My family and I have received a wonderful Christmas gift just in time for the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Liza, the love of my life and soulmate, was discharged from the hospital on 20 December and is now back home resting and recovering after debilitating back-to-back surgical procedures over the past two weeks. The first was for a kidney transplant and the second, a complication that arose after the first surgery.
After years of trying to battle chronic kidney disease (CKD), my wife finally reached the onset of stage 5, the end-stage renal disease, about a year ago. If you think it’s a frightful situation to be in because of what the term “end” connotes, well, I guarantee you folks, it certainly is. Like all mortals, at some point of our lives, barring unnatural causes, mortality beckons and we will all find ourselves afflicted with one disease or another as we age, which of course is the natural evolution of life. In the case of my wife, early onset of high blood pressure and diabetes eventually took a toll on her kidneys.
When her nephrologist, Dr. Brian Cabral, a top physician in St. Luke’s Global and our neighbor, called us in for a meeting early last year to talk about Liza’s impending end-stage renal disease, anxiety, fear and apprehension immediately took hold of us as we did not know what lay before us. In a calm and reassuring manner however, Brian walked us through the remaining stages of CKD and explained what steps we could take to prolong the finality of end-stage renal disease. And he explained as well that the current gold standard for treating, short of a kidney transplant, is hemodialysis which will enable Liza to continue to be fairly functional and still enjoy a relatively normal life. It will however mean certain lifestyle changes because dialysis will entail having to spend a certain number of hours weekly in a kidney dialysis center.
Belatedly, I have now a better understanding of CKD and, in the interest of sharing, there may be some senior folks out there who may be interested to know more and who like us took for granted the perils of not paying too much attention to the well-being of our kidneys.
CKD is also referred to as chronic kidney failure, which essentially is the gradual loss of kidney functions. Our kidneys perform the very important task of filtering wastes and excess fluids from our blood, which are excreted in our urine. If this filtering process falters, primarily due to prolonged unchecked diabetes and high blood pressure, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and wastes will build up in our body.
There are various symptoms that develop over time that are nonspecific and difficult to directly link to kidney disease because they are quite common particularly for us who are in our golden years. Some examples are nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, sleep problems, changes in urinary habits, decreased mental sharpness, muscle twitches and cramps, shortness of breath and uncontrolled hypertension. The complications that could arise as a consequence of CKD, again, are common concerns of the elderly such as notably decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
To determine more definitively if one is afflicted with CKD, periodic blood tests and urine tests are the usual protocol followed. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease is generally considered to be irreversible and at best can only be delayed by addressing the causes through, for example, high blood pressure medications and dietary restrictions, thus slowing the progression of the disease. When the end stage renal failure, however, is ultimately reached, notwithstanding the prior knowledge of this inevitable reality, the shock of the finality of the necessity of a dialysis treatment in order to survive is indescribable. It feels almost like death.
It is critical at this stage to have the support and encouragement of loved ones and perhaps as important, if not more important, the abiding faith in the ultimate goodness and wisdom of God and the acceptance of His will. Strengthened by this mindset, we have over the past year experienced various bouts of ups and downs as Liza’s new world of dialysis every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four hours per session and its concomitant complications became our reality.
The past year, however, has also brought about blessings as new friendships were made particularly among the excellent renal team of nurses and medical staff of St. Luke’s Global who literally hold in their hands the well-being of each patient during every dialysis session.
As we finally took the momentous step of a kidney transplant, we will be forever grateful for the skillful hands of Liza’s surgeon, Dr. Dennis Serrano and the continuous overall management of our friend, Dr. Brian Cabral. Finally, it has been the generous outpouring of prayers, love and support from friends and family that have lifted our spirits and continue to do so at this very moment as we embark on a new challenge of a successful recovery for Liza.
But for now, what is burning deep in our hearts is the gratitude for the wonderful Christmas gift of a new chance at life that we have been given.
Until next week… a very merry Christmas to all!