I was reading about the wondrous advances in technology exhibited recently at the Consumer Electronics Show. Self-driving cars, 3D printers, smart phones that do everything short of walking the dog.
Pretty amazing stuff.
It gave me something of a sense of elation that we live in a day and age when such innovation and cutting-edge thinking is possible.
Then, I tried to program my VCR and got so frustrated with the process, I wanted to rip the whole assemblage out of the wall and toss it out the window. I went to run some errands and couldn't get my garage door opener to work. I got in my car, and couldn't figure out how to adjust the clock for the time change. The ATM at my bank was on the fritz. It said to push a button for help, but when I pushed it, nothing happened.
I thought, well, so much for our technologically advanced society.
Before I retired, I was on a first name basis with the tech support people in my office. They practically wanted to establish a frequent-caller program based on me alone.
A lot of times, the fix that I needed would be something really simple and I would be embarrassed by taking up their time.
Here's an example of one of my interactions with Tech Support over the phone:
TS: "Tech Support, may I help you?"
Me: "Yes, I moved my office around yesterday and now my computer monitor won't work."
TS: "Okay sir. By any chance, did you plug it back in?"
Me: [Pause]..."Thank you very much. Have a nice day."
It got so bad that I heard a rumor they were planning on opening a satellite office on the floor of my building. I'm pretty sure everyone would have known that I was the cause, but I was spared that embarrassment when the change never came about.
So, knowing what you know now, what would you say would be the absolute worst change a dialysis patient like myself could make to his treatment regimen?
How about moving from in-center treatments, where anything having to do with the machine is taken care of by technically astute and trained individuals, to doing treatments on my own at home, where the chances for catastrophe increase exponentially?
You got it.
As you know from last month's blog, I'm now doing home hemo, with my faithful and loving wife trying to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of equipment misfortune that seems to follow me around.
In order to do home hemo, you have to go through an intensive four-week training program.
It's a wonder the training facility survived my sessions.
We were on our first lesson, walking back to the room where they kept the home hemo machines. That's where we would both train and have my treatments. The nurse/trainer was telling us about the advancements of the new machines and how far fewer alarms were going off.
No lie, as soon as I walked in the room, the alarms on two of the machines started dinging.
There were no patients on them, in fact, the room was empty.
"Hmm. That's strange," said the nurse, walking over to reset the machines.
My wife was eying me suspiciously, but I just smiled weakly and shrugged my shoulders.
She was probably thinking, "Oh boy. This is gonna be a long haul."
Now, before we started training, I was told to arrive "dressed comfortably, in your typical dialysis clothes."
Turns out, I would have been better off wearing a bathing suit.
The initial instructions were somewhat helter skelter. It was apparent that we were going to learn about the process on the fly.
Or maybe on the swim.
Our initial lesson involved pre-mixed dialysate bags, as opposed to using the pureflow machine underneath the cycler. Those of you doing home hemo know that the pureflow makes the dialysate using your water at home. But when you travel, or for whatever reason can't use the pureflow, you use these pre-mixed bags. The bags are modestly heavy and my machine was up against a wall, so I practically threw my back out hanging up the ones in the back.
My instructor had an amused look on her face.
"You might try spinning the rack around," she said.
"Oh yeah. That would probably be easier," I said, but I felt about an inch tall.
Anyway, during the setup process, I got confused over what to clamp when, and suddenly, dialysate was pouring out all over the floor.
Oh, and the machine alarm started going off.
My wife just backed away, hoping that whatever my problem was it wasn't contagious.
I was in a total panic, saying something brilliant like, "Oh crap. What do I do know??"
My instructor calmly said, "Close the clamp."
I said, "Right. The clamp. Got it. Which one??"
"The one right above the fluid pouring out."
"Oh yeah, hah hah."
So, I got the clamp closed and Niagra Falls stopped flowing.
It took us a few minutes to mop up the mess, then suddenly we hear a shrill "BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP..."
I nearly jumped out of my drawers. This was much louder than the machine alarms we heard earlier.
Of course being the calm type, I yelled, "WHAT IS THAT??"
"It's the fluid detector," said the instructor, still calm.
Meanwhile the infernal thing was still going off.
"Well, we know it works...how do I turn it off??" I asked, thinking that my first impulse to throw it against the wall probably wasn't correct.
"Take it out and dry it off with a paper towel," said the instructor. So, the wife took care of that.
The instructor still had a half smile. "You can just skip the step in the process where you test the battery of the detector," she said. Now I could tell she was making an effort not to laugh in my face.
Anyway, we cleaned up the flood and continued with the setup process.
Everything was going along okay, then we learned about snapping and tapping the lines.
Some of you probably know that this is how you remove excess air from the dialysis lines so you don't get an air-detector alarm during your treatment.
Heaven knows, I had already heard enough alarms for my liking.
The wife and I decided that we would take turns doing this so we could both get some practice. She snapped and tapped the arterial line and everything went just fine.
I was doing the veinous line, thinking that my earlier disaster was just an anomaly. Snap, tap, get the air bubbles out. I got this. Heh heh. I'll be an ace at this process in no time.
I was tapping up near the top of the line, when the connection to the saline bag came undone and fluid started pouring out all over the place. Of course, the fluid detector started going off again, and before we knew it, we had another flood on our hands.
"Close the clamp," said the instructor
"Right. Of course," I said. Then I closed the clamp on the line instead of the one leading to the bag and the waterfall continued.
"No. The other one," she said. Now, she looked like she was going to herniate herself, keeping from laughing.
When I finally closed the right clamp, I was drenched. The fluid detector and machine alarms were both going off, and there was saline all over the floor.
The instructor and the wife were both just looking at me trying not to laugh.
"So," I said calmly. "How do you think it's going so far?"
Then the three of us were cracking up. It took us about ten minutes to stop laughing.
But, like any other process, home hemo gets easier as you do more treatments.
We've learned some of the nuances of the process, since our instructor decided to live dangerously and allow us to do my treatments at home by ourselves. We've learned about real in-depth technical terms, like 'Mr. Peanut' and the 'chickenfoot.'
The home machine is really a technical marvel, and, so far at least, I've survived despite the fact that we're not.
Thanks for reading. I hope everybody thrives in his or her dealings with modern technology