Since my kidney function is on its final decline, the doctors have warned me that I may begin to see symptoms of kidney failure show up. In fact, each time I visit or talk to my doctor he presses me about how I’m feeling.
All-in-all, and given what’s likely to come, I can’t complain. I still have pretty good energy. I can still write and make it through the day. I even continue to participate in a low-impact aerobics class a few times each week. The only real change is that my heart races after climbing stairs. No biggie.
For the last few months I’ve been doing blood work every other week. This is mainly to keep an eye on my potassium levels as my kidney can’t filter the excess. When I went in to do the lab work two weeks ago, I had a lingering headache. I’m not typically a headache-getting person so this seemed a bit odd. It was also odd that this headache came and went throughout each day for six total days. It wasn’t overwhelming and I didn’t feel the need for a pain killer, but I just noticed that it was there. I wondered if this was the arrival of the ominous “symptoms.”
It wasn’t a bit deal to me, but after the lab work came back, I e-mailed my doctor to let him know about the headache. I got a call later that day from an intern who was filling in for my normal doctor who was on vacation. She was very kind and wanted to make sure I was OK. She asked all the doctor-y questions: Did you hit your head? Is your vision blurry? Where exactly does it hurt?
I assured her it wasn’t a big deal; I just thought it was odd that it hung around for so long. She didn’t think the headache was related to kidney disease and suggested I follow-up with my primary care physician.
Twenty minutes after I hung up the phone, the attending doctor called (the first doctor’s boss). She went through the same questions and also thought I needed to check in with my primary care physician.
I felt very cared for, and just slightly embarrassed over a headache that was really no big deal.
The next day, I got a third call, this time from my primary care physician. Yes, three calls about one minor headache.
I was really touched by how much these doctors cared. I know they are busy. I know they know this is probably no big deal. I just appreciated that they reached out, again and again. It is heartwarming to work with medical practitioners who really listen and take what I report seriously.
Eventually, as everyone expected, the headache went away. It was just part of life with chronic illness: a headache will never again just be a headache.
I was back at the nephrologist’s office yesterday. He was back from vacation and asked about the headache. After reassuring him that I was, and am, fine, he assured me that he won’t take vacation again. The final sweet cherry of overreaction.
As scary as it is to face kidney failure, I could not be in more caring, conservative, over-helping hands. Big gratitude for that!