140) Juneteenth

June 19, 2007

El Milagro:
I rush in almost late and Eloy is ready to hook me up. Phyllis the Nurse introduces me to my neighbor, John, and asks me to talk to him about links for info on dialysis. Well, of course, I tell him about this blog and the links on it’s sidebar. This is John’s first day and once I realize that, after thinking I’d seen him here before, I remember my own anxiety about my first day. “It’s a lot to get used to at first” I say to him. His questions are all about wanting specific answers to the questions we all have: how long do people survive on dialysis? What do I have to change in my diet?, and Where can I get a frosty mug of beer? John and I chat a bit and I mention Da Vita’s website and Phyllis touts the Kidney Patients Assn.

Later Jennifer the Dietician comes along and gives me my newest lab report: all is going well in my labs. Phosphorous and Potassium are both within the limits they should be. That’s all folks!

Notes: In at 76.1 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


139) Father’s Day Visit

June 16, 2007

El Milagro:
When I called in for an early time today, Matt the Tech checked and found out they’re full to the seams with several visitors from another center. So, he says I can’t come in til 3… which is an hour early… which I neglect to mention. Rather, I reply, “Okay. See you at 3:00”, and settle in to a home Saturday agenda of chores and kickin’ back (our first weekend without special events in months).

About noon-thirty Jo the Nurse calls and says someone walked out early (refusing to finish their treatment) so they have an open chair at 1 and do I want it. Even though I’d gotten into my Saturday routine I jump at the chance to get in and outa there early so I can be free for the evening (and go with Lizzie to a shiva gathering for Michael’s mom). So I shoot over there and get hooked up by Eloy the Tech, who is back at the center after a longish absence working in home health care, which he reports wasn’t really his cup of tea. Eloy does an okay job of stabbing me but is a little too quick and rough, reminding me about how Jason is my new favorite sticker. Today I plan to read the new New Yorker and keep track of Tiger in the 107th US Open on the new TV’s that are all installed now.

I am surprised at the New Yorker’s “Austin” edition, with San Antonio-bred Stevie Earl in The Talk of The Town and a feature article about the Harry Ransom Center entitled Letter from Austin. Maybe Austin is becoming a outlying suburb of New York. Now that is an interesting thought. I’m reading the Harry Ransom piece and absorbed in a paragraph about the kinds of infestations found in boxes of papers the center receives. “…staff members are trying to salvage a producer’s box of Hollywood scripts; the bottom of the sheets had been nibbled away by cockroaches. …Mary Baughman showed me… a hundred-square-foot freezer…. She inspected some bug traps…”* and found a spider and silverfish. They freeze these materials to the center to kill any infestations.

As I’m considering frozen insects a hand reaches in to my world and slaps my leg and I look up and it’s my son, Johnny! He and Eddie and Amy are standing there grinning. “Hey Dad! Happy Father’s Day” grinning boy says and the kids are right there in the flesh. Turns out they’ve been at Geneva’s overnight partying and are on their way back to San Antonio to drop Amy off and they head back out to Center Point to the camp. We talk for about half and hour about Eddie’s 21st birthday plans, Johnny’s surfing in Corpus and losing his wallet, and Amy’s finishing college and planning to teach. I ask Amy about her and John, and she replies with a curious smile that they are still “just friends” and John ignores the whole moment. John plans to come back up here next weekend to visit. I talk them into stopping by Kim’s to see the new baby and they head out and I think that they are genuinely enjoying the freedom of their youth. We parents delight vicariously in their youth while we worry about their crashing their cars while rushing through their freedom years. It’s the plight of parenthood.

