149) A Politically-Focused Post

July 28, 2007

El Milagro:
I am here and ready at 1:45 today; back from my vacation and happy to see all the regulars and their smiley faces. I was looking forward to seeing the current issue of the newsletter that I had left for Suzanne the Administrator to edit and finish. I was really disappointed that she couldn’t make the changes in the Publisher file and ended up copying most of the text and printed it out as a Word doc, which made it look like a typed report with no snazz. Phooey! (See Publisher copy at left). I settled into my chair and Eloy hooked me up. I reviewed the newsletter and couldn’t really tell that Suzanne had edited it too much. She left most of the headings of topics brought up at the Patient Advisory Committee, and only added rules and davita dogma in response to the complaints and concerns brought up by the committee. This is not to say that the administration is unresponsive to issues brought up by the committee, but it is to say that they are concerned, as am I, about the ‘tone’ of the newsletter. My concern about ‘tone’ is to make the tome readable and positive. Hers is to ensure that it doesn’t sound like “all complaints” because that’ll get all the patients riled up. The advisory committee’s intent is to give the ‘customers’ a voice with the administration. In reviewing her final copy, I thought she did a good job of keeping the tone of the newsletter ‘client-centered’, however diplomatic she toned it.

I am starting a new book (Chris Moore’s Coyote Blue but really wasn’t in the mood, after reviewing the newsletter and wishing for my newslettery format. Am I too involved in this thing? I had wanted to participate in the PAC (to be involved ~ “reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system”*), and then I wanted to take on editing and publishing the newsletter (for practice publishing a newsletter and ‘cause my mom used to do one) as a service to the community. That’s what I told myself… but now ego seems to be involved. Now I seem to be ‘attached’ to it in a way that bothers me. I am surprised by my feelings about the newsletter coming out as a word doc. “It looks so tacky…” I say to myself, and then I say, “Let it go. It’s no big deal. Really, Jack! Move on buddy.”

Then I look at the book and read, “There are… those moments in life, when for no particular reason the senses are heightened…” and I say thanks for that reminder that this is probably one of those times. And then I get bored with the book and watch one and a half movies in succession: Tears of the Sun and Clear & Present Danger! By the time I ‘came off’ the machine I was in a good mood again and ready to take the leftovers from the July newsletter and punch out the August edition.

So there ya go Cocomo.

Oh; and b.t.w., Eloy forgot to give me a surgical glove when he de-cannulated me today. What is it with these folks? Are they needin’ a vacation? That’s twice in a year and a half! Jeez.

1. In at 73.6 and out at 72.3 Kgs.
2. Lloyd Doggett supports CKD people! See his letter in Post #42, by clicking August 2006 on the Sidebar.
3. *Alinsky, S. (1969) Reveille for Radicals, 2nd ed., New York: Vintage Books
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
Write to your Legislators: I ask all my readers to write in support of this legislation:
July 29, 2007
Senator John Cornyn
(also sent to Kay Bailey H. and Lloyd)
United States Senate
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0001

Dear Senator Cornyn,

Currently, there are over 20 million Americans suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and another 20 million at risk of developing CKD. In addition, almost 400,000 of these individuals currently require life saving dialysis. The numbers are expected to double in the next decade. Simple action can delay the onset of dialysis for many of these individuals.

We are asking Congress to sign onto the Kidney Care Quality and Education Act (KCQEA). This bill (HR 1193/S 691) has the support of the entire kidney community including doctors, patient
advocacy groups, nurses, researchers, manufacturers, and providers. It is an important vehicle to stem the rising tide of kidney failure in the United States, as well as to ensure that dialysis patients have continued access to quality care.

As a dialysis patient waiting for a new kidney, I also hope you support more federal financial support for the many people on dialysis who are not covered by their insurance or other federal support programs. These folks end up begging for money to stay alive and I think that it is a shame that in this country we don't just support them when they need us to.

I am hopeful that you will support current kidney patients and sign onto the KCQEA to help educate individuals about the risk factors of kidney disease.

