Hi…My name is Paul Lumbag, and I need a haircut. Problem is, I promised my kids I wouldn’t cut my hair until I got a kidney transplant, and got off dialysis.
I live in Northeast Pennsylvania, just outside of Scranton. I am blood type A, and I go to Geisinger Medical Center in Wyoming Valley for transplant evaluations. Been on dialysis for close to four years due to a congenital defect. It’s a great way to stay alive, but a lousy way to live.
Paul’s transplant coordinator is Christy Miller, RN, 800-654-1228, http://www.mygeisinger.org.
In 1972, at age five, I was found to have a kidney disorder during a routine school physical. There was excessive protein spillover seen in the urinalysis. At the time, my father was in the military and we were living in Hawaii. This meant Tripler, the big pink hospital on the hill. I remember many trips and a few admissions, feeling tortured by the military docs, stuck on a ward with a bunch of old war vets. Perfect place to put a kid. I don’t remember thinking this was something to be worried about, aside from the dreaded trips to the hospital. I mean, I was 5 and invincible. I do remember as time went on, listening to the doctors explain what they thought was wrong, and what it meant. They came up with a diagnosis of polycystic kidney disease, and depending on what form, I was doomed. If it was the juvenile form, then I’d be dead by ten. If the adult, I might make 16. Well, I’m 42 now, the diagnosis of PKD has been dismissed by several doctors since, but being that my kidneys are too scarred up, it is impossible to tell through biopsy what was wrong in the first place. Up until last year, this disease has had very little effect on the physical aspects of my life. I was not allowed to play contact sports. That’s about it. Psychologically, it has had quite a bit of an impact, both on the surface, and underlying. It has contributed a great deal to who I am today, as well as the strange little detours I’ve taken to get here. In 2009, I went to the emergency room for stomach pains. Although I had been seeing a doctor on a regular basis, my bloodwork had been stable for the past ten years, I felt fine for the most part, and thought I just ate something a bit too old. The bloodwork done that day was a kick in the head. I was sliding into acute renal failure. I tried to make a joke of it to the er doc, considering that I worked in the hospital and had joked with him before. He basically said if you don’t take care of this, you will die. So, here I am. Still. They thought I might be able to hold up a couple of more months before needing dialysis, so they just prepped me for it. Surgery on the arm for fistula placement, explaining what the process entailed. Unfortunately, two weeks later, my numbers spiked higher, and it was back in the hospital for a portacath placement. I started dialysis that night. It has been a little over a year that I’ve been doing this. A lot has happened, a lot has changed. Due to the massive mood swings I’ve been having, and my tendency to internalize everything, it was suggested I write about this process. I appreciate the suggestion, and will try to take you along on this journey, throw in some flashbacks, and maybe even a few pictures. I’m not doing this for pity or charity or anything along those lines. More like some self centered therapy, letting off steam to whoever in the electronic atmosphere wants to catch it. I guess I should add that this may get a little messy, but honesty usually is.