Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fistula Undoing

Chris drove me once again to the IMC hospital early Wednesday morning on March 30, 2011 where I was scheduled to have my dialysis fistula tied off at 5:30am.

I beamed as I laid in bed after multiple hospital staff had come in to set I.V.'s, ask me questions, explain the procedure, etc.

"This is why I love hospitals so much!" I said to Chris, who gave me a no-nonsense look. "Because I get to talk to so many people. I am charged!"

A few weeks prior, I had discovered from several different online personality tests that I am known as an "extreme extrovert," which means when I talk to new people or find myself in large crowds, my batteries get charged. And it's true! I really do feel an energy boost from socializing. On the other hand, I learned that introverts can be just as social, however they need to be alone with their thoughts to recharge their batteries.

"Do you see a difference?" I asked Chris (she is a more balanced social introvert). "Can you tell how energized I am after talking with all of those people?" I could feel insurmountable joy bursting from within. The natural dopamine in an extroverts brain increases with social interaction. It's like a drug.

"You're always like this," she said, smiling.



I was so wound up and free-flowing that I conversed with Dr. Wirthlin and his assistants through the entire surgical process. A local anesthetic was used, so I was in a sort of dreamy conscious state. As I lay there in a twilight haze, I felt the veins in my left inner elbow being pulled and moved.

"I can feel that," I said.

"That's because we're tying off the vein, but we're almost done." 

I lay there for a couple of minutes and then a surge of electricity shot through my entire left arm.

"Ahhhhh! What is that?"

"Christopher," came a female voice from Dr. Wirthlin's assistant, "we are cauterizing a vein with an electrical knife. Sometimes the current will spread through the veins."

A male voice chuckled from behind me and said, "I don't think you have to tell him that." I laughed and so did everybody in the room.

A few more minutes went by and the female voice said, "Christopher, we are going to cauterize again so you might feel this."



"Are you OK?"

"Yeah, it's not so bad when you know it's coming."

When I saw Dr. Wirthlin in his office a couple of weeks before the surgery, he explained the process: Basically, they would tie off the fistula so no more blood would rush through it, thus rendering the vein useless. It's not as bad as it sounds because the vein was pumping as much blood as an artery so it wasn't really a vein anymore. Instead, it was a portal for dialysis, which I don't need. He also explained that the large bulge a few inches below my fistula (a hematoma) would never go down on its own, and in fact it could grow bigger! So he planned to remove as much of it as he could during the procedure.

As I lay on the table in the surgery room, I heard some muffled discussion that went like this:

"Wow, look at that!"

"That is big."

"Hold on, I want to take a picture."

"Set it there, yeah. No... right there, yeah. Like that."

"Look at that."


"Look at the size of that thing!"

"Christopher, do you want to see what we pulled out of your arm?"

ME: "Yeah, I wanna see!"

Dr. Wirthlin walked around the back of my head and held up a bright red glistening glob.

"That was in my arm?" I asked.

"It was, but not anymore. Look at that."

"I would love to take that to work in a glass jar to freak everybody out. Ha ha. Can I keep it?"

Dr. Wirthlin laughed nervously... He didn't know if I was joking.

"I'm just kidding, but it would be cool to have it on display at home."

Click on the image to see a more detailed version.

The throbbing is gone. The lump in my arm is gone, and after the scar completely heals there will hardly be any trace of where my dialysis fistula used to be. It's been 7 and a half months since the transplant and each day continues to get better.

What can I say? Life is good.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! That's pretty incredible. I'm glad you're doing so well.