I See. I Hear – 1st Place Winner, 1st Annual Essay Contest

By Jim Burton

I see I hear

I see. I hear.

I take precious fluid from fragile humans.
I clean it,
Detox it,
Bless it, and send it back.

I improve their lives. For a time, I can help them.
I share my patients’ life-blood. I share their souls.

I know when they hurt,
When they smile
When they want to die; and
When they want to live.

I want them to live. So do others.

I see Technician CG. A distressed Mr. Patient approaches her.

“My fluid is over. Way over. 7.1! I have no will power. This thirst is 24/7. None of the tricks and gimmicks work. I thirst!” Mr. Patient sobs.

Maybe he thinks that, by crying, he’ll get rid of some of the fluid. His tears make two tiny waterfalls. Technician CG takes Mr. Patient’s hand.

I hear: “It is going to be all right. Let us take care of it. That’s our job. We’ll take off as much as we can. You just sit and relax.”

She does not nag. She does not berate. She does not scold. She calms his boiling blood.

I see a large Patient with creamy white hair stumble-walk to his chair. He is an ancient one. His offspring accompanies him. I can clean his blood, but, sadly, I cannot help with his other condition. The offspring calls it “Oldtimers.” I think my hearing is getting slushy. Nurse PX approaches the large creamy Patient.

“How are you today?”

“I’m fine.”

“Did you have a good Thanksgiving?”


“What did you have to eat?”


“Did you eat too much?”


“Were you a bad boy?”


Nurse PX inserts my connecting needles into the creamy arm with great care. It hurts. The large Patient winces. He is frightened and confused. But there is a caring nurse-hand letting him know that the pain will pass. Someone cares.

The large Patient’s confused and frightened blood bounces around inside me. He feels comfort from somewhere, from someone. He says: “Yes.”

I see nutritionist RT. She is the human with the loud colored sweaters. Her colors sometimes hurt my digitals. On one dialysis day, RT offers Patient the privilege of being a mentor–to help and support other patients who are having diet and/or fluid problems.

Patient accepts. His blood races through me with giggly excitement and warmth. I hear him tell young woman Patient with deep dark hair: “There are three ‘F’ words to remember when you are a dialysis patient. Do you know what they are?”

She hesitates. “Uh, no.”

He smiles.

“Fluid, Phosphorous and Fun!”

I think that was human humor. Interesting approach to healing. Humor. Mentors and Humor.

Our humans would improve such a diet. My Patient J’s blood emits positive signals when Doctor M comes to visit. I know it’s him because the overhead lights bounces off his partially balding top, creating a pinkish aura. I see them shake hands, and I hear them exchange greetings:

“You’re looking good.”

“Hi, Doc, how are you?”

They discuss Patient J’s blood work and all the other important numbers. And then Doctor M says: “I read your play as requested. Wonderful. You have a wonderful piece of work. What are you going to do with it? Any ideas for play number two?”

They chat. Just chat. And Doctor M sits. Yes, he sits! Most Docs stand over their patients like a god. Doctor M meets his patients eye-to-eye and gives them some of his time. Dialysis patients don’t know how much time they have left. That thought makes their blood heavy and makes my tubes sag. By chatting, Doctor M lets his patients know that he has time for them.

Doctor M hands Patient J a book. “It’s a Nero Wolfe mystery. Interesting.”

Patient J hands Doctor M a book. “Here’s A Walk in the Woods. Very funny. I didn’t expect that. I loved it.”

Before my digitals, I see a lending library and two book critics! They chat about Stephen King. Doctor M leaves. Patient J doesn’t need Ativan or any of those drugs right now. His blood is content.

I share their souls.
I know when they hurt,
When they smile,
When they want to die, and
When they want to live.

I want them to live. We all want them to live.

About the Author
Jim Burton is a dialysis patient who currently resides in Reston, VA, with his wife, Julie. He is also the grand (first) prize winner of RSN’s First Annual Essay Contest titled, “How your staff at your dialysis unit or transplant center encourages you to live a fulfilling life in spite of kidney disease.” This essay contest was created with support from Watson Pharma.