Mr. Jack


148) River Inn Vacation

July 24, 2007

Kerrville Dialysis:
I am driving the 20 miles from River Inn to the dialysis center at 7 in the morning, curving around through the fog of the river basin of the South fork of the Guadalupe River. It is so green this year that the luminous signs along the road seem to illuminate the greenery along the way. I get into town a little early and stop at a Mexican restaurant for huevos rancheros before getting to the center. When I get to the dialysis center, I walk in and sit down in the waiting room for about 5 minutes before the administrator comes out and brings me in. Maria cannulates me today and remembers me from the folk festival in June. She asks about my kids and my vacation. I ask her about the center: this is the only dialysis center in K-ville. They have about 40 patients and stagger their treatment. I am amazed that in a “retirement” town like Kerrville there are only 40 dialysis patients, and I ponder that for a good 30 minutes or so after getting hooked up.

Today I read my Biff book almost the whole session, aside from checking the weather a number of times. We arrived at River Inn yesterday and got some cloudy drizzly swimming in (Shayna & Liz did; I watched from the relative warmth of the deck) and the water was cold! The water is higher than I’ve ever seen it here, but it is still crystal clear. Today it was foggy into town and now that I’ve been here for a couple hours, it has started pouring outside.

The weather people say 80% chance of scattered showers and high of low 80’s. This is Texas in July? I get unhooked and head to the store for more supplies for our week.

Note: I didn’t note my weights today.

July 26, 2007

Kerrville Dialysis:
I drove into town a little later this morning, so didn’t have time for a sit-down breakfast. Slid through the line at a donut shop for two twists and a refresh on coffee. When I got to the center, I sat down in the waiting room and waited over 25 minutes before Barbara poked her head out and said “Hi”. A few minutes later I was brought in for a chair. Later I learned from the administrator that they thought I was coming in “…at 7 like you did on Tuesday.“I came in at 8:30 Tuesday and thought that was the time today too.” “Oh”, she said, “…well, we had your chair ready at 7 and then tore it down cause we thought you weren’t coming.” So, what could I say? I didn’t want to punch a gift horse in the mouth. I’m on vacation and I will simply accept that things don’t always go my way. Barbara came over and stuck me and did much better than last June. I wondered if she was new back then and has practiced and gotten this much better, or was she just nervous about sticking such a handsome guy as me. Yuk yuk.

Today I watch TV to asses the weather (was nice yesterday afternoon and cloudy again this morning) and they say, “…rain all day today…”. I watch National Geo’s “Megastructures” on the tube, where they describe a cool bridge built in Australia. Then I read about Biff’s continuing adventures with the Messiah learning Buddhist meditations and Kung Fu on their trip to the Far East (Thanks to Andrea for the tip on this book. She was right: I do like it).

Cindy unhooked me. Earlier she had come up and woke me up to ask some questions for her ‘records’. She started with, “How do you spell your last name?” I spelled it and she looked quizzically at her clip board and said, “What? Are you sure?” and I looked her in the eyes and said coolly, “Yes…. I am sure.”Oh. You are the wrong person.” …and the administrator broke in with, “We’ve already done him.” I wished I had stayed asleep. Later Cindy was the one to unhook me and for the first time ever, I had someone come up and unhook my and put pads on my stick holes and have me hold ‘em without a surgical glove. This behavior caused me to think either (1) she doesn’t know what she is doing, or (2) she thinks I’m already sterile, or (3) maybe gloves aren’t as important as El Milagro makes it seem. I was so shocked by her behavior that I didn’t say anything. Later I wished I had; and you know what? If I can’t pipe up with a statement about that, imagine how other, less vocal patients act when they see medical staff doing things they know are wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s scary.

I lived through it however and drove back to the inn to find Johnny there ready to hang out with his sister all afternoon and then watch me cook burgers in the afternoon downpour and eat a rushed dinner before heading back to Center Point and Camp C.A.M.P.* He took an ear of corn with him… that boy. What a great day!

Notes: In at 74.7 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* Camp Camp retrieved July 2007 online at


147) Can we talk?

July 21, 2007

El Milagro:
About an hour ago Phyllis the Nurse said I could come in early, so here I am at 1:45, all hooked up and ready to go. Eloy stuck me as we reminisced about old Austin versus new Austin. Now we have the Austin City Limits Festival. We used to have the Aqua Festival with skipper pins, three stages of bands, the water parade, and the horseshoe tournament. Eloy’s cannulation job looks like a mess of crossed tubes, and he had to redo one cause it was laying on top of the vein. After finishing his artwork, Eloy stood there watching the machine while we talked.

