take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Monday, March 26, 2007

An unexpected interlude 

I've been away for a while, haven't I? Not like me at all, not to keep in touch. Bad me. But this hiatus wasn't one of the usual blog-based hissy fits I have been known to indulge in, ah no; this time I think you'll find I do have quite a good excuse.

For the past two and a half weeks, I've been away from home, in a purpose-built, residential facility. I had all my meals brought to my en-suite room and a variety of expert staff at my disposal. Despite a plethora of high-tech facilities and treatments available on site, all of which were free, I might add, there was unfortunately no internet access.

You see, on 8th March, I was admitted to hospital.

Acute. Renal. Failure.

On 9th March, a biopsy of my kidney and further blood tests revealed that I was suffering from an auto-immune disease where my body suddenly decided, for no good reason, to attack its own blood vessels - in my case, within the kidneys. We do not know what triggered it. It can happen to anyone of any age and any lifestyle.

My blood and urine became a source of fascination, each being monitored on a daily basis. I have been undergoing intensive, aggressive treatment (plasma exchange therapy, dialysis and a cocktail of of powerful medication) designed to make my body "forget" the mess it has got itself into. We do not yet know whether my kidneys will make a full recovery or whether I might require dialysis in the future to help them to do their job.

So, just over two weeks ago, I thought I had flu which I just couldn't throw off. I listened to my body and it told me something wasn't right. Luckily, my GP also listened, took me seriously and insisted on the blood test which was to reveal the frankly terrifying truth.

Acute. Renal. Failure.

Sounds so dramatic, doesn't it? The reality was not so. I just felt awful. Nausea and lethargy were my main complaints. No pain. I was peeing normally, though the colour was ... ahem... unusual. I lost my appetite and, whilst at home, was existing on a slice of bread and a few cups of water and herbal tea per day. No pain, just misery.

Once in hospital, though, I began to feel better, although my kidney function was worsening at first. I started wanting to eat, then I started eating - obviously, once the dependable morning nausea had abated. It was as if I'd handed responsibility for my health over to someone else and I didn't have to worry any more. There was a name for my condition and a tried and tested treatment and someone was going to look after me. A kind of relief. The first few days were a whirlwind of activity - biopsies, lines being inserted into necks, plasma being exchanged. I really didn't feel so bad any more.

Then there was the slump - the treatment was taking a long time to get ahold of the disease, the kidneys worsened a little - I would need dialysis to help... Suddenly, it became a bit too real and a bit too scary. After over a week of being brave, I spent a day just sobbing on my hospital bed. The roller coaster of treatment had stopped and I felt neglected. The nausea was back and I wasn't sleeping at night. That was rock bottom. A super efficient sister took me under her wing, got my medication changed so I could sleep and not feel sick every night and got control of my care plan. Within the next few days, I could feel the changes in myself and these were reflected in the all-important blood results. My kidneys were getting better, the treatments were working and finally, yesterday, I was allowed to go home.

It's not over, of course. I am still on high-dose steroids and cytotoxic drugs and will be for some time. I will be monitored in clinic on a regular basis - I am still ill, my kidney function is still not normal.

But I am home. I am loving food again. I am feeling much better.

This has been scary and life-changing and there is much more to say about it. But let this be a start.

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