It was supposed to be an ordinary day. I woke up, stuck in between the fatigue of yesterday and the worries for tomorrow as usual. The cliché “I woke up tired again after getting a proper sleep, I must have been exhausted” suits me well, I just don’t want to get up from the bed. Yet, I must get up and start my daily struggle routine..

I find myself in the ER of a hospital in the middle of the day.

I feel somewhat strange today. I have a headache and I feel sick… Let’s wait and see…

I find myself in the ER of a hospital in the middle of the day. I was taken there by my colleagues from the office. My mind is in a blur. I start to remember some details as I regain consciousness. I am surrounded by people waiting for me to recover to tell what happened. The doctor visited me as soon as I was able to stand back on my feet again. I had lost the notion of time, I was waiting anxiously like a little boy.

Finally, the moment of truth. The doctor tells the story in a soft and compassionate tone, and I listen. Yes, I listen, but I can hardly make sense of the words or sentences for that matter. In the old days, the audience used to yell at the projectionist “Hey, no sound” in the cinema when the sound suddenly muted while the film was still running. I feel the same now. I fail to match the sound to the image. Then, I hear something about kidney failure. My kidneys have failed. Why wasn’t I aware of this? I was never told that. I am a young person why would my kidneys fail? Yes, I could understand problems like nephritis or kidney stone, which are treatable, but total failure is beyond my comprehension. I am paralyzed with the phrase “kidney failure” and can no longer make sense of the doctor’s speech or even hear him. In some movie scenes, the camera just rotates meaninglessly. This is exactly how I feel right now, amongst the scream of the audience yelling “Hey, no sound!”…

Dialysis Treatment

– Now, Sir, you must receive dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant if a next of kin is to give you a kidney. Unfortunately, these are the only two alternatives we can offer.

What is dialysis treatment anyway?

I could have a kidney transplant if a next of kin gave me a kidney.

Who is to give a kidney to me? Do I have to decide right now? Why the rush? I have still not fully understood what was wrong with me, how could they expect me to think about the treatment at this moment?

Please, hold on a second, drums are playing in my head, please someone wake me up or put me out. I just can’t understand what is going on. What about work, I have debts to pay, I was supposed to make a presentation at a meeting next week…

– Sir, you need to decide and act quickly considering your circumstances. You have an emergency health condition. I understand that you are shocked right now but we need to decide immediately and take the necessary steps. The intervention we made today bought us some time, but not for long. You better talk to your family first and then we can decide tomorrow after a detailed examination.

– Thank you, doctor, I guess I need to talk to my family then.

Yes, I definitely need to talk to my family.

– Hello, mom, I am coming home, please tell my brother and sister. We need to sit down and talk tonight. No, no, there is no need to panic, I will explain when I’m home.

Dinner finally ends. This is the point of no return, I can’t delay this any longer. I wipe off traces of food from my lips, which I could barely eat as I have lost all my appetite, gulp a few times, slightly bend my head, and start to talk. I explain how I ended up in the ER earlier today, where, after running some tests they told me that my kidneys have totally failed. Although they were not able to give a definite cause, they told me that it certainly did not happen out of the blue and that my kidneys were damaged and rendered dysfunctional in the course of time. I tell them that I need to get some kind of treatment for my kidneys. I say, “One alternative is to get hemodialysis treatment, where I’ll be connected to a machine that will clean my blood”. And I tell them that the other alternative is to get a kidney transplant. I tell them that getting a kidney transplant is the ideal treatment to regain renal functions. A kidney transplant would give me back my freedom so I could go to work every day. So, it is not totally hopeless, I have a problem but there are solutions to it. “Yes”, I say, “I could be reborn if someone from the family gives me a kidney”. I guess it was the emotional enthusiasm triggered by the sentence “I could be reborn” that caused me to raise my head which I kept down until then. As soon as I finish the sentence “I could be reborn if someone from the family gives me a kidney” and raise my head, I notice with astonishment that all family members have lowered their heads. The moment I find the energy to raise my head amid all that anxiety and fear, I lose my entire family in an eyeblink. They were all averting their eyes from me, I couldn’t make an eye contact with anyone.