I read on until I’m tired of that activity and then finish out the session watching Tiger catch up in the Open. Although he is playing well, his putting seems off to me. But he gets close enough to finish up in the lead tomorrow. Such focus and devotion and class this guy has… he is fun to watch. At some point I call Jo the Nurse over and ask her for more details about the person who walked on their treatment. She reports that this unnamed person decided to leave after an hour of dialysis and I ask “Why?” Jo doesn’t know and she only retorts almost defensively that “I can’t make people stay for their whole session.” But why do they leave? Don’t they understand this is really important? “Some people just don’t get it, no matter how much we try to explain the need for complete treatment.” Tell me more, I implore; and she again replies, “They just wanted to leave and I don’t know why”, and it is left as a mystery to me, even though I’ve seen folks walk out. I want to write something in the newsletter about this, but will have to figure out how to make it a helpful piece rather than a scolding piece.

I also ponder Johnny’s Father’s Day visit and my own relations with my dad. Does he get as thrilled when his kids visit as I do? Does the thrill lessen over the years? I remember father-son activities from past years, searching my memories for visions of those times. The ones that come up include desert trips with Army canteens slapping our sides and Dad’s plaid shirts and well-worn khacki pants, and the bows (and arrows in crafted leather quivers) we took to hunt rabbits. I also recall times in the garage being fascinated with his tools and how he knew everything about how to use them to do magic with wood and radios. And how I thought for years that everything he said, modeled, and thought was The Truth with a capitol “T”. When he criticized my lawn mowing and edging he was guiding me towards my own parental behaviors and statements with my kids; and Johnny adjusted well to hearing my own criticisms towards ‘perfection’. Katie and Shayna not as much, but maybe that’s because they’re girls. Who knows how to deal with girls? Certainly not me. As Father’s Day approaches these are my thoughts and I am tickled pink that Johnny makes it by to say “Hi”, and I too will call my Dad to say “Hi” tomorrow.

Notes: In at 74.3 and out at 72.2 Kgs.

*Max, D.T. (June 11&18, 2007) Letter from Austin: Final destination. New Yorker Magazine. p. 66.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.

138) In the News: Immigration

June 14, 2007

El Milagro:
I have my blanket today so I start out happy. Jason the “kid” cannulates me and I like the way he is very careful in the procedures of cannulation. For example, to ensure the needles are drawing well, Jason draws blood from each needle into the syringe and pushes it back into my arm several times to ensure good flow, whereas most techs just check the arterio-venous access. Also, he is very gentle in taping up the access after the needles are set.

I settle back and read about the immigration ‘problem’ in Time Magazine. To me, this is an amazingly stupid problem. For centuries the United States has been a place that welcomed the poor and disenfranchised from other countries. Or, at least we allowed them to come in for the scraps of work and leftover bits of our 'great society'. Many of these folks came into the country illegally over the years, worked hard to scrape out a living in the bottom rungs of society, and became the backbone of the menial labor force. Much of our economy exists on the back-breaking toil of many of these people. Having grown up in the El Paso area, I can tell you that many of the farm workers and cannery workers were illegally in the country. Not to mention the maids, nannies, and janitorial workers. It was my experience that these folks did the labor that most Americans were unwilling to do because those jobs were either too 'demeaning' or too hard on the back. Once or twice in the 70's, when the Border Patrol would sweep through the valley and arrest all the ‘wet-backs’ we valley-living hippies would go for their jobs for some quick bucks. Well, we weren’t used to working 12 hour days for a buck an hour, so we didn’t last long. I worked several times for Mountain Pass Canning Co., in Canutillo and lasted there long enough to make a check or two before I got sick and tired of it, and the Mexican workers could sneak back in to take what they considered to be good jobs. Sometimes, when the Border Patrol came by our little house in the cotton fields to ask about illegal aliens (who actually were humans just like us) we'd tell them "they went that-a-way", pointing down the road in the opposite direction from whence they went. Once or twice we were surrounded by excited Border Patrol agents who inspected the huarache prints in our dusty driveway, only to find out the huarache wearers were us. That's US as in U.S. "Darn", they said sheepishly as they crawled back in their jeeps and drove off down the road.