As I look outside right now I see the back of my truck in the downpour and wonder if I’ll be able to mow the lawn this weekend. I’m listening to KUT’s Further Adventure of Folkways; Kellie Willis’ new CD… great sounds. She sings, “I can’t remember the last time I felt so weak…. You’re just a stone’s throw away… (steel guitar bit) …and God knows I want to fall in your arms…”

So…, yesterday I went out to lunch (yes, me) with two lovely women and one of them said, “I read your blog, but I wish you’d put more personal stuff in it…”, and the other one agrees. “Yeah! That’s what I always tell him too.” I respond with an author’s poetic prerogative prattle. I leaned into the table and gave them a raspberry. “THBPPBPTH!!” …. Well, actually it was probably something dumber, like “Well, the intent is to tell about dialysis, not to be a soap opera”. And yet, since then I’ve been thinking more about their feedback. They are, as it happens, a representation of the readership. And I always claim to be ‘client-centered’… so, who am I to say, “THBPPBPTH!!” to the users? Is this blog for me or for the reader?

Well, I must admit it is at least partly for ME. I write it and I read it and I change it (after mine and Liz’s edits). And I put in the pics that interest me. It is MY contribution, at least at this point in time, to the Nowicki Family Writings. I don’t think theses, dissertations (Michael), and academic articles count, although my dad probably counts Michael’s textbook. “Is this more personal?” I asked myself while appreciating the fiddle licks from Truth # 2 off the Dixie ChicksHome… in my earphones.

Now, about making this blog ‘more personal’. What would ‘more personal’ be? Do they want to hear more about the puppy? They are dog women and we spend time at lunch discussing good homemade dog food recipes… since the Chinese are bent on poisoning our pets. Is it more personal when my West Texas innards screams out, “Those damn ___"(insert your own PC label here)? ‘More personal’? Hmm. I’m sure they don’t want me to write about running naked throughout the house with my bride…. NOPE! I’m pretty sure that’s not what they mean by ‘more personal’. Stuff about kids and family maybe? They both already know more than you, dear reader, so that can’t be it either. Now the Austin Lounge Lizards are crooning, “I want to ride in… the car Hank died in” so I hafta break away from this post to sway to this wailing waltz.

An Idea: Maybe they want to hear about the ‘more personal’ side of Jack’s experiences of dialysis. I have meant to report on two very personal topics for over a year now and not taken the leap because no one has asked for it and I’ve been waiting for the ‘right’ time. Maybe theirs is the ‘more personal’ request I need to devote a post to bodily functions. Being on dialysis has huge impact on urination and taking binders for phosphorous impacts defecation! Would posting about peeing and pooping be 'personal’ enough? I promise to pen a post about pee and poop pretty soon.

Just now I’m pulled from my present pee and poop pronouncement by a pained patient yelling “Help me. Help me”. I look around and notice he is the guy a few chairs down from me and Eloy has looked up from his work to check on him but doesn’t jump to his assistance. “Arrrghhhuh”, the man wails and staff seem to ignore him, and I wonder what that’s all about. Finally Kim the Nurse goes over to him and diddles with his machine and documents on the “Chair Side Snappy” (the cutesy name El Milagro’s has given to the newish computers that track the dialysis machines, two at a time. I hear the name is supposed to call out to staff who are a little computer shy. It calls out to me, "We are the goofuses"). Anyway, as I’m watching them watching him, I might mention that there’s a new tech trainee drifting around this place who is not at all hard on the eyes, in her fitted baby blue med suit. Is that ‘more personal’?

I must continue to consider this idea of getting ‘more personal’. I could maybe write about being a cheapskate. Or, my thoughts on philosophy or cheescake. Or maybe introduce politics. Nah! Too depressing. Politics is one of the few things that is more depressing than kidney disease. Or how about my musings about Art? (Art is A+R+T according to a paper written by AJH, circa 1970) Or, getting really personal: sharing all the places I’d rather be…. like sailing into Friendship Bay on Bequia*, sipping a Hairoon Bitter Lemon soda.... Ah yes! That would be the ‘personal’ stuff.

Actually, I’ll probably just add my ‘more personal’ musings on dialysis and my continued adjustment to this stage of life on the planet. Adios for now.