Suddenly, my disease becomes a minute detail. The anxiety of being sick or the fear for the future fade away, replaced by reckoning with my past. Not being aware of my sickness can be understood to an extent, but how I couldn’t realize what I have been living through in my relationship my family beats me…

Here I am standing in front of the doctor again. Yesterday’s timid patient is gone, I am now an adult who is convinced that he is sick, aware of the fact that he has much bigger problems than being sick.

Like a magistrate asking the court clerk, “For the record, he does not have a live donor, he wants to get cadaveric kidney transplant.”

Well then, we shall make our plans accordingly. We couldn’t discuss all details yesterday because this sickness was so new and shocking to you. I will now explain what is required for cadaveric organ transplant. We will make a detailed examination and run some tests to make sure that you are suitable for a kidney transplant. Then you will start to wait.

Well then, we shall make our plans accordingly. We couldn’t discuss all details yesterday because this sickness was so new and shocking to you. I will now explain what is required for cadaveric organ transplant. We will make a detailed examination and run some tests to make sure that you are suitable for a kidney transplant. Then you will start to wait.

–How long must I wait doctor?

– I can’t say.

– What do you mean you can’t say?

– Sir, cadaveric organ donation is limited, there are many patients waiting, so you need to wait on the list of recipients and we will inform you when a suitable kidney is available.

– So, you can’t even give an estimated time?

– Unfortunately, no, because the number of cadaveric donations is very low.

– How many people are there on the waiting list?

Since I am good at math, I think I can calculate the waiting time. Now all I need to learn is the number of cadaveric donations made last year.

– Twenty thousand.

– Well then, how many cadaveric donations were made last year?

– Around three hundred, with two kidneys in each cadaver, it makes six hundred kidneys.

– Six hundred kidneys a year for twenty thousand patients!!!

– Seems like I will have to wait forever!

– No, not necessarily, a suitable kidney may be available much sooner if you are lucky enough, but it is impossible for us to know when at this point.

I recall having said “I can struggle with life alone”, “I might have lost my family but there are other alternatives”, in a helpless and desperate mood. Having lost the guts to fight alone, I ask in despair: “All right then, what am I supposed to do now?”

–“You need vascular access to receive hemodialysis treatment. First, we need to open vascular access with a catheter. Then we will perform a surgical vascular operation on your arm. The vein must mature following the operation, which will take at least three weeks. You will receive dialysis treatment through the catheter during this time, four-hour sessions three times a week.”

I am waiting for a kidney.

They insert a catheter into my neck. I, who always avoided getting injections, witness a tube, slightly narrower than my little finger, being inserted into a vein through my neck. Neckwear like mufflers or foulards fail to cover this catheter attached to the side of my neck like an antenna. I make public appearance with my catheter.

I am in a hemodialysis center. I am about to meet the legendary hemodialysis machine. They welcome me cordially at the center and say “You will receive dialysis treatment on this bed. And this is your dialysis machine. Your blood will be circulated through this machine to be cleaned. You can watch television or listen to music during the dialysis process. We will serve food too.” Hoses are connected between my antenna and the dialysis machine. Hookey pookey here we go. It feels like I am in a dream, then I wake up. The say “It is over for today.”

I am more aware of the environment in the second and third sessions. I am in a large hall with sixty other patients each connected to a different machine. There is a jumble of sounds in the hall, some machines make more noise than others and I notice that there is more action around some of the machines. I feel like all my dialysis friends are my comrades. I am not alone. As the dialysis sessions proceed my body is purged of toxins and I feel better. People here are really trying to help me.

So long with the antenna. I get an AV fistula operation on my left arm. It is like a tiny electric motor on my arm, vibrates all the time. Let’s hope for the best.

Dialysis treatment continues. I am getting used to my dialysis friends. They try to cheer me up as I am new there. They are giving me hope by saying “Don’t worry, you are young, you will hopefully get a transplant soon and recover.” Of course not all of them are that reassuring. There are also some grim people. One of them grumbles in anger and frustration, demoralizing me; “I have been taking dialysis treatment for eight years, forget about kidney transplant, don’t fool yourself!”.

They tell me that the vibrating fistula on my arm has strengthened enough. They are going to stop using the antenna for dialysis. They approach me with probes slightly thicker than toothpicks. They say they will insert these probes into my arm and that I shall not move my arm for four hours while those probes are inserted into the fistula to avoid hemorrhage risk. I do not like the idea. I prefer to stick with the antenna. I always thought I was a persuasive person. Yet, I couldn’t prevent those probes that are thicker than toothpicks to be inserted into my arm. In simple words, it hurts, a lot. I hope I don’t fall asleep and bend my arm during dialysis, causing my veins to be ruptured by those probes.