I get cold again and call Jason over to warm up my blood. A cool trick that I frequently forget while on dialysis is to ask the tech to increase the temp of my blood as it is shot back into my body. Warms the cockles of my heart… as well as my chilly extremities.

Dialysis Tip: For those of you readers who are also on dialysis and feel like you’re in David Letterman’s studio while on dialysis, ask your tech to warm up your blood. You can really feel the warmth spread through your body. Check it out.

Notes: In at 75.4 and out at 72.5 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


137) Freezing Dialysis

June 12, 2007

El Milagro:
Slightly late today so I apologize to Carol the Tech and she allows it’s okay. Doc and crew come by to find out how I’m doing and I can’t think of anything obnoxious to say, so I just say “I’m fine”. Today I have forgotten my blanket, since I washed it and neglected to put it back in my Da Vita sports bag. So, I am freezing in here and trying to find a way to cuddle my body up so as to keep feet and arms warm. No sleep today due to my freezing. I watch the news and PBS. At the end of it all, the tech I don’t like comes up to de-cannulate me and I hesitantly allow him to do it, although my blood pressure shows my state rather alarmingly at 157 over something. I actually can’t find anything to complain about as he is taping me up…. except that he drips a drop of blood on my shirt. But, in his defense, when he notices the drip he offers to get some hydrogen peroxide to clean it. And he is generally more quiet and cautious with me as a patient than he was the last time.

Notes: In at 75.6 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


136) Day 17 at the KFF

June 9, 2007

Kerrville Dialysis Center:
Even though I left the ranch late this morning at 5:15 a.m. I still arrive here at 5:30 on the dot. And then I wait in the waiting room for 20 minutes before they come to get me for my session. (At El Milagro we just walk in and casually go to our chair, or one of the techs or nurses points out our chair. Since it is always a good idea to see if the dialyzer is yours, it’s a good idea for you to look yourself.) Here in K-ville they are much more formal, and have a nice new place, and everything is clean and sterile. And you wait in the waiting room like you’re at a doctor’s office and it you can’t just walk in and find your seat. Its more medical, but, the workers aren’t as well-trained or professional; or maybe they just don’t have as much experience. Not the nurse. The nurse is a black woman from somewhere in the Caribbean, judging from her accent, and she seems very professional and on top of her act. Watching her guiding the others and their going to her with all sorts of easy questions that any tech should know about setting these machines, I can tell they don’t really know, nor are they confident in their actions. Today I have Barbara, who doesn’t know anything about folk or singer/songwriter music and only slightly more about sticking patients, it seems. She is very tentative and I have to encourage her all along the way. She makes a few slip-ups in the steps which complicates her procedure. When I am hooked up she goes to the nurse to ask several questions about setting my machine. I ask Barbara, in a casual, sort of ‘make conversation way’, if the Hispanic guy, Johnny Mata, ever went to the festival last weekend, and she replies, “Nah… he always says he’s gonna do something and then just ends up cruising around town.” I reply that that’s too bad since Judy Collins was really something to see. And she goes on to say that she hasn’t lived in K-ville that long but she hears that the folk festival is “fun”. I reply that it is also a great way to hear some excellent musicians and then we talk a bit about what Austin is like. Talking helps calm Barbara down and she actually does an okay job of sticking me. After I’m all hooked up I want to go back to sleep so I pull my hat down over my eyes, turn on my radio to San Antonio’s NPR station, and try to sleep. The center’s radio is tuned to “the Ranch”, the pop country station here and I think that if they don’t even listen to KFAN (all Texas music) they probably won’t get excited about the festival. I doze. The guy next to me is the ‘bad attitude’ patient I’ve seen every time I’m here. He seems mad at the world; has lost a leg to diabetes, has his other leg all lizard skinned and pealing, and gruffly talks to the staff making demands and cursing under his breath. He is the one who pulls a black blanket up over his head and stretches it so it looks like a shroud stretched over a round topped telephone pole. Then he never moves a muscle until the end of his treatment, when he emerges all squinty-eyed and mean. I feel for him. It is amazing that there aren’t more patients like this guy… for some of these folks their lives are just a series of steps down into oblivian (a word that I hear in several of this weekend’s singers).

