Another September medical adventure on dialysis

With my heartbeat restored to normal rhythm by those wonderful people at the Austin Emergency Department, life was sweet again.

Then on the evening of my third day back on BigD, about an hour into the run: crippling stomach pains. What the hell is this? Over the last few weeks, I’d had a niggling stomach ache, which I had attributed to a series of hotter than usual curries from my lunch shop. As you do.

red-curry-riceI’ve been losing weight lately, so I’ve taken to having a hot meal at lunchtime to try and beef up a little. I go to the same place most days, called ThreeAteThreee (‘cos it’s at 383 Camberwell Road, of course). It’s owned by a Chinese couple called Rick and Too-Shy-to-Say. Rick is a great cook. He makes a main meal every day: one day chicken, the next day beef. Usually, it is a curry from somewhere in Asia (soo many curries!). Occasionally he lets his head go and makes European dishes. It’s always a surprise, and good value: Around $10 for the meal, plus coffee. Each lunchtime I walk there, have my meal, read my book, drink my flat white and walk back to work.

Sweet. I may even be gaining weight.

But as I say, recently I’ve had stomach niggles. Being an expert at self-diagnosis, I blamed Rick’s curries. I made a mental note to test my theory with something bland, like meatloaf focaccia for lunch. Then when the time came, the aroma of the main meal in the bain-marie would start my mouth watering and I’d put off bland until tomorrow.

So I felt I had only myself to blame when the serious cramps arrived later that day on BigD.

They were so bad that, unbelievably, I decided I needed to go back to the ED for another opinion. I rang Julie and told her my news. Being the wonderful, unflappable person she is, she dropped everything, picked me up and back to the ED we went.

It was another busy night at ED. People were lined up to get to the line-up. No empty chairs, just a roomful of sore and sorry people with varying degrees of pain and pestilence. As usual, Hearts go first. Pains in the stomach can wait. Fair enough. I’ve been in the fast queue before and don’t want to be in it again. So we waited.

So I sat there with Julie and my wild imaginings. As the waves of pain washed through my stomach, I saw a masked doctor with a scalpel slicing through my bloated belly, a squirt of blood, a burst of foetid air, and me smiling in relief. Thanks Doc, strong pain needs a strong remedy…

About four hours later, the door opened and someone called my name. We were led to a cubicle and I laid on a trolley bed. The team went into action. Questions, measurements, a little poking and prodding. The general consensus was: most likely diverticulitis (sadly a very common condition for people over 50, where abnormal pouches form in the bowel wall and become inflamed or infected). To be certain, they ordered a Cat scan (a fast, painless and very accurate x-ray scan).

By now it was 3am and I convinced Julie that a Cat scan would take hours and she should go home. Of course, no sooner had she left than I was wheeled to the scanner. Five minutes later I was wheeled back to my cubicle.

Then the ED doctor arrived and confirmed that it was early stage diverticulitis with no complications. So what’s the cure?  Should I be fasting? Will I need a full body shave? No, no, it’s not severe and should clear up in a few days with antibiotics.

Wow. Such relief. I still had the pain and misery, but knowing my enemy quashed my fear and wild imaginings. All would be well.

I called Julie, waking her five minutes after she got to sleep and she came to collect me. Again. And I mean again. Over the years, there have been collections beyond count. (Warm Glow.)

Half an hour later, pleased and relieved, we heading home. I was still unwell with stomach pains and was very tired for a couple of days until the antibiotics kicked in. But the pains gradually faded and my energy levels rose.

It took two weeks to clear, but now, I write this blog a hale and healthy BigD-er looking forward to my next curry lunch.

App review: My Food Coach for all BigD-ers


My Food Coach: Main Menu

A few weeks ago Ken Marshall, the Chief Executive of FoodCare Inc. in California, emailed me about a new App for renal patients called My Food Coach.  The app and its supporting website provide customised nutrition guidance for recipes, grocery items, restaurant dishes and meal plans for people with special dietary restrictions like kidney failure and diabetes.

It is hosted by the US National Kidney Foundation (NKF), and is an excellent tool to help us BigD-ers stick to our “low this, not too much of that” diets and still enjoy a range of different foods at home and out on the town.

And it’s Free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. (more…)

Dialysis, my boyfriend and me

Marli (not her real name) wrote recently:

Hello, my name is Marli. I am learning a lot from your blog so thank you so much for all that you are doing.

I am 19 years old and my boyfriend is 24.  We have been together about 8 months.  He was born with failed kidneys and it is a very touchy subject for him so I’m afraid to ask him about it.  (more…)

Dialysis and Fluid Restrictions – Tips and Tricks

This week, a guest post from Ros Ball, Past President and currently Secretary of DATA, the Dialysis and Transplant Association of Victoria (Australia).  You may remember Ros when I wrote about her in June a couple of years ago.  She and her husband Charlie have outfitted their caravan with a dialysis machine and travel where most BigD-ers fear to tread:  the wide open spaces of the outback.  Ros’s get up and go, regardless of the demands of BigD is an inspiration, and puts the rest of us sometime travellers in the shade. (more…)

Dialysis and another itch to scratch

It’s a cold, rainy, wintery day in Melbourne: to be expected since we are at the back-end of winter.  I met Julie at the local patisserie for lunch.  She had a chicken and avocado wrap and I had a ham and salad mini-baguette.  Each followed by coffee.  Sounds pretty normal, but as usual for us BigDers, there is always a little man in my head saying ”Should you be eating this?”.

He is right to ask of course.  Just about everything we eat has the potential to kick us off the straight and narrow.  (more…)

Dialysis: scratch that phosphate itch

I recently discovered that it doesn’t matter how long you have been on the BigD, or when you last read about a healthy kidney diet, you can still fall into food traps that can drive you mad, usually in slow motion.  I thought it would be useful to share.

Over the last month in have received a persistent “Could Do Better” after blood tests:  my Phosphate (phosphorus) was 2.9mmol/L, when acceptable is 0.81 to 1.78mmol/L.  Too much phosphate can be toxic. (more…)

Dialysis, calcium and phosphate binders


One of the fun things that happen when two or three BigD members gather together for coffee or a meal is the phosphate binder ritual: all hands dip into pockets to find calcium pills, into the mouth, swallow with a sip of water and its back to the conversation.

We all do it, but I know it took me a while to understand why.  Just recently we had an in-house briefing about it at our dialysis unit from the very excellent Cath F, so I thought I’d share what was said.  (The good stuff is hers, any mistakes are mine.)  Thanks Cath. (more…)

Dialysis secrets: Resisting forbidden fruit

Every now and then the things we believe intuitively are confirmed by new research and things become a little easier to understand and handle.

Take self-control for example: resisting the many food and drink temptations that assail us BigD club members is a day-to-day struggle:

  • Mmmm Cafe Latte…

    We must avoid foods with lots of phosphate, like pastries, whole grain bread, cola drinks, coffee, chocolate, dairy products, mayonnaise, margarine, egg yolks, peas, lentils, nuts, puddings and gravies, processed meats and too many more.
    (Too much phosphate results in weak and brittle bones, and calcium deposits throughout the body. These usually lead to skin itching [been there, done that], joint pain and eye irritation and sometimes it can lead to unstable heart rhythms and even heart failure.)