Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Steel Magnolias

I bet you are wondering why I am writing about Steel Magnolias... I mean I must have really exhuasted my ideas for blog topics if I have decided to ramble about an 80s movie starring Sally Field... how could that possibly be relevant?! Well if you remember well the story of Steel Magnolias you might see where this is going... but allow me to tell you the story of when I realized that Steel Magnolias was relevant to me...

In August my grandmother was coming to town and my mom saw that a local theater group was putting on a production of Steel Magnolias and it seemed like a fun thing for us to do all together.  We didn't really even talk about what Steel Magnolias was about aside from maybe a passing comment about those funny beauty shop ladies and how sad it was when Julia Roberts dies.  My mom was confused with Terms of Endearment and thought Julia was going to die of cancer.  I remembered it was diabetes related and thought she died of a diabetic shock.  Now obviously we both knew a main character was going to die so we hardly expected it not to be sad... BUT we did not remember that Julia Roberts character Shelby dies of hemodialysis complications soon after a successful kidney transplant in which her mom was the donor.  Nor did we realize it was based on a true story, the story of the playwright's sister.

We did not realize it until we are sitting in the theater watching Sally Field's extremely painful monologues about her daughters death and all realizing how way too close to home this was hitting.  What is interesting is that we had both seen the movie before a long time ago... it's just back then a kidney issue was so unremarkable and unemotional for us that we did not remember that element of the plot.  Now of course if I heard someone say 'my kid's knee' I'd like whip around and be like 'what kidney?'  But back then kidneys weren't significant so we forgot. 

Anyway we left and all brooded over Steel Magnolias for a couple of days and told each other and ourselves 'it's just a play' a lot. Which of course would have been more reassuring had it not been based on a true story... but either way it was just a story.  And for a few ignorant moments in my thinking about it, I remember thinking 'oh well, we are past that.  Addie has already had her transplant.  Her dialysis days are over.  She is not going to be a beautiful young mom dealing with this still.'  And then just as quickly as I had that thought, I realized that sadly that is not true and that she will be dealing with this all over again... and again.  And then it made it a lot harder to shake off.

I am not sure if I've ever written about this or not but a lot of people probably do not or did not know that my kidney will not last Addie the rest of her life.  We have been told anything from 10-20 years on average for how long she will get out of that kidney, even assuming she does not have acute or sudden rejection.  Even if everything goes really well, at some point she will start to gradually lose kidney function.  Sometime in her teenage or early adult years.  I am not sure my explanations are always 100% medically sound but they are close enough to make sense to me... so basically there are a couple of factors.  One is that even with her reduced immune system, her body is still fighting the kidney, albeit very slowly and gradually which affect its longevity.  Furthermore, the medications we have her on to prevent a sudden acute form of rejection are actually toxic to the kidney, again slowly so that in order to save her kidney in the short run we are inevitably damaging it in the long run. Hopefully it wouldn't be a sudden unexpected failure but more a slow trend that we would follow in her labs.  And there are lots of stories of people whose kidneys make is 25-30 years so it is certainly possible max and addie will have longer than 10-20 years.  And the fact that they both got parental kidneys should help them have them for longer.

But yeah one day they are going to go through all this again.  Maybe, hopefully, without dialysis if we can get a new kidney transplanted before the current one completely fails... but quite possibly they could need dialysis again in their teens and that is why Steel Magnolias is extra sad... because as hard as going through it with babies has been, I also hate to think about them going through it when they really understand what is going on.

But at the end of the day, as I've said many times before, we just have to live for today and love where we are at right now. Because that is a looooong time away and who knows by then.  Al likes to think there will be artificial kidneys by then! I like to think all the progress with medications and so forth will mean they make it longer.  Who knows.  And whenever we do face that in the future, we'll get through it.  I mean we got through it this time so I don't doubt we'll be just fine.  And I certainly do not want to spend the next 10-20 years worrying about it.  So we just have to love this wonderful gift of many many years with wonderful kidneys working brilliantly for them and help them grow up into resilient happy courageous people.  After all, for right now, we really aren't too worried about life with them as teenagers and are just so extremely grateful and thankful that this dialysis phase is long over for Addie and quickly wrapping up for Max. 

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