I sleep soundly for about two and a half hours and then awaken to someone yelling out in pain, probably from cramping. It’s 9 something and I wish for more sleep but the lights are bright and I look around and see all the other people and start wondering about them. Several retired folks with khaki’s and polo shirts, one truck-driver looking man who is has that barrel-chested look of truckers. Several overweight women who look like they have wildly swollen ankles, and one very businessy looking guy who is working on his laptop and reading the New York times at the same time! He has a plaid button down shirt on and looks like he just came from his office in the bank building…. In Saturday business dress. He keeps his tassle loafers on during dialysis and seems very adjusted to this necessity for productive living. Some people are watching their TV’s that swing around from behind them to within 5 inches of their noses and they look like Mr. Magoo’s peering into their tubes from so close it casts an eerily ghostly light across their faces.

Quiet Valley Ranch: At 10:15 I’m outa there and drive back to the ranch and arrive in time to find a good parking space and hike over to the kitchen in time to have pancakes and turkey sausage. I walk through the breakfast line, which is weird cause I’m usually working and just as I get to the hotel pan of banana pancakes which I can’t have, I say, “You got any regulars?” and Andrea turns around from the griddle and plops two on a plate and I’m surprised and amazed at her timing. I get my cakes and go out to eat and Lizzie joins me, taking a break from making coffee. I’m famished so breakfast is a welcome feast.

I do my shift after Shabbat services where Rabbi Kerri talks about tzedakah (not Neal*) and giving 1% more than is required and then I go to make about 1001 chocolate chip cookies. I’m on that kitchen krew with Julie and Mona and Mona rushes through the whole process without much thought about quality (More about Mona reported by The Austinist**) and Julie wants to finish to be done (going as far as to find tubs to put the cooked cookies in rather than waiting for Cari to find the big rectangular box I remember from years past). Charlie pops into the kitchen and falls into helping and making jokes. I’m happy he stopped in because it feels a bit disorganized until he gets there and the result of his showing up is that I don’t care so much about working with this krew. As we plop dough down on aluminum sheets and all three of us are baking them in the convection oven, I am still pondering tzedakah, giving, and being of service in general. Charlie gives completely when he is around, zipping around and doing whatever needs doing. This is giving from the heart. With three of us putting in sheets and keeping time and bringing ‘em out to cool, it is amazing we don’t burn more, but I manage to burn a few trays. After Julie leaves and Cari comes in and shows us which boxes she wants them in, we re-box the cookies and Charlie eats cookie dough and I eat crispy over-done cookies until both of us are a little sugar-hyped and saying silly elegies for the cookies. I note here that Charlie has memorized more tidbits from early 60’s TV than anyone I know, and I note to myself that he must’ve spent a lot of time watching the tube.

When we’re done with the cookies I trek down to the tent and take an after-dialysis nap. Liz and the kids are down the road a ways with Theresa using a Wet Willie*** that Bobby built at a guy’s lake. I sleep with a slight breeze flowing over me and am pleased at the angle we set the tent, since the light breeze comes right through and is cooling. Actually, the tent has been really comfortable this year and I think Liz is over the pop-up. Sometime later the girls show back up and we all get ready to go to a catfish fry at the Bobby-Thomas-Mitch campsite on the lower high road.

Later still we hear great music from Tom Russell**** and Bob Livingston*****.

I must report it is much better being able to get dialysized here in Kerrville! The last weekend includes great music, relaxing visits with friends, enjoyable work on the Kitchen Krew, and fun watching the little girls get older and bolder in their festival exploring. All in all, another wonderful Kerrville Home vacation.