I bid farewell to my antenna in the next session.

My dance with the toothpicks have begun. The nurse inserts the probes expertly, but I still grumble out of acrimony. Well, it actually hurts a little but nothing close to what I have imagined. On the other hand, I do not want to start each session grumbling while my dialysis friends always take it solemnly. We pick up the chat where we left off the previous session.

I am waiting for a kidney.

It is no longer possible to work as hard as I used to while taking dialysis treatment, neither is it possible to realize my dreams any more. I feel like a ball crossing the touchline and no one is kicking me back in the game. And the game continues in front of my eyes.

The lil’ old lady Dilber, occupying the neighboring bed didn’t show up in the previous session. She is not here today either. The lil’ old lady Dilber is gone.

I am waiting for a kidney.

There are rules for eating or drinking that I need to observe. The little devil on my left should grumbles all the time but the little angel on my right shoulder soothes me, “It is OK, no worries”. I am stuck in between. But I think “Actually it is not much different from a slimming diet”. But we, human beings, always take it the easy way and grumble.

I am waiting for a kidney.

I am waiting for a kidney to be transplanted from a cadaver. I want to live. I want to live, to work, to travel and to be free. I am waiting for a kidney to be transplanted from a cadaver to survive.

Have you ever been ashamed of yourself merely because you wanted to live? Can you imagine the burden of waiting for an organ to be transplanted from a cadaver, hoping for help from a person who has just lost his/her life?

You are all alone and your only hope is to hold onto the life spared by the death of a perfect stranger.

Wisdom is the ability to have a bird’s eye view of one’s own life. The ability to realize that “all the world is a stage and to have one’s exits and entrances into his own life” . While watching the unpredictable changes made on my life by a body organ and an illness, the existence of which I was unaware, “I in my time play many parts” . I remember the moment I was told about my illness, the speech I made with my family and the day I have started dialysis treatment flashing before my eyes. Daily hurdles, debts, receivables, plans, programs, schedules have all lost their importance. The fragility of being a human being and vulnerability of our ties with life have prevailed. Who was I, what had I done until now, whom have I loved and for whom have I done something and who have done something for me? What have I achieved in my life until now? The life must have realized that I would never spare time voluntarily to think on these questions and has now given me ample time to ask these questions.

You want to scream when you fall on fire…and to scream is what you do.

Yet, the layman on the street is indifferent to your problems, he treats you as another screaming victim. Isn’t it a shame? Until now, I too was indifferent to the screams of those burning on fire and treated them as newsflashes only. The unexpected always happens. Those unexpected cases are only newsflashes in today’s world of communication. We are living in an age of communication where newsflashes become stale faster than ever and are replaced by video footages of even more incredible stories.

How was I to know that there were over sixty thousand kidney failure patients in this country and that twenty thousand of these patients were waiting for cadaveric kidney transplants. That people were waiting hopelessly due to low organ donation rates. How difficult and derogatory it could be to ask for a kidney from a next of kin to hold on to life. I used to watch the stories of people suffering from this illness on television. As I said, they were newsflashes, forgotten in less than a minute. Now, I am a newsflash for others, to be forgotten in a minute.

– Helloo?

– Yes?

– Good night sir.

– Yes, how can I help you?

– It is the organ transplantation center. We might just have found a suitable kidney for you through cadaveric donation. We need you here immediately.

I was waiting for a kidney.

They have found one. I take off my pajamas in a hurry and put on my clothes quickly. I shout at my sleeping family members. Wake up, they have found a kidney, wake up, hurry.

Where might they have found this kidney from? I wonder who has donated this kidney. Am I the only one called? Will I definitely have a transplant or is there a possibility that I might not get it?

I put on my shoes in a hurry. They say “Stop”, “Put on your coat, tie up your shoes, you will trip.”

They have found a kidney for me.

I tie up my shoes. Let’s hurry, no need to take the car, let’s find a cab.

You are too slow… I am leaving, you can come later. They have found a kidney.

There are four other patients at the hospital all waiting for a kidney just like me. They examine each of us one by one and run tests. Five people are being evaluated for one kidney. No one can look at another in the eye. We all want that kidney desperately. We all deserve to go back to our old lives. Yet we know that four of us will leave the hospital in agony today, postponing their dreams to some other time.

