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

By Sandra Kisselback

“Is your blood pressure always this high?” asked Dr. Craven.

Every day since turning 35, headaches followed me to bed. There was no need for a family doctor or medical insurance. I was active, healthy and felt great. Until the headaches started. After 30 days of a hammer to my head, I called my gynecologist. I had to see a doctor.

With the briefest of findings, the doctor paused slightly before saying, “You need to see a kidney specialist. Today. I’ll call and get you in to see Dr. McCoy.”

That’s the day my life got interesting.

I’m not saying my life wasn’t already interesting. It just got more interesting and worlds apart from life as I knew it. Dr. Craven, thank you. You started me on one heck of a journey. Welcome to the dais.

Absorbing the initial shock and making a blubbering call home, I ventured on to Dr. McCoy’s office. Cheryl checked me in. Not before or since has anyone been able to radiate the kindness and comfort I felt from her, a front-line greeter. Without question, Cheryl helped ease the transition from a ‘la di da, everything’s fine life’ to stepping into myriad tests, procedures, needles, pills, and health insurance needs coming up fast. Cheryl, hop into the hero gallery. And, bring Dr. McCoy with you.

Laying it out in a quiet but firm voice, Dr. McCoy gave it to me straight. “Eventually your kidneys will fail. You’ll need to go on dialysis or get a transplant.”  He was right. Less than two years later my kidney failed, I went on peritoneal dialysis, and then I got a kidney transplant.

Before that first transplant, Dr. McCoy thought it was okay to go on vacation. Being hospitalized with an allergic reaction to a dialysis medication, my skin started peeling like a snake shedding its skin, my weight dropped to nearly 100 pounds, and the medical team was clueless. Dr. McCoy came back, prescribed a tapered medicine dose and miracle! Two days later I was on the mend. Thanks Dr. McCoy.

During my overnight home peritoneal dialysis life, I thought it would be cool to do some sledding. Speeding down the icy hill behind my parents’ home, I reached up, trying to slow my accelerated ride, and heard a tearing sound. “Hmmm, that can’t be good,” I thought.

Two days later, shortness of breath hounded me. Two weeks went by. Bonnie, hero dialysis nurse, stethoscoped me. Oh, boy. No air sound in my right lung. It was filled with fluid. Off to the emergency room where a five-inch needle was plunged into my back for liquid extraction. Fluids used in my dialysis treatments were seeping into my lungs.

No more peritoneal dialysis for you, little lady. “You’ll need a fistula created so you can go on hemodialysis,” Dr. ‘Won’t Say His Name’ told me. He was less than kind and not invited to the hero party.

Spending the next three hours crying my eyes out over losing the type of dialysis familiar to me, I was inconsolable. I called everyone. My family, my nephrologist, people at dialysis.

After all the angst, around 11 p.m., Dr. Schumacher, my nephrologist, walked in. This, by far, was one of the kindest things any doctor has ever done. Dr. Schumacher showed care above and beyond the call of duty that night. Thank you so much for all those times you eased my discomfort, Dr. Schumacher, and welcome to the hero celebration.

Although not a healthcare professional, I invite my brother Brian to the hero stage. Brian selflessly offered his kidney in 1994. Asking him what prompted him, he replied: “I went home and talked, prayed, whatever you want to call it and thought how I already lost a brother 10 years ago. When I woke up, I said oh! I’m supposed to give Sandra a kidney.” Twenty years, and many heroes later, there was a second transplant.

Remembering the day my life got interesting, and looking to the platform of invitees, my kidney journey continues long after you, my healthcare heroes, retire and move on. You all may not remember me, but I will always remember you. Each step, since the day my life got interesting, has a piece of you in it. Thank you from the deepest well of my being.

Let the celebrations shine on.

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:

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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