My Introduction to This New Stage of My Life

You may have noticed that I’ve skipped a day of blogging.  No, it’s not that I want the time off but, rather, that it occurred to me that I just might be glutting your mailbox by blogging daily.  If every other day turns out to feel like too much, I’ll try twice a week.  This is a work in progress.  Hmmmm, maybe you could let me know how often you’d like to receive this blog.

Let’s go to the first mention of this condition in my life.  I was a babe in arms, blithely going through my daily routines totally unaware that my kidneys were beginning to betray me.  That’s when my new family doctor explained that one of my blood test results indicated Chronic Kidney Disease might be something I had, but a specialist needed to deal with this.

Then she showed me the Estimated GFR on my tri-monthly blood test results and asked me how long it had been this low. I looked at her blankly. Estimated GFR?  Low?  How long?  How should I know?  My former doctor’s P.A. (physician’s assistant)  had always interpreted these blood tests for liver function.  I’d been having them for quite a while since I was taking a medication that just might affect the liver somewhere down the line.  That’s the liver, not the kidneys.

Wait a minute, why hadn’t my previous doctor told me about the possible problem, I demanded. This thorough, new (to me) physician quickly explained that these results didn’t mean I HAD this disease, just that I might. The results might mean nothing, but they had to be explored.

I later realized that my reaction was almost textbook: shocked, confused, angry and disbelieving.  And just like everyone else who is given a nephrology appointment very quickly, I figured out that this was serious.

I had copies of my lab work from the previous doctor in my home office and raced there to look at them as soon as my appointment ended.  Over a seven month period, I found the first report mentioned not being able to estimate the GFR since no age or gender had been provided, which made no sense to me at the time. Six months later it had been 49 and, when retested one month after that, it was 60.

Since there are one to two million neprhons (filtering units) in each kidney, a decrease in their function may not be noticed until you are in the early stages of CKD.  It looks like that’s what happened to me.

I still didn’t understand this, so I called the P.A. I’d formerly dealt with who explained that the estimated GFR (the what?) of 49 was troublesome enough to order another test a month later. The re-test test showed an estimated GFR of 60 which was considered borderline for chronic kidney disease. But what was a GFR?  And what did these numbers mean?

I could see the logic based on the higher and lower numbers, but didn’t grasp that this could be happening to me and I didn’t know anything about it. I’d always been so in tune with my body that I could tell when I was getting sick before any symptoms showed up (oddly enough, my curly hair would become temporarily straight).  I was involved with organic and healthy eating, with herbal supplements to strengthen my body.  I danced vigorously several times a week for exercise.

Further confusing the idea is the fact that the kidneys simply work harder during the early stages of CKD so that patients feel no symptoms.  Sufferers don’t start to feel ill until kidney function is as low as 10%.  That could take a long time, maybe ten years.

My nephrologist suggests that would be 20 years for me since he suspects the cause of my disease as old age (thanks so much) and that my kidney function will probably decrease only ½% a year.  I don’t like being called old, but I’ll take it if it means I have such a long time without dialysis ahead.  As I’ve mentioned, dialysis scares the hell out of me.

I needed time to absorb this. Maybe you do, too.

Published in: on September 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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