Notes: In at 73.7 and out at 72.1 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* St. Vincent & the Grenadines retrieved online July 2007 from http://www.svgtourism.com/


146) Sorting for Sameness

July 19, 2007

El Milagro:
I am early today and hand off the newest draft of the newsletter (I am on the Patient Advisory Committee, PAC and am the editor of the monthly newsletter: the El Milagro News) to the receptionist for Suzanne the Administrator to review and I walk in to find my chair and get situated. Jason the Kid cannulates me with his usual phlebotomous acumen. This boy is going places. All the usual suspects are seated in their chairs looking around and the place is humming along without a hitch. I settle into reading my book (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal), which is getting more interesting as I read further into it. I have in the back of my mind worries about last Tuesday, when my BP dropped and I felt woozy at the end of my treatment. Today my standing BP was 113 over something, but when I sat down it went to 135/76. So, I am happy to have something to worry about, since I always feel a bit useless unless I’m worrying about something. I lose myself in the book. Here in the world of the book, we find Biff trying to explain to Joshua (the Messiah) how his first sexual experience felt and Joshua just doesn’t get how it isn’t sinful because he expects sinful acts to include fire and pain.

Since my worries drain out of my head, like oil out of a busted gasket on a '47 Chevy's oil pan, the growing empty space up there begins to fill with vaporous considerations. I have been considering how people fit into systems. There are people who work to fit in and people who can’t quite seem to want to fit in. There are some names for NLP Meta programs that fit my considerations and they are the various vaporous types of sorting. People have all sorts of sorts they sort by. If a person sorts by “sameness” they look for things to be the same and when they determine that things are the same it makes them feel comfy, accepted, and agreeable. People who sort for sameness also like it when they go into situations they perceive are the same as other situations. Even when situations are different they are likely to perceive the samenesses first, since the samenesses come into their awareness first. These folks are good people (since they are like me) and they walk around happily when they can look out at the world and say, "Ah yes. This is the same as it was. Oh yes. This is the same too. Let's go out to eat and I'll choose the same thing I always choose." If you sort for sameness you are the one who owns a red Ford Taurus and you notice all the red Tauruses and you miss the blue Volvos. There must be many more Taurus than Volvos, you think. So, sorting for sameness does have its drawbacks. Sameness sorters miss some part of reality.

People who sort for "difference" don’t notice when things are the same; only when they are different. Sorting for difference can lead to folks having a polarity response, which was called in days of old, ‘resistance’. People who naturally use a polarity response are always finding reasons why things aren’t the way they were stated by someone else. These folks say “yes, but...” a lot.

Apple pie is a good American dessert”. “Yes, but you know, it wasn’t really American.”
Or, “Apple pie is okay, but pumpkin pie is the real American desert”. Or, “I beg to differ: Cake is the REAL American desert.” You get my point. These folks make good lawyers. So, back to systems. Same sorters want to fit in and difference sorters want to grate the system. When I look around the treatment room and I sort the people for sameness or difference sorters, I hallucinate that there are more sameness sorters here than difference sorters. It may be that I see mores sameness sorters because I am a sameness sorter; but, that aside, I think sameness sorters are more likely to end up in dialysis centers than difference sorters. Differenence sorters probably do 'home dialysis' or 'peritoneal dialysis'… I mean, those are different kinds of dialysis, after all. And you know, those people will do anything to be different. Difference sorters who are in the dialysis center aren't usually happy. They join the PAC to air their differences. The sameness sorters ask that everyone get along and the difference sorters hear them and smile, knowing they have a different view.

Now let’s think about the staff. Mostly, I experience them too as sameness sorters, sorta. I think the difference sorters are only about 5% of the staff, because they have trouble with following sameness (procedures, etc.) and too many of them would grate too much on the cohesiveness the system needs to operate fluidly. The good staff probably mix their meta-sorts and develop into people who sort for sameness with difference. They look for everything to be the same and can pick out the little differences that makes a difference (like a dial or reading or number being too high, too low, or “strange”). People who look for sameness with a difference enjoy new things: “Wow! … it’s just like the other one… but different!” This is a good line to use with adolescents in counseling --> "I once worked with a kid just like you, but different." How could they possibly ignore you after that opening?

So, actually all us sameness sorters and difference sorters should really try to begin to start noticing the difference and the sameness as we peer out onto the world, since it builds on our acceptance of a greater perspective or scope of reality.

I read, listen to All Things Considered, watch the news, watch PBS, read, and I’m done. Jason unhooks me, tapes me up and I’m outa there. So it goes on a Thursday eve.