Notes: In at 74.2 and out at 71.2 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
*Neal Sedaka, retrieved online June 2007 from the official website;
**The Austinist, retrieved 0nline June 2007 from http://www.austinist.com/archives/2007/05/30/austinist_at_the_kerrville_folk_festival.php - 39k
***Wet Willie, retrieved online June 2007 from the official website; http://www.wetwillieslides.com/index.php
****Tom Russell, retrieved online June 2007 from the official website;
*****Bob Livingston, retrieved online June 2007 from the official website; http://www.texasmusic.org/


135) Nap Time at Dialyville

June 5, 2007

El Milagro:
Today it seems like I’m rushing over to the center to take a nap. What a hectic last week it’s been. Kim the nurse sticks me today and comments on how big my fistula has grown since she first stuck me the first time I came here. To me it seems the same, but I acknowledge her comment with a “Hum?”. She also mentions that she really liked reading the newsletter that came out this morning and that she wished her English was as good as mine. I reply, “Well, I was born and raised here and your English is very good for someone who came to the U.S. as an adult”.

It feels good to just lay back and take a nap today, listening to NPR in my earphones and totally sinking back into my chair, and letting out a deep sigh. It seems like the confluence of the folk festival, bill-paying time, lots going on at work, and being behind on household chores has drained us of our energy. I get to come here and crash out… but Liz has to find some other excuse to kick back.

The last weekend in Kerrville was fun. My dialysis in Kerrville went well, work on the kitchen krew was fairly easy, and the music and visiting with friends was as usual: excellent. We had planned to stay through Sunday night in order to see the Lost Gonzo Band* reunion and sat through rain and a show stoppage due to lightning. Then, while Eric Taylor** was doing his set, the lightning increased and struck closer to the ranch and they finally cancelled the rest of the performances. So, we stayed down there in the rain for no show. Asi es la vida.

Tonight I drift in and out of dreamland, and finally wake up to watch NOVA: an episode about the real story of “the great escape” during WW II.

Notes: In at 73.6 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
* Lost Gonzo Band Homepage retrieved June 2007 from
** Eric Taylor retrieved online June 2007 from
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


134) Newsletter Memories

May 31, 2007

El Milagro:
On time today and Carol rushes over and cannulates me in about 30 seconds flat! This place is hopping today. I turn in my final copy of the first “El Milagro News”, a newsletter that I’ve taken over from the volunteer who didn’t complete it in April. This is a product of the new Patient Advisory Committee (PAC), which I volunteered to sit on. I didn’t really want to do the newsletter but I do want one to exist and, as with many things in life, if you want them done right you must do them yourself. So, the newsletter looks pretty good and is a start.

I am remembering the copies of a newsletter my mom created on shipboard as one of the first Army wives to be transported to Europe at the close of the big war. These were copied into the appendix of the book my dad constructed of my mom's letters home during that period. Having read them and then created my own newsletter for the center, I have the sense that the experience is somewhat congruent. I hallucinate that I can imagine what it was like for her to be writing her newsletter on the high seas. And that gives me a smile, thinking that I somehow get closer to her by doing things she did. As a kid it was always like that for me. We spent summers at her family’s cottage on a lake in central Michigan and as I was growing up I compared my experiences to hers as a youth at the same cottage. She picked wild blueberries and I picked wild blueberries. She ran in corn fields and ate fresh corn off the stalk and my cousin and I did the same. She learned to row the boat to the end of the lake to hunt for turtles and then I did that too one summer. She swam the lake behind her dad rowing the boat, and I swam the lake behind her rowing the boat… and, maybe it was the same boat. So, now when I am creating a newsletter, I feel like I can relive her experiences writing a newsletter. That is an unexpected benefit that I can be thankful for while taking over this PAC task. Now that I'm doing it I want to see it grow and develop into a useful tome.

A new female doc comes by to do rounds and I pay little attention. I’m still miffed about the Moritz off my case thing. I don’t want to talk to new docs… I just like my old cranky obnoxious Moritz. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Notes: In at 74.2 and out at 72.3 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.