Friday, February 26, 2010


It's Friday and I have now done my 6th set of "sticks" in Sabine's fistula.  We are well on the way to establishing the "buttonholes" and I am told I am improving my technique each time.

On Monday, I will be using the buttonhole needle (with a blunt point) through the "tunnel" we have been in the process of creating these past two weeks at the dialysis center in Madison.

Sabine has picked up a cold and this, of course, picks up my "worry antenna."  But Sabine seems to have a fairly normal cold with only slightly elevated temperatures and light cough. 

The dialysis staff did a blood culture on Wednesday and it, thankfully, turned out negative.  But I am still cautious and, yes, no kissing!

It has been snowy with some zero temperatures and we are ready for Spring!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not As Easy As You Think!

As I mentioned earlier, I am making the "insertions" of the two 15 ga. needles into Sabine's arm three times a week at the dialysis center in Madison.  I have a great coach in Xin Lu, who patiently directs my big paws! 

You can see in the picture that I have drawn circles with my magic marker to bullseye the needle entry points and the direction of insertion. 

While the first three days went well, I sort of crashed yesterday missing the fistula both times -- but finally got a "flash" indicating I was in the fistula and the rest of the treatment went well.

We will be going to the Center again next week while I maintain the same angle of insertion (about 30 degrees) and the same entry "tunnel" to the fistula in Sabine's arm so that we can eventually establish the "buttonhole."

When the buttonhole is established, we will do the insertions (cannulations) at home with a blunt needle which will access the same tunnel I have developed over the past few weeks.

As soon as we develop the buttonhole and all systems are "go," then the tunnel catheter can be removed from Sabine's neck enabling her to get back into the water this summer!

You know, 15 gauge needles are REAL big!

p.s. There is a 4 minute video on YouTube in which a man shows how he uses his buttonhole during home hemodialysis:

p.p.s. After reviewing the entire video I  have to let you know that my training at the Wisconsin Dialysis Center involved  more infection precautions: masking up and wearing gloves for both "putting on" and "taking off,", and using chlorohexidine at the buttonhole sites rather than betadyne.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Good News! (again)

Sabine's stem-cell transplant last spring seems to be holding.  We just got our labs back prior to meeting with Dr Sheehan next Wednesday and they look good.  The primary "marker" has been the number of those nasty "light chain" proteins that caused the kidney failure and they are currently in the "normal" range. This is good news and to be celebrated!

Another good report comes from this morning when I made the first needle "sticks" into Sabine's fistula in her arm.  I was able to hit the veins (fistula) and all went well (I know Sabine was a little anxious, but I had received good training from the staff, watched a 2-hour video, and was rarin' and ready to go this morning.  It will take a couple of weeks for me down this so there is a tunnel and then we can make the connection through the "buttonhole" with a blunt needle thereby reducing the chance of missing the vein and causing internal bleeding in the arm.  So far, so good.

p.s. Second day note: arm looks good, no bleeding, no hematomas!

Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reflecting on Feelings

[We had a great ride back from Florida (avoiding all the storms) and returned late Saturday to the farm.  We had to do dialysis on Sunday morning and missed church (thankfully God is an understanding God)]. 

On Monday night we saw the animated film, "Up."  I am somewhat embarassed to reveal to you that while watching this movie I was reduced to tears at least two times -- and it was a cartoon!

So what's going on?  What emotionally hit me was the time when the man lost his wife -- familiar fears?  Of course.  The second was when he was reading her diary and it ended with her saying that the adventures they had shared together were wonderful and now it was time for him to continue another adventure.  He, of course, could not see that and it took a little boy to help him go on another adventure -- this time to take his home, surrounded by urban construction, to South America via an enormous balloon bunch!

What I came to understand is that Sabine's cancer diagnosis is still right there -- still a deep fear of her death and how I will be able to go on (after all, we are still having a great adventure together -- but like all of our adventures and realtionships, they will one day end!).

While on vacation, I finished Stephen Levine's book, "A Year to Live," and it, again, highlighted the importance of living each day fully -- breathing in life with each breath, of savoring it, and then the next breath... tasting and savoring it as well.

I know I am deeply fearful of Sabine's death and my own ability to surmount the deep pain and loss it will trigger.  But I still sense God is in this with me and somehow, I will and can go on -- somehow. 

In the meantime, each day with her is a blessing and as I write this I find I must quickly stop or short-circuit my keyboard which is very sensitive to beign immersed in water.

Blessings, my friends -- embrace the journey!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Heading Home

Tomorrow we will be heading home -- back to Wisconsin, snow and arm-sticking as we begin again to develop and access point on Sabine's arm with the able assistance of the Wisconsin Dialysis Center.  We have had a great and active time in Florida -- visiting kids and grandkids, friends Rusty and Diane, exercising, beach walking and being patrons of the arts (The Blue Man Group, The Moscow Circus, and Neil Simon's play, "Rumors").

The weather has been great, but we miss our dog (Sabine's brother, Rainer, came and visited his mother for a week and nearly stole the affections of Mocha).

So, tomorrow morning we get up early, dialyze, and hit the road north (most likely through some rain and sleet and even snow as we progress north.

This has been a good time.  A time to enjoy one another.  A time to be thankful for the time we have.  Refreshed, we move on.