Minga has been the soul of cooperation and gracious accommodation to her difficult new dialysis routine — until last night, when she suddenly blew up. That’s rare for her. Some of my readers have met her and can attest to the fact that she is normally quiet, reserved and unassuming, but warmly welcoming with twinkling eyes and open arms.
Some of my readers — Katie, Eileen, and Emily, who have professional expertise from the perspectives of nursing, social work, and psychotherapy — have far more experience with this than I do, and I’d welcome any or all of you weighing in with a comment. But here’s what makes sense to me: I can well imagine Minga having a rush of good feeling after she feared she would die, and then didn’t. I imagine, after her initial three dialysis treatments in the hospital, that she felt better than she’s felt for a long time, maybe years. She heard stories of people whose kidneys had spontaneously started to work again, and she felt that such a miracle might be granted to her. Even without a miracle, she thought that going home and getting treatment near the village was a realistic option.
There has to be a huge emotional thud as she realizes after five weeks that her life as a dialysis patient is what it is, and that nothing much is going to change or get better than it is right now. As friend and psychotherapist Emily pointed out to me in an email, at the very least Minga’s sleep patterns are totally disrupted and she must be exhausted. That exhaustion taints everything.
I have plane reservations to go to Panama in mid-November, to be with Minga. While I’m pretty much flailing in the dark about treatment for kidney failure and about the public health system in Panama, I’m getting support and information from friend and regular reader Dawn, who has a family member undergoing dialysis, and from my brother in law Paul, who is an ER doc.
There is no easy path here, and I’m not a big believer in miracles. I hope to provide comfort for my dear friend, and perhaps some practical advice and encouragement for her family. Sometimes the best we can do is patch together things that make life a little better. I’m not hoping for much more than that.
Visiting Minga is not, of course, only about what I might be able to do for her. On point also is how this visit is important for me. More on that tomorrow.