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Wednesday, March 01, 2023


Winter is nearly over and my mental/emotional state is starting to claw itself back to normalcy. Being stuck in the seemingly endless cycle of dialysis/recovery from dialysis during a day off/repeat has definitely worn me down — I have let my hair and beard grow in unchecked for the past three months, something I have not done in ages — and that state was not at all helped by my annual overall sense of dread during the holidays, but this year was extra-tense due to witnessing my mother enter her ninth decade of existence in a greatly debilitated condition. A winding down is only natural as one ages, but she was once a force of nature, for better or worse, and now she's a frail shadow of her former self who's still impacted by the injuries suffered during her near-fatal car accident of eight years ago. It also does not help that she still has cancer in both lungs, though that is held relatively at bay with infusion therapy.

All of that has given me too much to contemplate, and of late I have found myself in a state of perpetual anxiety over all of it, which renders it difficult for me to maintain anything resembling a normal sleep schedule. I usually toss and turn until maybe 5am (when I finally crash), which would be manageable if not for my dialysis schedule, so on those days my alarm is set for 7:40am ahead of a scheduled 9am car service pickup. The car usually arrives anywhere between 8:30 and 9, so I have to be showered, fed, and ready to go in about an out after my alarm rouses me.

The journey to the dialysis center in Flatlands includes picking up Shalom, my aged Hassidic ride buddy who lives in Crown Heights, and the car service adding him to the ride adds about a half hour to the trip, resulting in me being in the car for nearly an hour. I am in and out of stages of rest/sleep as the car navigates the nightmare that is morning traffic in Brooklyn coupled with street congestion due to endless double-parked cars and vans and delivery trucks servicing stores. Shalom most keeps to himself, but he does give a courteous "Good morning" upon entering the car, with the occasional complaint about his life, questions about the percentage of Jews in my neighborhood (like I would have any clue), and attempts to pump me for information about myself and my family.

Shalom is intrigued by me because I am a black man who does not conform to the stereotypes that he was raised to believe in, citing more than once that it is apparent that I have been educated. (Not the first time I have heard that one.) Wanting nothing to do with any of that, I always have my mask on and my hoodie pulled over my head enough to obscure my eyes, thus sending the message that I do not want to be bothered and that I may be asleep, in hope that Shalom with take the hint. He and I have nothing in common anyway, as during the few times when I have actively engaged with him in conversation, he inevitably steers the discussion to Judaism. The guy comes from an insular culture so that's all that he knows, and his every waking moment is dedicated to his faith. He's not a bad person, but he is quite tedious, especially in his incorrect assumption that all goyim are completely ignorant of anything having to do with his faith. More than once he has felt the need to explain to me what bar and bat mitzvahs are, completely ignoring me when I tell him I grew up in a community full of Jews, so I know a lot. Anyway, that is what I have to deal with on the journeys to and from treatment 98% of the time over the past few months. (Every now and then the car service dispatchers will pair me with someone else of grant me a rare solo ride, but those instances have become increasingly rare.)

Once I arrive at the dialysis center and have been hooked up to the dialyzer, I am stuck in the reclining chair for 3.5 hours (down from three hours and forty minutes during my first two years), so of late I have used that time to get in some solid sleep. I used to dread going to treatment, but now I eagerly await it because it's the only period during the day when I am certain to be out cold. I keep my hoodie pulled over my eyes and I have learned to cancel out the ambient sounds of the activity of the nurses, the cries of those in pain or with dementia, and the sounds of the dialysis machines' various beeps and alarms, and the nurses, kind souls that they are, leave me alone. The one hitch in all of this is when the center's doctors come around. There are three of them (only one of whom that I like) and I swear that two of them enjoy waking sleeping patients so they can tell us the latest on our lab results, which is info that we are already given in printout form. The other doctor, if she sees me when I arrive, will make sure to update me before my treatment starts. Anyway, I get in a few hours of sleep, during which time I neither dream nor am I consumed with worry.

Once back at home after treatment, I am usually beyond physically exhausted and lack the energy to due much of anything. Unfortunately, after dialysis I always suffer from gastric issues including serial hiccups (which I can quell by ingesting and expelling large quantities of water) and vomiting, so I enter the late afternoon/early evening feeling punched in the guts, and equating my physical state with that of a wrung-out dishrag. I get invited out for social gatherings with my friends, but those gatherings always fall as I have just returned from treatment and I feel like shit, or on the day after treatment when I am in recovery and rest mode. The full recovery and rest day can go either way, with me sometimes feeling quite good by that day's mid-afternoon, or I can feel like death warmed over for an indefinite period. Either way. I am sick of all of this and I just wish my kidney transplant would hurry up and happen.