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Slip up

May 31, 2013 Leave a comment

“Chronic disease with a positive attitude”.  While I came up with that on my own, there is a definite basis for it.

In the 15 years and 8 months of MY life that my mother was alive, that is how she lived. I never knew my mother to be healthy.  She walked in to my Middle School band concert using a cane (she was in her early 30’s at the time), it was not unusual for her to spend a month at a time in the hospital, and she’d be nauseated and tired between dialysis treatments up until it was the morning of dialysis, when she would then start the vicious cycle all over after her dialysis treatment.

Lately though, I haven’t exactly been following this example.  The first part of the subtitle is one which I have no control over-“chronic disease”, but the last part, “with a positive attitude”,  I one which I do have a LOT of control.  Without going into too much detail, work and life stressors consumed me, and anxiety and sleeplessness were my way of life for the past few months.  But that has resolved; I’m now able to sleep the entire night, and the anxiety is pretty much gone.  A much needed vacation from my full time job did the trick (amongst other things).  I have tons of vacation time, but I try to keep a “cushion” for any unforeseen health crisis, of which I’ve had several since 2005.  I learned my lesson (we continue to learn until the day we die, I suspect).  With 50 vacation days (which remain after last weeks vacation), I can afford to take more than what I’ve been taking, and taking 4 weeks off to recover from major surgery does NOT count as vacation. I’ve also had some job disappointments lately, but I can attest to the fact that when one door closes, another opens.  It’s happened once, and as of today, will probably be happening again in the very near future.

Getting back to my Mom, she was truly my inspiration.  I didn’t realize that at the time, but I do now. And I’ve tried my best to set the same example for my son, who may some day face some of the hurdles I have faced.

I accept the fact that I’ll never be able to do the physical things I’d like to do, like be able to jog, play baseball, or be able to go up and down steps without holding on to a railing. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do other things.  From the time I was young, I’ve compensated for this by developing my mind, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at that.

I’m fortunate to have made the career change from teacher to nursing, because over the past 27 years in healthcare (24 as a nurse), I’ve seen a lot worse than I’ve had to deal with, which has given me a unique perspective, something that not all people with a chronic illness have had the opportunity to experience.

The point of all of this is, that in dealing with chronic illness (or even the sudden onset of an acute illness), either as the “patient” or as a family member, it’s important to stay positive, while being realistic.  I firmly believe that in order to maintain a stable state of health, much of the “battle” is to maintain a positive state of mind.  Another point is that there may be things you can’t do, but there are things you CAN do.  Take a chance.  Sure, it’s scary making a major life change-as humans, change is difficult. But don’t look at the negatives; rather, think of the positives.  You’re comfortable in your job, but will you regret it later on if you end up in the same job 20 years from now, when you could have made a potential change for the better?  And finally, the last point is that we all slip from time to time, just as I have done.  But when you do, kick yourself in the butt, and get right back up and keep on going.  I hope this post is helpful to someone.

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Categories: Health Tags: ,

It’s always darkest before the dawn

September 11, 2009 5 comments

My wife Jackie and I were talking about the past 10 years and what has happened to her career-wise.

We met in a Psychiatric Hospital (we worked there), and at the time, she had an undergrad degree in Psychology, and was completing a graduate degree in Elementary Education.  She completed it, but in our area, teaching jobs are difficult to obtain based on one’s merits and abilities.  If you are willing to pay a bribe, or are politically “connected”, it’s possible to get a job, but otherwise, it’s not likely to get a full time position.

We got married, eventually moved to our current home, and she got a position as a Mobile Therapist and then as a counselor working with children.  That job led to another position as a quasi-Social Worker in our school district.  After 8 years, the school cancelled the contract of her employer, in order to hire more guidance counselors to do the work she and her co-workers had done. As an aside, and keeping with the rampant nepotism of the area, the guidance counselors were all in one way or another related to school district administrators, and costing the district much more than the contract they cancelled.

From there, she began substitute teaching.  The work wasn’t steady, and it was far from the ideal job, but she did what she had to, in hopes of somehow getting a full time teaching job.

