The right place at the right time
by Robert Joseph Baker | April 25, 2016 2:05 pm
Last Updated: April 25, 2016 at 2:20 pm
In 15 years of journalism, I have covered all matter of ailments.
I’ve covered a little boy with rhizomelic chondrodysplasia, which limits the development of the sufferer’s limbs, torso and neck, rendering them childlike for life. I’ve covered folks with rare heart and liver disorders that required multiple surgeries and long, painful and heartbreaking recoveries.
I’ve covered those dealing with cancer like Kerrie Cribb and Justin Shorter.
I’ve covered the kidney transplants of local insurance agent John DuRant and Manning Mayor Julia Nelson.
I’ve even covered my own battle with hidradenitis suppurativa, a sweat gland disorder for which I had my sweat glands removed in 2010.
And here I am again, with a new malady and a new column.
You see, last week I was diagnosed with Stage IV Chronic Kidney Disease. On April 19, I had 21 percent kidney function. By April 21, I had 17 percent.
Somewhere in the rumor mill it’s been turned around that I have kidney cancer, and that I’m at death’s door.
However, I have no tumors. I have no blockages. I have no cysts.
What I do have is a severely low kidney function, which is likely brought about by egregiously high blood pressure. Some of you have seen the piece on me in the Anytime Fitness advertisement on my weight loss and working out in an effort to rid myself of diabetes.
I am well on my way to doing that. My last A1C was 5.3. I haven’t had one higher than 6.1 in two years.
But in the midst of that, I continued to take my blood pressure medicine, thinking it was working. Any headaches I attributed to sinuses, with which I also have frequent problems.
Sometime last year, I began having frequent bouts of nausea in the morning, two or three times a week. At night, I would wake from a deep sleep with the worst nausea possible. I would eventually vomit and then feel immediately better.
I changed some of my eating habits: Not eating directly before bed, for example.
These symptoms got worse in January, and were accompanied by terrible nocturnal leg cramps, fatigue, itching and back pain.
Until this moment, writing this, I haven’t wanted to admit it, but I somehow knew it was my kidneys. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage II and post-infectious glomerulonephritis after a bout of vasculitis for which we never found a cause.
I was able to rectify the situation. But I was always told that I needed to watch my kidneys.
John DuRant, who has had several kidney transplants himself, warned me at the time to take care of my kidneys. I can’t say that I was completely foolhardy and didn’t listen, but I haven’t taken the best care of them either.
In January, one of the things I began doing to combat the nausea involved drinking a lot more water. I drink a lot anyway. I always have. Most doctors, when I tell them I drink a lot, link it to the diabetes, but I drank a lot of fluids long before I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2012.
On Friday, my doctor told me that my already taxed kidneys are being overworked by how much water I’m actually taking in. So, now I’m limited to two quarts per day, which is honestly like hell on earth.
It is right now 2 p.m. on a Monday, and I’ve had only two 16-ounce bottles of water. This is half of my daily allowance and doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
We have also added a blood pressure medication that basically knocks me out when I take it. Pressures last week at three separate appointments averaged 180/130.
Thus far, with the new medication, the pressures have averaged about 138/82, which I will take any day right now.
I do not know what further treatment will be called for. We are still in the early stages of any treatment. I admit that I fear dialysis greatly, and I desperately want to avoid it.
But right now, the doctor doesn’t think it will come to that.
We are still taking almost daily blood tests to see about kidney function. As long as it stays the same, I will be pleased. I wasn’t going to write about this initially. It feels petty in light of other folks’ battles with cancer and other life-threatening ailments.
But once I heard that I was dying from someone else who heard it from someone else, I knew it needed to be addressed.
One thing this experience has shown me is how blessed I am to be where I am in life. Leigh Ann Maynard has been by my side the entire time, and she has asked the doctor questions that honestly I could not think of after he gave me the initial prognosis. She hasn’t once panicked or lost her head during this experience, and that’s kept me calm.
My best friend from childhood, Stephanie Griffin, has provided encouraging words from 3,000 miles away.
Kirby Poole, Teddy Spencer and Holly McCabe have taken care of me at the office.
Ericka Sexton Floyd, Carrie Anna Strange, Moye Graham and Carrie Trebil all provided words of encouragement as I missed my first Striped Bass Festival in 10 years. Sandi Tucker and Pat Fenters provided hugs.
I realize that I am so fortunate to have these people in my life, and I know that I am in the right place at the right time to have something wrong with me.