“That morning began like all my Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays do – at the dialysis clinic…”

It was an early morning in March last year, and as I lay on the hospital bed I could feel a terrible ache in my chest. I tried to remember what happened: how did I end up in the hospital?

That morning began like all my Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays do – at the dialysis clinic to start my treatment at 5:45am. They connected me to the dialysis machine and then I fell asleep. I don’t know how long I slept, but suddenly I was jerked awake by a wave of suffocating heat.

I knew the clinic wasn’t hot, but I was! I wanted someone, anyone, to open the windows and make the suffocating feeling go away.

I looked desperately around trying to find help. I was sitting in my dialysis chair at the end of a row with five chairs, and the tech was on the other end at the nurses’ counter. I called out, but he couldn’t hear me from where I was.

Finally, I clicked the emergency button, and he started walking over. By now the heat was so overwhelming that it felt like an eternity for him to get to me.
I remember trying to stand up as he arrived. But I was still connected to the dialysis machine. I reached for the tech’s arm, and then everything went dark.

I don’t remember anything after that, but my friends at the clinic told me what happened: that I fell to the ground and started convulsing. When I woke up in the hospital I complained about my aching chest. I was told that my ribs had been broken as the staff struggled to revive me.

I spent eight days at the hospital going through exam after exam to figure out why I had gone into cardiac arrest that day at the clinic. But I never got an explanation.

One thing I do know is that staffing at my dialysis clinic makes a big difference for our safety. There was previous time when I had felt similar symptoms, but a tech was right next to me and he immediately tended to me and I was okay. When I returned to the dialysis clinic after my cardiac arrest, a tech was assigned to stay right by my chair for the first 30 minutes of my treatment. That kind of care makes a difference. But it only lasted for a few weeks.

I don’t know if I’ll ever experience the same thing, or worse, but if I do I desperately hope that there is enough staff that a tech will be near me and respond quickly. That’s what I’m counting on to survive life on dialysis.

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