Friday 18 March 2016
It's 6:30 a.m. and I'm just beginning dialysis. It's my second day on my new, permanent shift. I've been coming in early for a couple weeks now, on a day-by-day basis, filling in for a patient who was in the hospital, but now someone has moved and my own time is 6:00-10:15. It's much better than my previous time of 3:45 (originally 4:30) p.m., particularly from a family point of view. Before, I was always missing out on activities (FHE, ward parties, school picnics, dinner with friends, etc.), not to mention having to leave Sunbeam for four and a half hours of her waking time, which was very hard on both of us. Now, she's rarely even awake by the time I get home.
The trade-off, of course, is that I have to wake myself up at 5:30 three times a week, often after four hours of sleep or less, and always drive myself here and back (sometimes with the headache that results from four-plus hours in the chair). Once home, I often sleep for several hours more, which you might argue negates the benefit of being away while Sunbeam sleeps. But I can doze on the couch while she watches Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood beside me, and even my semi-conscious presence is a comfort to her.
Each chair at the Kidney Center has its own TV, and in the nearly-seven months that I've been coming here I've turned mine on maybe twice. I admit, it's a matter of pride as well as taste. I would feel like a total slug if I lay here mesmerized by what one Doctor Who episode labeled “The Idiot's Lantern”. I'm not in the habit of watching TV, since we don't have a package at home (although we stream our favorite shows and watch plenty of movies), and I have little patience for the flood of inanity and sensationalism that is network television.
It doesn't help the impression that many of my neighbors seem to be in a state of dependency. Most of them let the thing squawk as a matter of course, whether they're sleeping, talking, reading, or just staring blankly into space. My left-hand neighbor is currently watching A&E (assuming he's awake -- just kidding, I checked and he's dozing); in the time I've been here it has gone from Good Morning Arklamiss to Duck Dynasty to Dog the Bounty Hunter. The lady on the right has Channel 6 news running, but she's not actually watching it: she's doing word searches. Of the twelve occupied chairs that I can observe, at least seven of them have the TV's running.
Since I am obligated to spend more than 8% of my time here, I try to at least keep my brain engaged. I read, do puzzles, work on my foreign languages, play games of strategy, write, color, chat with family members -- even sleeping is a productive use of time for me when I can manage it, which is not often. My body may have betrayed my youth, but I can assert my vigor through the activity of my mind.