Monday, June 13, 2005

Medical Knitting

When I think back to nursing school, I wish desperately that I had started knitting then. It would have been such a great relief to have something to do with my hands that wasn't madly jotting notes or chewing the corners of my nails. I didn't start until I saw a classmate with a fun fur scarf. I had to have one.

But this isn't a post about knitting today. I thought I would share a little of who I am and what lead up to this crazy girl known as Kirstin who has self-dubbed herself as Kit.

I've had two kidney transplants. It started when I was born with Medullary Cystic Disease, a disorder that isn't so common in the States but is pretty normal in Europe. My first was when I was 5, almost 6 years old. I have a pretty scar that almost dissects me neatly in half from under the xyphoid process to just above where my bladder is. When you're operating on a teeny little 6 year old in the early 80's, I guess you needed a lot of room to work. My mom was the donor and everything went really spiffy...for sixteen years. Cyclosporine and prednisone were a mad nightmare but they had nothing better. If you see me in person you will notice that I am short. This is not genetic, this is sixteen years of prednisone working at me. My hand is a medium in gloves, but my fingers are so short there's still lots of room for extra finger in the tips when I wear them. But I've seen worse. At least while I took the stuff, my hair was good and thick. I let it grow long.

I was also fortunate enough to move from Tooele, Utah to Argenthal, Germany. Can we say "Culture Shock"? But it was the best thing for me. The doctors there were really into holistic medicine. They cleared a UTI that antibiotics couldn't touch with the lavish use of orange and grapefruit juice. Imagine that. The doctor also lowered my prednisone to frighteningly low doses (well, frightening for american doctors anyways). And it showed when I moved back to the States, to Kansas, and went to Camp Chimer, a camp for kidney/dialysis patients. I towered over those kids. Seven years in Germany and I was multi-cultural, taller than the average prednisone junkie, and not very socially adjusted. Ah well.

I graduated high school and went into KU with the full expectation that I would be a nurse. But, I got sidetracked. My mom contracted Hepatitis C when she had me due to the fact that she lost a great deal of blood and needed infusions. But they didn't really screen blood in 1978, yannow. So that's how she got it. And then when I got her kidney, I didn't get the virus but I do have the antibodies so that I show up as positive when I get tested. Mom was convinced that would bar me from any job as a nurse. So I decided to become a med tech. I went to school and that's when the old kidney began to do me no good at all. The toxins built up, my brain no longer functioned like it should, and I was flunked out. This is also when I first learned that educators in the medical field are a bunch of unforgiving harpies. Hmm.

So, I was on the donor list for a kidney for a full year. I still went to school just to get a degree...ANY degree. In fact, I was taking my favorite class ever, Myths, Legends, and Folklore of Korea, Japan, and China (for my non-Western Civ credit) and was about to go to an exam when I was called by the nurse at the nephrology office telling me that I would need to come in for a catheter to be placed for dialysis. Otherwise I'd have two weeks to live. Oh yeah, I knew it. I know what it feels like to die. It's cold, very cold. My extremities were never warm despite hot baths and snuggling a space heater going full-blast. And my thinking was really fuzzy, too. Anyways, I was really upset and though I took that exam (yes, I passed), dialysis was really a nightmare. My friends did their best to cheer me up, but I was distraught. I was also up till 1am. I crawled into bed that night and didn't think another thing about it.

4:30am the next morning, the kidney was ready. The doctor called me and only me (if you know much about transplants, they usually call a few possible candidates and pick one from who matched the organ the closest) because he couldn't get my name out of his head. Hello divine inspiration. The kidney was harvested at 7am. I was in the OR at 1:30pm and everything since has been just incredible. I got my BS in Human Biology, I got my CNA at Johnson County Community College, and then went through and survived the nightmare that is LPN school.

It's been 4 years since that transplant. I have yet had an issue with this kidney. I had so much energy after my transplant that my healing body had a hard time keeping up. I think I channeled the young girl whose kidney this was for a while.

You can see why I want to be a nurse. I met so many good ones and a few bad ones (nothing's perfect) that I wanted to be one, too. It was a decision I made early on. And do you know where I want to work once I get my RN? A dialysis clinic. ;) Or a cancer center, gotta have alternatives just in case it doesn't work out, you know.

And if you read all that, you get a treat! Look, Aunt Lea is holding Pinkie's Bride which has since joined Pinkie in the Finished Object basket.


  1. What an amazing individual you are! You have gone through so much, and yet you persevere!

    Thanks for sharing your story. See, I told you I admire you.

    W. :)

  2. Hey! Makes my hair hazard seem like a blessing!

  3. You should totally live up that "hair accident". I can even offer fun hair accessories.

  4. Anonymous12:27 PM

    You have such an inspirational story.... what a special person you are... Lucky me, I get to spoil you! SP

  5. Wow, thank you for sharing such an incredible and personal story!