Notes: In at 75.6 and out at 73.6 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


145) Dallas Dialysis

July 14, 2007

Dallas: We are in Dallas this weekend to visit Liz's mom, attend services at Temple in honor of her dad's Yahrzeit, and visit him at the cemetary. This is the custom we follow: services at Temple Emanu-El, visiting the cemetary and placing small stones on the headstone, going to lunch at Kuby's*, and then a leisurely drive back home. As a person who gets a sense of purpose and continuance through custom and "sameness", I love this experience of "family" and honoring our elders. It is always brings me feelings of connection and sanctity.

FMC Towngate: Here I am at a new dialysis center in Garland, about 8 miles from my mother-in-law's house in north Dallas. Getting a chair here was something of a bureaucratic hassle. The social workers at El Milagro first tried to get me in at the DaVita center I went to last time I was in Dallas. They refused me, saying that my insurance never paid for the visit. Seems to me that that woulda been worked out before I went. Surprised me, since I never heard there was a problem for quite awhile afterwards. So, the social worker set up a chair at another DaVita facility and I had a few emails back and forth with their social worker before they found out our insurance wouldn't pay for that one either. So, it ended up that the insurance contracts with an out-of-DaVita facility run by Fresenius Medical Care in Dallas.

FMC is in a strip mall and has a huge waiting room. All the staff I meet are very foreign sounding. A woman from India, in Indian garb brings me into a small treatment room and interviews me for about half an hour and has me sign 101 pieces of paper that show that I completely absolve them of any responsibility for anything that might happen, no matter whose fault it is. Do I want dialysis? Well, then I must sign away. Do I want to question or consider signing any of these papers? Do I want to be shown the door? I thought of hesitating to sign one of the forms, but decided I don't want to slow the process of getting on the machine. We really have no choice but to sign and then sue later if there's a problem.

When I go from one DaVita center to another DaVita center they just transfer me but when I am going to another company's facility it's as if I am a completely new patient. The process is slowed by the interviewer's almost indecipherable English. With a combination of repeats, hand signals, and guesses we complete the interview process. We two strangers from different lands discuss the color of my urine, my eyesite, and my water retention. Luckily I have a fairly transparant nature and can discuss even the color of my poop upon inquiry. Finally she takes me into the treatment room.

The Indian walks me to the in-floor scale where I weigh and then on into the sea of blood cleansing patients; three or four rows in to a chair in the middle of a section of chairs. Here I meet Aida, a beautiful Ipanema-ish woman wearing a visor like a blackjack dealer, whose English is only a little better, but whose nationality and heritage are totally unknown to me. She is all business and seemingly in a foul mood, unless this demeanor is her normal countenance for her culture. I don't know and am having some amusement hallucinating what her mood is all about. I think maybe she doesn't get along with the Indian woman and the Indian woman brought me into Aida's territory and sat me in a chair without regard to Aida's plan for the chair. I sit there for about 25 minutes while Aida and the other tech for the row take the last shift people off and ready for the next shift. Of course, the dialyzer is new and I observe and hear that they use new ones for each person all the time because they are a new type that is only used once and tossed. So, it doesn't matter what chair a patient sits in. Aida cannulates me and does a good job of it, even though she starts with too small a needle and has to take it out and put in a larger one. I forgive her the mistake and that seems to lighten her mood somewhat.

The chairs are grass green and new and have internal heater and vibrators. I fiddle around with the buttons on my chair but can't get the stuff to work. Attached to the back of each chair are five foot poles with a three-banded light at the top, green-yellow-red. When I stood up while waiting to get stuck, I looked around and saw a sea of green lights, signifying the machines doing their jobs, hooked up to probably 100 people. This place also has those swinging TVs that are attached to mantis arms like the x-ray machines at your dentist's office. Once you hook up your earphones and swing the set around in front of your face you create a little TV universe for yourself to sink into and pass the time in your own little bulb. I watch the entire Mission Impossible II and drift in and out of a dreamless slumber before it is time to unhook and re-enter the real world outside.

Aida unhooks me and patches me up and asks where I'm from and if I'll be back. She doens't seem to recognize "Austin" and says "Good bye" when I reply that this is my one time here for this visit. And so it goes in big "D" dialysis.

