It’s Called ‘The Reframe’, Honorable Mention, 20th Annual Essay Contest

by Sandra Kisselback

It’s been 30 years since hearing those words rocking my world and changing it forever. 

Words throwing me into a fear of the unknown. 

Words delivered that November 1992 day from the nephrologist. A nephrologist, I quickly learned, was a kidney specialist. 

“You have early signs of kidney disease. Otherwise called end-stage renal disease,” said the white-haired bespectacled nephrologist. “Eventually your kidneys will fail. You’ll then have three options. Dialysis or transplant.” 

“You said three options,” I replied. 

 “That third option, my dear, is to do nothing. A choice leading in only one direction.” 

 While the words were devastating, it wasn’t a death sentence. There was hope hiding behind those experienced eyes sitting across from me at that comfortably used oak desk; a desk I came to know quite well.  

Chug, chug, chug. “All aboard the end-stage renal disease train ride.” Soaking up the scenery was bound to promise better rewards than falling to the floor in spasms of grief, especially with the ‘Now What?’ stations sprinkled on the side. 

 Life didn’t end. It veered toward a different track picking up discoveries of inner strength and resolve to find daily sparkles ripe for the picking.  

Invoking superpower coping skills came repeatedly into play. Just this year, I learned the superpower had a name. A wise man from our “Journeys on the Page” writing group pegged it. 

***It’s called The Reframe***  

***Find something good behind the hammer strike*** 

Chug, chug, chug. Get ready to disembark. ‘Now What?’ Station One is clearly in sight. After 19 months, we were pulling over. 

“You are dangerously anemic. Your kidney function warrants starting peritoneal dialysis. First, though, you need a blood transfusion to get your numbers up. Then we’ll set up the operation to place a tube into your peritoneal abdominal cavity so you can do four 20-minute fluid exchanges at home to pull the toxins out of your system. Your kidney no longer does that.” 

Once the operation’s procedure was functional, treatment time morphed into piano practicing, reading, and writing letters to my peeps. Cha-ching! Hello sparkles. It’s all in The Reframe. 

Chug, chug, chug. Piling back on the clackity-clack of the railroad track. “What’s that coming up?” I ask. 

“It’s ‘Now What?’ Station Two,” replied the ticket master. “Get ready to disembark.” 

“Your brother Brian is a kidney donor match. Your operations are scheduled for October 31, 1994.”  

A good deal of time was spent at this station. Reframe thinking helped as weeks of recovery ensued with successful outcomes for both parties. Thank you, Brian! The train was refueled, recharged, and ready for passengers. I jumped back on when I heard that “All aboard” invite. 

Chug, chug, chug. Travel continued on the scenic ESRD train tracks. There were a few bumps and hiccups, but no screeching derailments for 11 years, 11 months and 11 days. Then, it came into view. ‘Now What?’ Station Three straight ahead. “Get ready to disembark.” 

“It’s back on dialysis, Sandra. Bartholomew is tired and can no longer be of assistance.” 

Bartholomew being the transplanted kidney’s nickname. 

Overnight, peritoneal dialysis each evening became standard operating procedure. The attached tubing was long and could easily reach the piano bench, bathroom, and bookcase. Cha-ching! Hello sparkles. The Reframe is a friend indeed. 

 Chug, chug, chug, back on the train until ‘Now What?’ Station Four pops up. Time to disembark, again. 

“You ripped your peritoneal cavity when reaching up dramatically to slow your speed on that sleighride you decided to enjoy. It’s April 2007. Peritoneal dialysis is out. Hemodialysis is in.” 

Many ‘Now What?’ stations and 30 years later, with a second transplant in tow since April 8, 2014, The Reframe remains strong, mostly. Sometimes, The Reframe gets lost. Before hitting rock bottom, I call on The Reframe to catch me. “Please remind me about finding the good behind the hammer strike. The joy, the sparkles, the spirit of living.” The Reframe always responds tenderly. 

Next time life throws you a big bag of donkey doo, try The Reframe. It may just change your life. 


Hi! I love my name, Sandra Leigh (Thanks, Mom) and I love my birthday, October 1 (again, Thanks, Mom). Working up a sweat, playing piano, communing with nature, writing & tempting myself with a bit of free time here & there are some of my pleasures. I also like unicorns alot, pretend gardening and wood.


More Essay by Sandra Kisselback:


The Day My Life Got Interesting, 19th Annual Essay Contest

You Never Know Until You Try, Honorable Mention, 18th Annual Essay Contest

Cape of TRIUMPH – 2nd Place Winner, 17th Annual Essay Contest

Squirming Toward My New Normal – 2nd Place Winner (Tie) 15th annual essay contest

Temporarily Speaking – Honorable Mention Winner, 12th Annual Essay Contest

“The Case of the New Shoes” – 1st Place Winner, 10th Annual Essay Contest

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