My life with Heavy Betty

Heavy Betty is so heavy. If I were a 1950s stand-up comedian, this would be the point where my audience would shout, "How heavy is she?" And I'd say, "I mean, she's heavy." Cuz I'm not a comedian and I hate speaking in front of people. Her physical presence doesn't really match her weight. Betty only takes up about a small file cabinet-sized space in my bedroom. But she feels like a Mack truck when you pick her up. And here lately, I've picked her up a few times. I've taken her to Charleston with me. I've taken her to Columbia. I took her to my cousin's house. Heavy Betty is what I have taken to calling my dialysis machine, specifically a Liberty cycler, which I get on every night, though here lately I've taken to doing manual (day) exchanges once to twice a week to break up the monotony. Heavy Betty weighs a ton. I literally have to sit down for about 10 minutes after I pick her up and move her to my car, and I go to the gym at least four times per week. Thankfully, that heifer has her own cart, so I can wheel her around the house when I'm home. But the cart is too big to cart around when I need to travel. I first took Heavy Betty to Charleston for about three days shortly after Christmas. I had two doctors' appointments in the same day, because I'm absolutely out of my mind and thought I could see one doctor in West Ashley at 8:30 a.m. and then scoot on to the other in Mt. Pleasant by 12:30 p.m. I was an hour late to the second appointment, but they let me have it anyway, because few people turn you away when your kidneys are like refried beans. One of the few perks of having end-stage renal disease is not a lot of people argue with me when I throw out the "kidney card." I try to do it as sparingly as possible. I started peritoneal dialysis Nov. 7. For those who haven't read my previous columns, it involves pumping 2,000 milliliters of fluid into my abdominal cavity through a catheter that exits right beside my navel. When not in use the catheter, which would hang to my knees otherwise, resides in a belt that I have now come to feel naked without wearing. The fluid sits in the abdominal cavity for a couple of hours - specifically 1 hour and 15 minutes for each exchange on Heavy Betty - and then it drains out. Lather, rinse, repeat. By lather and rinse, I'm talking about the washing of the hands. Which is done nearly constantly, so help me God. Peritoneal dialysis is nothing if not sanitary. They say it takes about a month-and-a-half to begin to feel better on peritoneal dialysis. I started to notice a difference in early December, specifically, with the nearly daily morning nausea completely gone. The only symptoms I still retain are morning lethargy - seriously, it is hard as hell to wake up in the morning - and the hiccups. The hiccups are so bad that they frequently scare me. I'm a jumpy person. They come out of nowhere, and startle me. It happens at least 20 times per day. Dialysis has had its perks. My skin is the clearest it's ever been. I guess when you're sucking out all the bad stuff every night, it doesn't have time to get to upset your pores. This has led to folks constantly telling me, "You look so great." Which is nice. But I've had a few, "You don't look like you're on dialysis!" How am I supposed to look? Like I'm at death's door? I look at these people in bewilderment, thinking, "Uh, you do know dialysis is supposed to make you not die, so you're not going to look like death?" Sorry, my hump is in the shop. Maybe I should say, "You don't look as old and decrepit as the birthday on your driver's license would have one believe." That probably wouldn't be considered appropriate. I was probably as oblivious as they are before I started this whirly-gig of fun, so I let it go.