing with ribbons around a pole; a Catholic holiday honoring Mary; and a day to honor Loyalty to America and the Labor movement. These last two are of particular interest to me, as they might be seen as an example of the Americans lacking cognitive complexity. According to Wayne Duehn, cognitive complexity is the ability to see things in shades of gray, rather than black or white. I might note here that social workers who score high in cognitive complexity do better in their careers and are better able to join with a variety of clients.

So, back to May Day. Socialists and labor movement folks celebrate on May Day to remember the Haymarket Riots in Chicago back in the late 1880’s. In the late ‘60’s and early 70’s, we usually celebrated May Day with either a large dinner or a small march, depending upon our energy level. At any rate, May Day was a day to celebrate, as was Arbor Day, and Frank Zappa’s birthday. So then, in the 1920’s President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1st as Loyalty Day and suggested that all Americans celebrate their loyalty to the nation on this day. Some believe that this was proclaimed specifically to counterbalance the socialist workers celebration of May Day as a call for workers to commemorate the Haymarket Riots and to join together to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the working class.

So May Day evolved from pagan dance day to Christian “Mary Day” to socialist commemorative day, to Republican loyalty day. It somehow fits that the May Pole was originally (Norse) thought of as an axis connecting the underworld, the real world, and the heavens, since all the various folks who have claimed meanings on this day fit somewhere along that axis, I’m sure. I can picture it now: socialists, children, dancing ladies, republicans, Catholics, and flower children all dancing around the May Pole with their multi-coloured ribbons of dogma. And as they sweep around the pole, two by two, their multi-coloured ribbons join together making a stripped barber pole that draws them closer and closer until they have to touch and even maybe hug each other. Or, maybe they all get tied together on the pole…. Either way, it is a nice thought and maybe that’s what May Day is all about.

These were my dreams as I dozed away my time in dialysis, and then awoke to watch a fascinating NOVA on the secret work of Issac Newton. Somehow all is connected. So it goes.

Notes: In at 75.9 and out at 73.0 (no problems with low BP today) Oh yeah! Now readers can google my blog by typing Jack’s Kidney Adventure in quotes on google and it’ll take ya right there.
* “May Day” retrieved online May 2007 from Wikepedia,