Ten (+1) Things to do on Dialysis

I’ve written about this before, but it’s time for an update.

I dialyse five times per week.  After 17 years off and on, I still feel the inconvenience of dropping what I’m doing to drive to BigD.  But it’s not the maddening inconvenience it used to be.  Now it’s more like when you’re absorbed in something and are called for lunch: it’s difficult to let go, but the prospect of lunch has a pleasure of its own.  So with dialysis: I am usually a little weary by mid-afternoon, and there is pleasure in the prospect of sitting in a lay back chair for a few hours to catch my breath and get lost in a selection of enjoyable activities.

Like what?  Here is my list far, in the order of most to least common:

  1. Socialise.  Always the first thing to do.  It can vary from a quick hello as I walk to the scales, to an hour-long discussion about each other’s state of health (always a moving target), books we are reading or want to, ditto movies, the latest dopey effort from our government or opposition, how well or badly we fared at maintaining our weight, how we would run the world and fix its problems, family stuff and any other item that takes our fancy.  The depth and enthusiasm I have depends on the kind of day I’ve had (and the weather).
  2. Catch up on emails.  When they are building up, I check and respond to my emails while on the machine.  Even if you only have one hand free, it’s a good way to keep up-to-date and to while away a little of that machine time.  However, to stay coherent, I limit my email time to about half an hour early in the run.  Note: If, like me, every now and then you decide to have an email frenzy and reply to as much email as you can, for as long as you can, I recommend that you disable the auto send function, so you can do a sanity check on what you have written.  It may avoid embarrassment.
  3. Write stuff.  BigD seems like the ideal time to put some thoughts in writing.  Sometimes it is, though I tend to be less productive as the run progresses.  I recently downloaded the Dragon Dictate App for the iPhone, and I am experimenting with it as an alternative to typing.  So far, I have found that I tend to rework many of my sentences several times.  This is not so easy with voice control.  Also, machine alarms and high ambient noise can be a problem for the software.  There is one single room at our unit, and I will give it another try when I next go there.  I will let you know how it does.
  4. Ride an exercise bike.  This is a great way to start getting fit.  Many people new to the BigD are quite sick when they first start and they can’t imagine feeling well enough to exercise.  It takes a few weeks for the benefits of dialysis to kick in, but eventually a small thought comes through: “How much better would I feel if I had some exercise?”   Riding an exercise bike while on dialysis is the ideal starting point.  After my last bout of infection, I started slowly, with half an hour on the exercise bike, and within a month I was well enough to start back at the gym.  If you feel ready for a bit more pep in your day, give it a go.  Details about where to get one and usage suggestions are on the above link.
  5. Read is a low impact, fun activity.  I tend to do this during the first hour of my run, when my brain is still reasonably functional.  Currently I read a couple of monthly magazines that take me most of the month to get through: The Monthly (covering Australian politics, society and culture) and Scientific American.  And I save up various newsletters and read them when the mood takes me.  Also, I always have a book on the go (usually a naval historical – I love Patrick O’Brien, and Alexander Kent is pretty good too).  Recent others worth a mention: The Istanbul Puzzle (a thriller) by Laurence O’Bryan, An Iron Rose (crime) by Peter Temple, anything by CJ Sansom (Tudor thrillers) and the Game of Thrones books.
  6. Watch a TV series or a movie.  When I just want to chill out, I like to watch.  Last time I wrote about this I mentioned Battlestar Gallactica and Rome.  Both still in my top ten series, but recently Game of Thrones nudged them down the list.  Other shows on my Watch If I Can list are Scandinavian thrillers – Unit 1, The Killing, Wallander; BBC shows – New Tricks, Waking the Dead, QI; and the US comedy Archer (shades of Arrested Development).  I’ll add more as I think of them.
  7. Listen to radio, audio book or podcasts.  I know several people who do this during the BigD.  I listen too, but rarely at dialysis.  I prefer listening to them in the car.  It’s the ideal hands free activity, especially since it takes me between 20 and 40 minutes to get to the BigD and I go 5 times per week: lots of listening time there.  Currently I enjoy: DownloadThisShow (ABC – technology), The History Chicks (history with personality), Big Ideas and Future Tense (ABC – in-depth society and culture), the Economist: Editors Highlights, and The New Yorker monthly short story.  With podcasts, the secret is not too many subscriptions at once; you can always review the list if they get a bit tired.
  8. Enjoy your iPad.  I have finally joined the ranks of the iPadders.  Until recently, I took my laptop, a book, magazines and bits and pieces to BigD sessions, to do most of the things listed above.  Now, I take one device (and maybe some newsletters – some clubs are still in the ark).  I have ebooks, e-magazines and various movie/TV show catch-up apps that keep me so entertained that I’m often surprised when it’s time to go.  The iPad is pretty cheap at the moment.  I looked at many of the other tablets and eBook readers, but the iPad was the best for me.  It is versatile, with many apps available, it’s a good size for reading magazines and books, email and movies.  Definitely a great choice for BigD.
  9. Play games.  Some of the people in our unit have loved ones sit with them the whole run.   They chat briefly with each other, read, watch TV or doze.  Some play games together: cards, draughts, chess or some other to pass the time.  With the iPad’s electronic games, everyone can play some kind of game, either alone or with other patients via the unit’s Wi-Fi link.  The ones I like most are the brain exercise games.  At least I like them for a while, early in the run when my brain can handle them.  Check out Keeping Your Brain Sharp on Dialysis Part 3 for details.  Another option is games that can be played with others online or via Wi-Fi, such as Chess, Scrabble, other word games, poker and a range of galactic shoot ‘em ups and strategic games for two or more.  Find a BigD friend with and iPad and let the battle begin.
  10. Have a massage.  I have massages irregularly.  I mostly go for deep tissue massages, though recently Julie has dragged me along for a Thai massage, which was quite invigorating (a BigD friend had his first a massage and the masseur was a little frightened by his fistula; he couldn’t think of a short way of telling her what it was, so he just said: “Car accident” – J).  Now and then I have also been to one of those Chines massage pop-up shops in shopping centres, to deal with a sore shoulder or neck.  So while I am no stranger to massages, I was surprised to have a foot and hand massage offered to me while I was on the machine.  It came about because Catherine, one of the staff in our unit who has an interest in alternative medicine set up and trained a group of volunteers to give hand and foot massages.  So far I have had two foot massages in three weeks.  They take about 30 minutes and are designed to relieve fatigue, tone up muscles, promote circulation and help relax the feet.  They are very popular, and like the masseurs, delightful.  It also promotes much speculation and banter.

Finally there’s the tried and true universal BigD activity:

Doze.  When all else palls, lay back and relax.  Shut your eyes and see where it takes you.  I find that when I’m tired, especially on early morning BigD (0645 start), I can fade away in a few minutes.  I’m not really asleep, just dozing.  At first I can hear everything going on around me, then not.  If I am woken, I often find 45 minutes has passed by without my participation.  In the afternoons I can’t doze for more than 30 minutes before I become twitchy.  But that’s enough.  Then I select from items 1 to 10.

What other things do you do on the BigD?

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