Notes: In at 75.4 and out at 72.8 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* Kuby's Sausage House retrieved online July 2007 from http://www.kubys.com/


144) Mystery of the Dripping of Time

July 12, 2007

El Milagro: Today I am sitting here, all hooked up, with nowhere to go. The time can be passed in any number of ways; reading, listening to NPR, watching TV, sleeping, or observing the operation of the clinic. I always find something to do to quicken up the drip, drip, drip of the minutes passing. But today I hear Jo the Nurse mention that one of the patients only watches his dialysis machine's time graph for the whole four hours. He is the one who has the slowest 16 minutes left on his session. I am thinking about this method of passing the time and wondering how it is that this guy can do it this way. It reminds me of waiting for my birthday when I was a kid. The harder I focused on the minutes passing until my birthday, the slower it seemed the time went. The best way to pass time is to get busy doing something rather than watching the time. Does this old guy know that? Does he enjoy watching the minutes drip away? I want to temporarily step into his world to check out what his brain tells him about passing this time and why he doesn't find something to do to quicken it's passage. I am assuming he is anxious to get outa here, since he frequently asks how much time he has left. This is a real mystery to me.

Notes: In at 74.8 and out at 72.8 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.


143) Sphyghettiometer Tentacles

July 5, 2007

El Milagro:
I walk in and say hi to Jennifer the Dietician, who waves from her phone call. Seems late, even though I’m on time. I say hi to John and ask how he’s doing and he finally says “Okay” now and I wonder if he is just saying that or if he is doing better. He strikes me as a person who is up front with things, so I trust he is doing better and that makes me feel good because I want this center to be successful with folks.

Gladys cannulates me. I read my book and listen to NPR on my radio. Watch the start of the news on ABC and then fall asleep… news must’ve been boring. What else could happen?

Later I wake up and half-watch (with no sound but looking at the picture) the “Ugly Betty” show because I am tangled in my flipper TV control mechanism and can’t aim it at the box. Now we have flipper control boxes that are wired to the wall, so they can fall on the floor and we can pull them up by their tails (very helpful). When we arrive they hang over the back of the chair like sleeping cobras with pimples. They have speakers so people don’t have to use earphones if they’re rude and don’t mind bothering their neighbors with the low rumble of noisy TV rabble spitting out all over the place.

Or, we can plug our own earphones into them and make them even more tentacley and then they wrap themselves around our BP monitor cord and pretty soon we find ourselves tied tightly to our chairs in wires and hoses. And in my case tonight this conglomeration is further complicated by the blood red tubes that cross over me from a left-arm access to a right-sided dialysis machine and the whole thing feels like being a meatball in the middle of a bowl of spaghetti. Tonight I have become a meatball with arms and I can’t adjust the TV without yanking my tubes and stretching my sphyghettiometer hose.

It might as well be a sphyghettiometer hose (instead of a sphygmomanometer* hose) tonight since it, in combination with my earphones wire, holds my head down as I try to get up to give Gladys a standing BP. "ARGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH…" I am trapped in my dialysis chair! I pull off the head phones, yank on the BP hose, and slowly pull myself up, like Gulliver escaping the naugahyde hills. I am up and out of the spaghetti. I guess I digressed here a little in this description… since I know Gladys didn’t notice my struggling to freedom from the chair. My fantasies add some adventure to the otherwise doll drum of dialyis tonight.

Oh well, another day another dialysis. So it goes.

Notes: In at 75.8 and out at 72.5 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* Blood pressure monitor (sphygmomanometer) (nd) Retreived online July 2007 from How Products are Made, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Blood-Pressure-Monitor.html


142) Jack’s 60th

July 3, 2007

El Milagro:
I arrive a few minutes after 2:30; an early time Ron the Nurse has given me since I am taking the day off in honor of my birthday. Jennifer the Dietician says, “Aren’t you early?” and I report that it’s my birthday, and she replies, “Really? 55 or so?” and continues by asking about the party at Lake Marble Falls, which I explain has been cancelled due to flotsam and bacteria in the water. I move to my favorite chair in the corner and Gladys cannulates me and wishes me a happy birthday. I put new batteries in my radio and tune in to KUT and start my new birthday book: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, by Christopher Moore.

