Our bodies

No - you won't see raunchy pictures here. I have come to appreciate how awesome our bodies are. We take them for granted - until something goes wrong. Some people are visibly afflicted by issues - others less visible. As I've come to appreciate the body and all it's wonders, so too I've become aware of just how many things can go wrong.

I was born with poly-cystic kidneys - although the cysts didn't develop until later. Today I have one poly-cystic kidney. The other was removed, and replaced with a kidney from my wife. I was going to say wonderful wife - but that doesn't express just how magnificent she is - and the gift of a kidney is just a small part of that.

One point I need to make clear from the outset is that my issues are not worse than others. I have come to appreciate the strength of those suffering from worse issues. This was magnified by watching a fact-based drama about a cancer sufferer, and the trials she went through. After she came out of treatment, she was faced with a fairly normal life - although unable to have children. Of course that all went out the window when it returned - with a vengeance (ending in death).

I was reminded of the challenge to our legal system when a Kiwi lady wanted the right to choose her own time of death. At the time I felt this would not in fact be helpful in the vast majority of cases. After seeing this drama I now feel we need to focus on (and I really don't want to be tested on this) how to live as well as we can. This has also come from desperate refugees risking death while trying to flee war and oppression. As Fred Dagg (John Clarke) said, "We don't know how lucky we are, mate".

Through the challenges I've faced, I'm awestruck at just how wonderful our bodies are. When I started dialysis, I thought we all underwent the same treatment. Over time I came to see that every one of us was different. One lady had a transplant from a relative but it failed. She then had a deceased donor kidney last 17 years. She was, like most of us, positive about her situation. Yet while she was sitting in the chair she often had cramp. Not cramp as most of us know - it was Severe. Not only that, but being connected to the dialysis machine, she couldn't move around much to stretch her muscles.

I also suffered from cramp. The difference is mine wasn't while on the chair. It would wait until 1 or 2 am - and then wake me. It didn't happen at first, and I eventually did things that, through trial and error, got it largely under control. I took a magnesium pill after each session, raised my target weight (weight is important since extra weight is generally fluid retained rather than passed) and finally fiddled with the machine. Dialysis does two main things at the same time. As the blood cycles through the machine, it is cleaned. But the machine also extracts fluid. I learned in time to adjust that second flow. First I had it remove fluid faster at the start and slower near the end. And second I would have brief breaks - more at the start when it was faster. These allowed fluid to flow from the body tissue to the blood vessels where the machine could extract it.

This is not the worst thing I saw on dialysis - and dialysis isn't as severe as other issues. After my transplant I was in isolation with special airflow in the room to minimise the chances of infection. (My immune system is suppressed to avoid the body rejecting the transplant.) While there I encountered people who were receiving cancer treatment - a reminder of just how fortunate I was.

I've come to see the three operations I had as trivial  -although the heart bypass certainly wasn't trivial at the time. Neither do I downplay the skills of those involved in my care. Having the immune system suppressed is a far greater challenge - it hopefully goes on a lot longer.

The 5-second rule (for dropped food) is out. Initially even my beloved Subway was out - and the reason I was given was if the lettuce sits in a bin for a couple of hours before being used, it develops things which our immune system renders harmless - but with reduced immunity is dangerous. Similarly that yellow ball we call sun is dangerous - much more dangerous than if the immune system was healthy.

These are all issues I live with - but I wouldn't be in any other place. The kidney is amazing - not so much in being able to urinate, exciting as that is, but I can think again. Other transplant patients report this same phenomena. After my stroke I lost my mind for 2.5 years, when it returned instantly rather than gradually. my mind still wasn't normal (many say it's never been normal). When I started dialysis, it improved noticeably. But after the transplant, it was better than it's been any time in the decade before.

So three cheers for the human body.

Last Modified

Last modified: 05 December 2020.