Saturday, November 27, 2010

Take a Number

strict nurse cartoons, strict nurse cartoon, strict nurse picture, strict nurse pictures, strict nurse image, strict nurse images, strict nurse illustration, strict nurse illustrations Today was one of those days where I  was cursing the health care system...not because its government run and has moments of inefficiencies but because I think I had to deal with 5 or 6 of the grumpiest, nastiest people in Calgary.  The test I needed today was to measure the glucose in my blood 2 hours after eating.  You cant make an appointment for that nor can you be a walk-in to take a number.  You have to go in, tell them you wont take a number but you don't have an appointment.   This seemed pretty straight forward to me...and being as this test is used to monitor for diabetes, it cant be all that rare.  So imagine my surprise when the lab at "Sloane Square" seemed angry about my visit there this morning.  To add to it both the transplant centre people AND the appointment hotline (Calgary Lab Services) told me to eat, come right to the lab and sit for an hour and a half.  So I did.  Much to the annoyance of one Grumpypantess at the lab.

"You are way too early.  Why would you come this early?"
"They told me to on the phone and at Foothills"
"Well you should just go shop or something because we can't deal with you yet"
"That's fine I'll just go read my book"
"Do what you want".

So for an hour and a half I did just that.  Finally it was time to go back up to the counter of warm (hostile) faces.  A new lady was there. Let's call her the Number Nazi.

"Do you have an appointment?"  I opened my mouth to start to attempt an answer.
"Take a number!!" She barked.  Thankfully one of the other ladies saw me and said "No don't-I will help you when I am done with this lady". The other lady looked irritated "Oh you have been helped?".  I thought no but someone who doesn't hate people is about to.The nicer lady at the desk was quite helpful and did my paperwork.  I took a seat and waited for my name to be called. 

The Number Nazi came out and yelled "Lorraine?  Lorraine Henswell?"  No one moved.  My name has been butchered in the past but really?  This much?  I timidly asked "Do you mean Lauren??" "Ohhh.  Yes" she sneered.  "My apologies".

I was brought to a room where I was told to wait.  Eventually a man walked past the room...the Number Nazi told him he should be helping me next.  He looked at my paperwork from about 6 feet away and barked "She doesn't have an appointment-appointments first!" and walked away.
A few minutes late he circled back and apologized for the wait and told me I wouldn't wait had I just made an appointment (I wasn't complaining!!).  I told him I couldn't make one.  He insisted I could.  After a bit of back and forth he actually looked at my forms and said " you can't" and looked nervously at his watch to see if the 2 hour mark where they were supposed to take my blood had passed.  Thankfully it hadn't.  He then tried to still lecture me on how in general its better if people make appointments when they can and explained why my type of visit disrupted things a bit.  I listened but then politely pointed out that none of that was my fault or really my problem and it wasn't great to be treated as an irritant by a team of professionals. He responded by reminding me I needed to pee in a cup before I left. 

While hanging out in the waiting room and then going through this less than positive experience today, I realized I'm in a unique position. Going through the health care system as a totally healthy person brings an interesting perspective. Sometimes I'm treated differently (better) and other times I'm not. But what it gives me is a a really objective look at things because I'm not worrying about what's wrong with me or stuck in a waiting room feeling sickly or in pain. It gives you the freedom to just observe while legitimately using the system, which for the record I still think is pretty awesome.  I'm not saying it's perfect but if seems far superior than the alternative to the south. With all the medical fun I've had in the last few weeks between this and Charlie's mysterious joint ailment, I shudder to think what this would cost in a land where not everyone has the same access to health care. Somehow bad treatment from service providers is easier to tolerate when its free.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Facts