About an hour into my dialysis I begin to feel tingly in my lips. It’s the kind of feeling you get when your extremities are asleep and prickly. I ignore it for awhile but it spreads to my brain and fingers and then, of course, I begin worrying about it. I stretch to see my last BP on the machine and it reads 104/58. Aha! My BP is so low it’s making me tingly. I lay low, trying to imagine my BP rising. The tingles are spreading over my entire head and I would be okay with that feeling, but I am also starting to feel clammy, faint, and slightly nauseous too. I don’t like the idea of calling someone over and complaining about this cause I don’t want them to “take me off” (stopping the dialysis) or lengthen my time today. I close my eyes, focus on my breath, and visualize my blood pulsing harder in my veins.

Finally I call Herman the Nurse over and tell him I think my BP is too low. He pushes the BP button and waits the few minutes it takes the machine to check my BP. Now its 94/50 and he asks if I’m ever hypotensive and I explain my recent increase in my BP meds cause my BP has been higher than normal. Oh yeah, “and I took 1/2 a Toprol this morning.” Herman gets a shot of saline and pokes it in the tubes on the machine and tells me to see how I feel in 15 minutes. My BP is now up to about 105/58 but I don’t feel the difference. I lay back all tingly and faint and try to enjoy the sense of light-headedness. It’s a quarter after 3. By 3:30 I’m feeling the same. Then I look up and it’s 5:45. I feel okay and my brain tells me I must’ve fallen asleep. Herman is gone and the BP reading on the machine is 110/74, so that tells me things are back to normal. I turn on the TV news and finish out my time. By the time I leave my BP is normal.

My Birthday: So, it’s my 60th birthday! I am having a harder time thinking about being 60 than I did at 50. 50 was a celebration of survival and perseverance. 60 seems OLD, even though when I search my insides for oldness I can’t find any. My dad said on the phone that 60 even sounds old to him. Katie arches her eyebrows at “60”! She is over for my birthday dinner of green chile and chicken enchiladas (the boycott is broken) with not so much cheese. And for dessert, of course, pineapple upside down cake. The kids all give me gifts: KT a Texas State T-shirt commemorating the fact that she decided to go to a big college after all; Shayna a build-it-with-your-daughter project (Palm Chime) and a book; and Lizzie more books, a Texas map, and Cowboy bandaids since I use so many. Earlier in the day, before dialysis, we celebrated by visiting the Blanton Museum of Art* where I was excited by Morris Louis, (early) Mark Rothko, Thomas Hart Benton, and Jan Brueghel the Younger.

And so this 60th birthday includes family, dialysis, prickliness, and other physical sensations that prove to me that I am still on the planet… alive and kickin', as we say in West Texas. And very happy to be here. I recall a verse of one of Ferlinghetti’s poems:

Yes the world is the best place of all
----------------------------------for a lot of such things as
--------making the fun scene
----------------------------and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
------------------------and singing low songs and having inspirations
----and walking around
-----------------looking at everything
-----------------------------------and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
-----------------and even thinking
-----------------------------------and kissing people and
-making babies and wearing pants
------------------------------------and waving hats and
---------------------------and going swimming in rivers
------------------------on picnics
-----------------------------in the middle of the summer
--------and just generally
--------------------------'living it up'

So, there you have it.
Notes: In at 74.8 and out at 72.8 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* The Blanton retrieved July 2007 online from
** Ferlinghetti, L. (1955) Pictures of the gone world 11. Retrieved online July 2007 from lyrikline.org,


141) Texas Water Days

June 30, 2007

I’ve been on the road for weeks it seems… and unable to find the time to post here. I’m running back and forth; out of town and back to dialysis. Out of town and back to dialysis, and then out of town and back to dialysis. Sometimes I see the family. And then... its out of town and back to dialysis.

At least thats the way it seems. It’s been a very wet several weeks in Texas. On June 18th, I was cruising into Sherman on the day of the freeway flood (1st time I-75 had ever flooded --> I thought is was a car wreck that had traffic stopped 10 miles south of town). I got off the freeway and headed into town on the alternate, over bridges where Choctaw Creek was splashing up onto the highway and fields to the right were covered in water… and houses to the right across the flooded fields had water up to their roofs, and people were sitting on top of those roofs, waving. I waved back, thinking, “Wow. They’ve had some weather up here!”

When I got to the agency hardly anyone was there cause the roads all around town were flooded and many of the staff live in Denison. The folks who were at work were surprised at my arrival, although I explained we didn’t watch the news down in North Dallas, so I just got on the road and drove up. After a few hours we were able to have our training, with stragglers coming in every once in awhile.

