07 April, 2016

The Fluid of Life

So it has begun.  I walked into the lab and they took all the information they would take if I were donating blood.  In fact, except that some people were receiving liquids via their veins, it looks like any blood bank set-up to me.   

There were the usual "blood donation questions:   have I been out of the country and to where, have I been "around" any people with HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis, how much water I'd had in the last 24 hours and if I had taken the prescribed aspirin, and which arm would I prefer the needle go into.  As I climbed up on the bench/recliner, I thought of the many times I'd given blood and asked myself if this could be any different. 

Somewhere in my dresser, I have a 10 gallon blood donation pin from the Red Cross.  But it has been over 13 years since I've given blood.  I remember that last time: it was in Mount Airy, Maryland at the gym where we were members.  We'd joined the gym not only for the health benefits, but because it was a great place to network as part of our planting a new church.  I was the last pint of the day.  In those days, they pricked the finger and used a pipette to gather the precious drops and placed them into a test tube of blue liquid to watch the rate at which they descended to the bottom.  If it moved fast enough, your iron count was sufficient and you could give blood.   Mine dropped like a lead balloon -- as it always had.  Looking back, that was evidence of what is now a marked reality: I had too much iron in my blood.  Six months later, I had a heart attack.  Yet another bit of evidence of what is now reality:  When the fluid of life contains too much of a good thing -- Iron overload -- the heart, pancreas, and liver try to hoard it and cause life threatening problems. Heart medications brought an end to my donation days which in turned added to my system hoarding the iron and causing further problems. 
Looks like a Donation setup.

The lab tech made small talk as he scrubbed my arm.  "Just a small pinch."  The needle was in place and the "phlebotomy" was underway.  That's such a strange word: from the Greek roots for vein cutting.  In other parts of the world, it's called "venesection" from the Latin roots of the same words.  Both feel like misnomers to me.  What they are doing involves cutting the vein, but only to extract its contents: iron rich fluid of life.

I'd never had any issues with blood donation. I was always on and off the table in less than 15  minutes. It seemed my blood was anxious to leave my body and move on to give life to someone else.  But not this time.  Despite my faithfully pumping that sponge ball, the blood was slow to descend to the collection unit.  Formerly bright red, it now has a brown tinge to it.  My veins are filled with the mud of irony existence.  Like my "older" body, the substance of life is slow to move, harder to bring into new possibilities.  I drank 2 quarts of water while pumping the sponge ball in the hope that more liquid will help move it along; it only increased my need to get off the table.  Adding to the urgency, I was nauseous and had a pounding headache. 

After an hour of trying to reach to goal of 750 ml, the technician said it is time to give up; next time will go better.  Ironically, when he removed the needle, we had a difficult time getting the vein to stop bleeding.

I set up another appointment for a week later. I sat in their waiting area drinking water and snacking on a bag of salty corn chips.  I hoped I would feel better in time to make dinner at home.  I did my best to make a healthy supper for the two of us.  Then I collapsed into my recliner and struggled to stay awake through the evening's television shows.  

And so it begins, this journey toward "management" of my hemochromatosis, a chronic blood disorder.  I wish I could say I feel better already.  I can't.  I'm tired.  My brain, while having moments of clarity, feels like there's a haze of thick fog between my present and my objectives.  When the haze does lift, I'm overwhelmed by the need to accomplish everything only to have the haze fall deeply and thickly again.  

I long for the day when I will have the energy to climb to the third floor of the house and work on my wood projects, when I will feel like I can go to the gym and still make it through the rest of the day, when I will again see musical notation and hear it in my head, when I will have a long enough moment of clarity to write a thought provoking article or sermon.  

But for now, these are the goals toward which I journey. For now, I can just place one foot in front of the other and make progress in that general direction.  For now, I will lean upon those who journey with me in love, who help to lighten my load, and who are my fluid of life:  Love.   

 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

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