I have taken the liberty of gently lifting some facts coloured with opinion on this subject from a website I found called "Kidney Mama".  Sometime people have already said something as well as you could ever hope to so why re-invent the wheel right?
  • There is no kidney shortage. We have about 300 million excess kidneys in this country (Note from LH:  She is talking the US but we can scale it down for us Canucks) walking around in people who think that donating a kidney is a huge surgical undertaking (it isn’t) and doesn’t make that much difference because people can survive just fine on dialysis (they can’t).
  • Organ donor cards will never solve the kidney shortage, because very few kidneys from deceased donors are usable. Until we can grow kidneys in a lab, living donation is the only viable option, no pun intended, for retiring “the list.”
  • The medical profession needs to wrap its brain around non related donors and find a way to make the donation process more accessible to them. Do outreach to encourage living donation! (Read more about the reasons for the medical community’s discomfort with stranger donors in this Wall Street Journal piece from 2007.)(Note from LH:  We are actually much more medically open here in Canada although I do believe more steps could be taken to make people aware that it is an option here.  I do understand though why the medical community is leery of taking a perfectly healthy person and removing their kidney-it does go against their oath to a degree))
  • It is ludicrous and unethical to let thousands of people die each year for lack of a kidney because it is supposedly wrong to compensate donors. Countries that legally compensate donors have no waiting list.(Note from LH:  I don't think I should be paid money for the kidney itself but costs like travel etc should be paid by the healthcare system, insurance or the government)
  • It is not theoretically possible to save someone’s life for “the wrong reasons.” It is always the right decision to save someone’s life if you can.
  • Kidney donors are not superhuman heroes. “Hero” puts a person on a pedestal as different, and lets people avoid considering that they could do what that person did. Kidney donors are ordinary people who were bold enough to step up and do something truly loving and obvious. Of course one should save another’s life. Of course.
So there you go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Moms the Word

Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.  ~Elizabeth Stone

I called my mom tonight and told her about my potential plans. Despite the fact I could tell she was uncertain and worried, she was very supportive.  She listened, asked questions and tried to understand why I would even think to do this.  She said it might even be worth another trip to Calgary (Ha!).  I am surprised how well she took it to be honest.  But really everyone's reaction is surprising me in someway; everyone I have told has said or done something I wasn't expecting based on my previous experiences with them. Interestingly enough, the men are the most "on the fence" or aloof  or critical of the situation. Granted I've only told three but its not looking good here guys! The ladies on the other hand have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive wanting to learn more.  They have also all offered to help if they can. I am not ready to make assumptions based on gender but if the shoe fits....

I am glad I've told her and am thrilled she reacted as well as she did. There are a few others I'd like to tell before putting this blog "out there" and that likely will have happened right around the phase one test results coming back so it will be good timing-if I am not eligible to move ahead there won't be anything more for this blog to tell right?

Funny side note.  A coworker I told my plans to yesterday actually read this whole blog last night.  My boss, John, said that if I got people to read my blog and comment, that would be almost the same as "being published" as far as my Part B goes at work.  While I am fairly certain he would say "Sally"doesn't count, it is pretty cool that I almost obtained a personal goal within a day of forming it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Personal Goal: Donate a Kidney?!

I bit the bullet today and finally told my boss about all this.  I didn't really know how to work it into conversation over the cubicle wall (not!) and calling a special meeting was a bit much so I somehow rolled it into my "Part B" meeting today.  Our Part B's are essentially where we set our goals and KPIs for the upcoming fiscal year at work.  So it went a little something like this:

business,businesswomen,occupations,paperwork,people at work,persons,Photographs,women
"Ensure 95% internal client satisfaction"
"Ensure 100% accuracy in all marketing materials"
"Personal Goals: Donate a kidney"

OK it wasn't exactly like that.  But not too far off.  We are supposed to set personal goals.  Every year I haven't and he's pointed that out.  Its not that I don't have them; I just don't see the need to fill them out on a form at work.  This year he anticipated my shoulder shrug and he made four up for me.  The first was very fitting although surprising.  He wants me to publish something.  An article, a letter to the editor or if I'm really a keener a book.  He seems to think I could do that no problem.  I told him about always wanting to start a blog but never being able to narrow it down to a subject that I would repeatedly have something to talk about.  I almost told him about this then chickened out.  After we discussed the rest of my goals (read a book I have always wanted to read but haven't and organize my schedule(?!?)) the meeting seemed over so I somehow awkwardly blurted out the "kidney stuff".  I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest! I dont know why but telling him was far more stressful than anyone else.
I can't really read what his reaction was.  He seemed so neutral about it.  Like he didn't know what to say or what he thought.  I kind of expected him to have an opinion either way but it didn't seem that he had one.  I know he must have one but I have no idea what it was.  He mentioned about confirming with HR that benefits wouldn't get screwed up but that other than that he didn't see an issue from a work perspective.  Just weird. Oh and he did suggest as an afterthought maybe the "kidney stuff" should be a goal listed on my Part B.  The KPI is pretty easy-in a year I either have two kidneys or I have one.