We all feel grateful to the nice people who have lost a loved one and yet chose to spare us a life through the grief of this loss. We all dream about the possibility to start a new life tomorrow with a kidney. We can’t help staring into space every now and then.

Our doctors talk to us once test results are available. We are all in the same room. They tell each patient one by one the reasons for not being able to perform the transplant to that specific patient. Either the kidney was unsuitable for the individual patient or the test results indicated some problems. They shed silent tears. It is like waking up from a dream. All of a sudden, I feel that everyone is looking at me and it hits me that I am the one to get the transplant.

A life born out of death finds me. The grief of the family donating the kidney, postponed hopes of other patients with whom I share the same room, the new opportunity life has brought up to me. I can neither smile nor cry. I recall that all I could do was to hold my head high with misty eyes. This time I manage to hold my head high and to have eye contact with everyone else in the room. They are all happy for me and seem to be convinced that there is still hope for them albeit postponed. In fact, we all silently address the source of life which is not present here at the moment. A bizarre feeling of solidarity which can’t be seen out on the street. A handful of perfect strangers in this world of vae victis, where everyone is on their own to survive, congregate in the plainest form of humanity. We finally part with weepy hugs from the deep of our battered hearts.

I seem to have a functioning kidney when I woke up.

A urinary catheter was hanging out from my bed. There is urine in the hose. Then it must be my urine. Urine produced my new kidney. It seems I now have a kidney that can actually produce urine. I suddenly realize that I am not the only one fascinated by this view. The doctors are also watching the urine flowing through the catheter.

My doctor says, “I pray for urine all the time”. I laugh. I speak to myself silently “I can urinate”. My doctor tenderly says, “You should love your kidney, just love and pet it.”.

I gently touch my surgical scar, petting my kidney. I had received dialysis treatment before the operation, I wonder if it was the last time I received dialysis. I love and pet my kidney against the evil eye!

I have a bizarre feeling. What I couldn’t manage to achieve when I talked to my family about my illness was achieved for me by perfect strangers. They have spoken to the next of kin of someone who had lost his/her life. They have told them that new lives may be born out of all that grief and have struggled to ensure that patients they do not know hold on to life while sharing their grief. Then the family has decided to donate the organs of the deceased. Again, perfect strangers have travelled to that hospital to take delivery of the organs in the middle of the night. Those organs were transported to transplantation centers to be delivered to people in need. Ambulance drivers, who were also perfect strangers to me, have raced through the traffic with their sirens screaming and lights flashing to deliver the organs to the transplantation centers on time. People whom I have never met have ran some tests and took some x-ray films. What I could not have managed to achieve for myself, a small army of individuals have achieved for me and they have presented my life to me on a tray. All this endeavor has helped me to get rid of the loneliness surrounding me during the time of my acquaintance with the disease and to replace it with a crowd obliging me to cherish everyone. This is such a liability which helps you to enjoy walking on the streets aimlessly, makes you smile all the time, obliges you to greet everyone with a “good morning” every day and to cherish everyone dearly thinking that they could be the unknown heroes of your life.

Think of a kidney telling you all about life in its absence, much more than you could have understood in its presence. Think of a kidney clinging you to life again, which was brought to you by your relatives whom you have never met…

To keep a long story short, I will summarize it for you.

My kidneys have been damaged without me knowing,

I have been struggling in the daily hurdle of life without being aware of my serious health condition,

Then one day I have found myself in the ER of a hospital,

There I was told about my illness,

I was also told that I could have a transplant if a next of kin was to give me a kidney,

Otherwise I was to receive dialysis treatment while waiting for a cadaveric transplant,

My family has refused to give me a kidney,

I have received dialysis treatment,

Receiving dialysis treatment was tough,

Then someday a person has lost his/her life,

The next of kin of that dearly person have donated his/her organs,

That donation has saved my life,

Now I have become a little boy, able to enjoy every moment of life with astonishment and enthusiasm in defiance of my old life which I apparently failed to appreciate,

I have started to cherish everyone to make sure that they do not deceive themselves as I deceived myself,

I was fortunately given the chance to be reborn,

Now I owe much more to life and haven’t got a moment to lose,

Hooray I’m alive again…

News & Patient Stories

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