Conscious Aging: Talking with Minga

Minga’s daughter Ana called on Thursday, a WhatsApp video call where I can not only hear Minga but get to see her face. She looked terribly tired, although it wasn’t a dialysis day and she said she felt okay. Soon the doctors are going to move her port, not to the most likely alternate sites in her forearm or abdomen, but a little down from where the port is now. I asked her why, and she was unclear. She said the doctor told her that her veins are thin, whatever that means.

I’m not sure if Minga isn’t getting much information from her treatment team, or whether they are explaining things and she’s not understanding. Her hearing loss doesn’t help, and although she has to have a family member with her on dialysis days, it isn’t always the same family member. They all work, and they have to take turns at the all day commitment. Minga is adamant that when she first went to the hospital, no one told her she was going to begin dialysis and that she would have to continue dialysis forever in order to stay alive. She says they simply told her they were going to do something that would make her feel better. On the other hand, she was critically ill in September, when her son Angel drove to the village and brought her into the city, and who knows what information she was able to take in. I believe that one of her daughters signed the permission for Minga to be treated.

I wish I knew if moving the port was a good sign, a neutral sign, or a bad omen.

Ana asked if I will come again in November, like I did last year — a second trip, beyond my usual mid-winter two week visit. I said I will try.

Ana said that Minga is having trouble walking up the stairs to Ana’s second floor apartment after dialysis, on those days that Minga chooses to stay in the city after treatment. I’m not surprised. On the two days I accompanied Minga to dialysis, I thought she was exhausted and dizzy when she came out. I have no idea how she was taking three busses to Filipio, or for that matter, how she gets herself to the central terminal and then on a transport on those days that she goes home to the village.

I fear that we’re on a gradual downward slope, although I have no hard evidence of it. Minga is entering month 7 of dialysis, managing as best she can. She might just have been having a bad day — all of us do. Or, dialysis is taking a terrible toll, and it’s beginning to show.

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