Next step...tell my mother somehow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Test Day #1

This morning after 12 hours of fasting I bundled myself up (its -30 with the windchill!!) and slip-slided my way across town to Foothills Hospital for my first round of screening tests.

I started out getting some lab forms and heading down for blood and pee tests.  Yahoo!  They seemed irritated they had to enter so many tests into the computer first thing in the morning! I had to laugh at the eight step instruction poster on how to pee in a cup posted over the toilet-eight steps!  In addition to that I had 14 vials of blood taken out which I think is a record for me.  They tested everything from cholesterol to glucose fasting to HIV and Hepatitis.  I know its the most thorough testing I have done which in some ways are nice-good to know how healthy you are without having to get sick to have tests ordered, right?

After that I headed up to chat with the transplant coordinator.  She was really nice and answered a lot of questions I had (which I will likely get into in later posts).  Because I am a non-directed donor, its likely that I could end up saving someone who had a high chance of not receiving a kidney. This is especially true for people who end up being matched over the National Registry.  She said last year the registry matched and performed 80 living donor transplants...a few years ago that never would have happened and a large number of those people would still be waiting or would have passed away. She said the registry is really helping ensure that more people get what they need and that the sickest people or those who are hard to match have a better chance at being helped.  She had a lot of great information and really made me feel good about the process but not pressured at all. She said right up until they put me to sleep to take the kidney I will be asked by everyone I talk to if I really want to do this.

I then had to head over to Emergency to get an X-Ray.  There was surprisingly no line up which was nice.  The tech was a little irked about the lack of info on my requisition form. He asked what the X-Rays were for (as in what they were looking for) and I told him I am a possible kidney donor.  He immediately became about 100% nicer and they got me in and out of there very fast.

After that it was off to Cardio in the main building.  I have a feeling I am going to be well acquainted with Foothills by the time this is all done.  I checked in there and was told to go sit in the "blue" chairs.  I was almost thrown off by some aqua coloured chairs in the same hall but spied some truly blue chairs a bit further down.  I wonder how the colourblind folks do with those instructions.  I don't think I was sitting on the chairs more than a few minutes when they came to get me for my ECG (which measures the electricity in your heart/body I believe).  The lady who ran that test was really nice.  I told her why I was there and she seemed very impressed by the willingness to donate an organ.

She mentioned that despite working in a hospital, most people there never give it much thought. She lamented that they probably should more.  She spoke of an accident that happened in the last 6 months (it was all over the news) where a young woman had died when a transport truck brake drum on the highway was kicked up by another vehicle and flew into the woman's windshield. The ECG lady told me that the woman (who was brain dead) donated everything. She said that they were busy over the following few days even in her department, I assume doing heart tests etc on recipients for the organs.  She said she met several of the recipient patients and families and she realized how much of an impact that one woman's (family) choice to donate her organs was making on so many lives.  She said she regrets not thinking about it more herself before that. I think its something we're all guilty of-you just get caught up in your own day to day and don't think about stuff like that. And realistically not everyone is going to choose to be a living donor but at least we can let our families know what to do in the event of a brain death.

My next steps are to do some "homework"-blood work to do on my own steam which I will try to do this Saturday, and an ultrasound.  That's been booked for next Tuesday.  After that, once they've looked at all my results, I will know if I've passed phase one or not.  Assuming I did pass phase one, I would then be scheduled for a Renal Scan which is a 4 hour test involving dye and peeing in a cup a lot.  After that I would go for an MRI to map the anatomy of my kidneys (how many blood vessels and arteries going in and out).
The whole morning quite frankly made me more excited about the idea of this.  Nothing is for sure of course and even the timing of it could be anywhere from say February to next summer but it definitely seems more real.  I am really glad I opted to explore this further.

On a happy note, Charlie has really turned around on this whole topic.  He called me today at work to see how the tests went and listened to some of the stuff I had learned.  What a relief.  I know I need his support on this and it looks like I have it.