She did this for 2 years, and then landed a job in the district teaching Alternative Education.  For those unfamiliar with this, Alternative Ed is a fancy name for a classroom used to place students that were simply unmanageable in a regular classroom.  She was experienced enough to handle this well, as she had worked with these types of students at the Psych Hospital we worked at.  Of course, while the “contracted” teachers received full pay and benefits, she was hired without a contract, and at a daily rate that was slightly higher than that of a contracted teacher, and didn’t receive any benefits. On top of that, the classroom was in a trailer, and the administrators had the attitude “out of sight, out of mind”.

It wasn’t the safest job, as the students were sometimes physically aggressive. She was subpoened to court twice because of arrests of her students related to things they did in the classroom that ended up in charges, and the school district wasn’t even going to pay her for the court appearances.

After 3 years, the district pulled another fast one, changed the job description in order to hire someone who apparently had “connections” (she lasted a year), and she was once again unemployed.

After 2 job losses within 5 years, she was very disheartened.  In addition to this, she was also dealing with me going through my kidney failure, dialysis, and eventual transplant.  I’m sure my readers who have experienced this with themselves or a family member can fully appreciate this stress.  But she was fortunate to get a summer job for a private provider of Mental Health and Special Education services, and that lead to a position as an assistant in an autism classroom (it was a position above an aide but below a teacher).  That was a year ago, and late last Fall, a teaching position opened.  She doesn’t have Special Education certification, but her supervisor hired her with the understanding that she would get certification.

So, in January, she started graduate classes to get her Special Ed certification, and was hired for the middle school Emotional Support class.

The certification will only require 6 classes (since she already has a M.S. in Education), and she’ll be certified at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.

Now, she’s working at a private school, she’ll have her Special Ed certification at this time next year, and the salary she is making is the same as a teaching job in the school district that axed her job twice.

We were talking about this last night, and in retrospect, the best thing that happened to her was losing her job.  She persisted, and ended up landing a job that she loves.

The lesson here is the title of this post; it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Remembering back to when I was first diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease, I experienced similar despair to what  Jackie did when she lost her jobs.  Based on what I saw my mother go through 30 years ago when she was on dialysis, my mood at the time was doom and gloom.  My mom was on dialysis for 3-1/2 years, had a very rough time throughout those years, and died of peritonitis related to surgery to remove her spleen as well as her kidneys (from what I can gather, the splenectomy was due to a problem with aplastic anemia, and the kidney removal was to prepare her for an eventual kidney transplant).  In addition, dialysis wasn’t nearly as advanced as today, and she would be in bed sick with nausea the day after dialysis, and “perk up” right before the next treatment.  This was probably due to the fact that back then, they only used an “acid bath” with dialysis treatments, causing acidosis; today, modern dialysis uses an acid and a base bath, which does away with this problem.

And yet as my kidney failure progressed, I kept on going, continued working full time even through dialysis, and although I had some rough periods, I persisted as well.  I put off dialysis until I had a kidney cyst rupture, causing my BUN to shoot up to 118, and was forced to start dialysis at this point.  My BUN was 80-90 for about a year prior to dialysis, and my GFR (percentage of kidney function) during that time was 8-10%.

And here I am today, living life with a kidney transplant, and having to remind myself that I actually had a transplant.  The reason I say this is that today, I feel 10 years younger than I did at the point I went on dialysis. When I was going through all of this, I was fortunate enough to be able to block out my initial apprehensions, and today, I’m thankful for treatment I received that allowed me to do so.

I probably will have more speed bumps along the way, but I’ve handled those that were thrown in front of me, and will likely be able to drive over those as I’ve done in the past.

Some readers of this blog are probably newly diagnosed with kidney disease, some are facing dialysis, some have chosen to remain on dialysis rather than transplant, some are awaiting a transplant, and others have gone through a transplant.  In my opinion, attitude and persistance can overcome a lot of what we have thrown at us, and I hope that for all of those that are in a position of facing challenges, that they do their best to look at the good, and do your best to overcome the bad.