I dialyzed on Tuesday evening, and then on the morning of June 20th I went over to Enterprise to pick up a car to drive to Houston. It started pouring and between getting the car and loading it with my stuff from my truck and I got soaked to the skin; as if I had jumped into a swimming pool. I was in a brand new car and was soaking the driver’s seat and my pants stuck to my legs all the way to Ellinger. I was wet in a car driving through driving rain, and still damp when I jumped out to get my kolache fix at Hruska’s: one sausage and jalepeƱo (technically a pig in a blanket, not a kolache), and one cherry and cream cheese kolache (yummy in the tummy good), + another cup of coffee. I checked out the Colorado River from Ellinger to Columbus, and noticed the trees dipping down into the water, and then could really tell how full the river was by checking that sand bar on I-10 just east of Columbus. That day it was almost all under the brown chocolate-colored water. In Houston it was gray and drizzly for my training and the meeting the next morning. On the way back to Austin on the 21st, the water in the Colorado was down a bit but I drove in driving rain from Ellinger to Bastrop.

After my evening dialysis on the next Tuesday, I drove to Corpus Christi on Wednesday morning, in rain from Austin through San Antonio and down to about Three Rivers, where I all of a sudden drove out of the clouds into the bright Texas sun and billowy white clouds ahead of me. In my rearview mirror there was the purplish blue bank of storms. From there on into Corpus it was beautiful. The folks in Corpus thought it was hot and clammy but I thought it was toasty and comfy, having been basically wet for weeks. I somehow got done with my training several hours early, and was left with a couple hours in Corpus on my own. So I went over to the South Texas Art Museum* and walked in, avoiding the $5-a-ticket window and slipping around a corner into the first gallery. I noticed first a Tom Lea painting and was drawn to its clean, bright, purple-shadowed, adobe squares. Then I saw a Luis Jimenez low-rider drawing, and then a James Drake. What? I was unstuck in place and time. This is El Paso art! Then a Manuel Acosta woman and I looked and here was art from the Adair Margo Gallery and I felt weird in a way that maybe only Albert would get. I came to Corpus to see EL Paso art! The Corpus art I saw was installations, architectural, and somewhat boring. The El Paso art reminds me of home. I walked outdoors and watched a big oil tanker come to port, and then walked in the wind on the beach for some time, just feeling that gulf wind blow my hair and try to unset my hat. The wind was really stiff and I thought about how it was making those storms back inland in Austin and up the I-35 corridor. This wind was the father of that weather and here it felt good and strong and salty. The next day I did some consulting and drove home into rain before San Antonio that drizzled between SA and Austin.

This morning we met with Ann Fry for brunch at Central Market and talked about twenty-three years of friendship and all those years of sharing office space. See Ann Fry at
www.annfry.com for more info on Annie. When we got home, I called El Milagro and Matt says, “First one I got is 3 o’clock”. Then Herman called back at 2:15 and said, “You can come on in now… we’re ready.” So, I’m outa here and will finish this at the center.

El Milagro: I arrive and rush in, get my chair, and Herman comes over and sticks me quickly and efficiently. We talk about my worries about my blood pressure seeming higher and I report to him how I have adjusted my meds to respond (1/2 Toprol on dialysis days and back up to a whole one on non-dialysis days. Today my BP starts at 137/78 which isn’t too bad. I am reading the Time Magazine about Jack Kennedy and his prepping down the presidency with blazers and chinos, and a tribute written by daughter Caroline. Then I nap some and wake up to watch golf. John, the new guy, is sitting across the way from me and I wonder how he’s doing. Last time I asked him, he replied that he isn’t really feeling better since starting dialysis and I wonder what his kidney deal is, since most of the time when folks start dialysis, they report feeling better. When I started I immediately felt better and the people in my life reported that I was more energetic and lively and focused after starting. I want John to do better, since I befriended him that first day. I wave at him and he notices and waves back. He is too far away to yell, “Hey! How ya doing?” Also, I’m a bit shy about asking, given his last response. Pretty soon it’s time to get unhooked and Gladys does the job with her deft feminine hands. She smiles and remembers, “…no bandaids, right?”.

I zip home and we zip up to Larry’s birthday party. And so it goes.

Notes: In at 74.4 and out at 72.0 Kgs.
New Readers: For A Welcome Post, click August 2006 on the Sidebar.
* Art Museum of S. Texas, Looking West: Regional Art, retrieved online from