168) DC Dialysis @ K Street

September 20, 2007

K Street Dialysis:
Four of us DaVita Patient Citizens took a cab over here with our guide DeSwan and made our way through a maze of first floor construction and took an elevator up to the GWU-K Street Dialysis Center’s weighting room. We were met by Cora the Administrator and signed 6 or 7 forms ensuring that we give the place permission for anything that could possibly happen… and a guy across the room is curious about us… wondering if we are the people that are responsible for his confusing time changes. He volunteers to report to us all about his woes as we are signing our forms. He says he had to come here at 6 a.m. this morning and is still waiting! Soon the center social worker appears and ushers this guy off to discuss his situation further and I, for one, get the impression that he is clinically confused.

I am the first to finish the signatures because my signature is much like a doctor’s and because I don’t take the time to read any of the forms. I weigh in and am seated first. It’s funny to me about the signing forms ritual… if I don’t sign them I probably don’t get dialyzed or I slow the session time down to a crawl… so, I just sign my rights away every time in exchange for life giving dialysis. This is funny to me because it is, on paper, a serious thing, but in reality, it’s like unwrapping a piece of gum in order to chew it… or, like checking the wind when you’re peeing in the forest. If you don’t unwrap or check wind you’re gonna have a mess.

Archie the Tech hooks me up deftly and I investigate the place visually. Nurse Mary Ann comes by to check on me, but evidently they don’t listen to your back and chest or feel up your ankles here. She just asks how I’m doing and I say, “Fine. And by the way… thanks a whole lot for fitting us into your schedule. We appreciate it.” She smiles. This place is very hospital clinic like. Green new chairs that aren’t as comfortable as our old ones at home. The walls are all surgically clean and only have framed pastoral scenes or printed and laminated instructions about certain procedures. No hand written signs and no flimsy multi-colored tables and no children or friends of patients wandering about. No staff wearing every kind of outfit with several different kinds of white paper coats. All of them here have bought same-colored scrubs and wear the exact same white paper coats so they all look like scientists bustling around in a science fiction movie. And the dialysis machines look to me like Mercedes models… they have slope back screens that remind me of the hood of newer model Mercedes; or like some stern robots with a right arm made out of a series of translucent tubes that fall down the front, unlike our tubes that criss-cross every which way over the front of our machines. Very medical… with a sign out front that says NO EATING. My TV controller only goes up in channels so as I’m checking what’s on, I go past the live channels into fuzz-land and on… an on… and on. I inspect the changer and find no way out of my dilemma. I must go up through the channels to the end before starting again. There are three digits so I guess that I must go up to 100 before starting again. I do. It illuminates 101 and I quit. Now I could ask for help but these techs are very busy and I already feel like we are a burden to them, so I decide that my TV setting is not that big a deal. I turn it off and hook my earphones to my radio; tune to WAMU and take a nap. Later when I wake up, I pull out Venkatesh’s book and read for awhile, thinking about where in Washington could Venk’s descriptions be occurring.

I’m first off the machines too, and wait for my colleagues to come off, weigh out and notice that it is a new experience to be going to dialysis with buddies. I wait for us all to be ready to leave, like we are all a club or something. Oh yeah… we are a club. We find our way out thru the maze and hop a cab back to the hotel and have about 30 minutes to dress up for the big hoopla deal down in the ballroom. As usual, after dialysis, I’m ready for a little nap but I busy myself about the task of cleaning up and putting on my summer suit for the ball.

The DPC Gala: When I get there I notice that the men are dressed in a continuum of formality while it seems that all the women are wearing sparkly jackets over darker long skirts or dresses. A good jazz band is playing. The meal is excellent (Ruth Chris style steak with mashed potatoes for Kidney patients and some veggies) and the Award Ceremony highlight AKF who has collected and given more kidney-related dollars than I can even imagine. Another award goes to Ardell Lien who had a heart and kidney transplant and then sailed solo around the world. When he gets up to the podium, Ardell takes more than the few minutes of other recipients to tell his round the world story in glorious detail… which is a fascinating story, like a audio National Geographic special. Chad sits in the wings waiting for Ardell to finish, starting to get up a number of times… Ardell’s gonna tell his story and that’s that.

Finally the group gives an award to my fellow Austinite, Dr. Jack Moncrief, inventor of peritoneal dialysis. Dr. M. stands and astounds us with his stories about early dialysis… mixing dialysate in large vats with canoe paddles and pumping it through tubes with “finger pumps”. I have no idea what a finger pump is… Dr. M. shows us by holding up his hand and wiggling four fingers in a rhythmic beat. The amazing thing to me is he is talking about 1969! Before 1969 the state of the art in dialysis was pretty much if your kidneys stopped functioning… you croaked. 1969! So, Dr. Moncrief was really captivating to listen to. I introduced myself to him later and mentioned that Moritz is my nephrologist and he smiled when I described Moritz as a 'crazy guy'. As the band started back up I made my way around the hall saying “so long” to various folks and “thanks” to various people and headed up to my room early for some rest.

As I lay in my nice hotel room I thought back over the past few days and am happy I decided to come up here to participate. I met some wonderful people, had some interesting learning experiences, and may have spread the word on care for kidney patients a little. Again, it is all about being of service and when we act out of service to others then we ultimately serve ourselves as well. Thus endeth the DC advocacy trip. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Notes: In at 76.0 and out at 72.7 kgs.
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cheryl martin said...

Welcome home Jack! I'm glad to know you made it home and had such a great trip on so many levels. Was that a picture of the room you stayed in? What a beautifully elegant room......though it didn't sound like you got to spend much time in it!
your cheryl

Jack Nowicki said...

Cheryl ~ the rooms were great, although that pic is off their website. My room was quite similar but instead of the Washington Monumment, I looked out on the back alley and delivery area. I got to watch the milkman come deliver at dawn... and the bread man too. JN