I started hemodialysis on March 28, 1990. It was a very bad year for me. I lost my dad to cancer, and I was getting progressively worse. I knew for years I had to go on the “machine,” but I kept putting it off until I was so sick I could not walk.
I already had my fistula made eight years prior. So, I was all ready to get started, but being scared was my biggest problem… But that day finally came. I was rushed to Presbyterian Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I had to have treatments immediately, so they began.I remember the very first treatment was a nightmare for me because I waited too long to start. I was a very sick lady. I went through five treatments–one every day–until I lost all the poisons and fluid (30 pounds) that had built up in my body and made me so sick. I would tell “anyone” to never wait until you are that sick because your treatments will be very hard on you. As soon as your doctor tells you it is time to start hemodialysis, do it!
My aspiration and inspiration was a man named Mr. Black–a little black man who took a liking to me. Why me? I’ll never know, but I am grateful for his wisdom. It was my last day on treatment in the hospital. Then I would start my treatments in a clinic. I was lying sick in my bed when this gentleman told me to sit up. I managed to sit up and listen to his every word.
He started by telling me he was 89 years old. He had been on dialysis for over 20 years. He started to tell me things I never knew could and would happen to me. And I thank God he did. He talked to me for over an hour, and I listened to his every word.
He told me I will have sick days, when I would just stay in bed, but I will have good days and do all the things I need and want to do. He told me I will cry, but I will also laugh. I will be sad, but I will be happy. He told me I will have treatments where I wish I was dead, but I will have treatments where I will be able to sing, dance, and laugh again. He told me life sometimes throws us many misfortunes, but God will be there to help make them more acceptable, and he was so right on everything he told me.
Mr. Black was my hero for a day. That next morning I was going home. I wanted to see Mr. Black, my inspiration, but he had died the night before. I never was able to say “thank you” or “goodbye”…
But I learned so much by his wisdom. Why, that day, did I have my last treatment at that time? I will never know that answer, but I needed to learn all he taught me in that little time. I learned how to manage my life while living on dialysis. With his words, I know that I can get sick, sad, but I can also get happy… and mad. Every time I said “I can’t,” I hear him say, “Yes you can!”
I became a dancer and did things I thought I couldn’t and would never be able to do. It has been 17 years now that I have been on dialysis, and, yes, I live by Mr. Black’s every word. “You can do it!”
Being on dialysis I had my bad times, but I had my good times. I will be “forever” grateful for my friend in heaven, Mr. Black, my inspiration…
“Thank you,” my friend. Wherever you are, you saved my life in so many ways… “I love you!”
About the Author
Elizabeth Churilla lives in Pittsburgh, PA.
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