Body from Soul

At 2:00 a.m. I am suddenly wide awake, needing to get to the bathroom to poop.  There isn’t time to press the call bell.  I struggle to the bathroom—and it is a struggle—and then back to bed.  I press the call bell, ostensibly to have the nursing staff empty my catheter bag but really just to have them here, human beings to talk to in the middle of the dark night.

My body is betraying me.  You’re supposed to have a bowel movement when you wake up around 7:00 a.m., not at 2:00 a.m.  It’s not supposed to be a struggle to get to the bathroom.  I am often aware of shortness of breath and am reminded that it accompanies kidney failure.  In the morning there will be blood work and we will see how things are going.

Dr. Mickey is a little uncertain about doing blood work that is medically unnecessary since we’re not going to treat.  I don’t know how to tell him that it is necessary because I need a reality check.  I don’t believe all this is happening.  I need to see numbers.

“The above formula only applies for GFR calculation when it is equal to the Clearance Rate.

“More precisely, GFR is the fluid flow rate between the glomerular capillaries and the Bowman’s capsule:


(And here you thought I didn’t have a sense of humor . . .)

My GFR (glomerular filtration rate) was 37 when I was admitted.  It went up to 40, then 37, 34, 37, 34.  It’s supposed to be 60.  At 30 you enter severe chronic kidney disease.  At 15 you either go on dialysis, get a kidney transplant, or put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

So here in the dark at 2:00 a.m., it’s time to take account.  The nurses leave, starting to shut my door.  I ask them to leave it open.  I never have my door open at night.  I always have the door closed and sleep all night.  Do you believe I’ve been here a month?  Shocking.  The man next door has been here a month and a half.  The average length of stay is five days; we’re making up for a lot of people who go home in two days.

But I was saying that it’s time to take account.  Did I do a good job with this life?

How are you with yours?  If Judgment Day is June 26 in the morning, how will you account?

There was an accountant who scrawled across his books, “Debit them, credit me—account settled!”  I spent the first fifty years of my life accepting the blame for everything, then I got religion and decided to balance the books by not accepting blame for anything in the second fifty years.  Works for me.

I wonder if there are people who—at 2:00 a.m.—are warmly, gently happy with the life they’ve lived?  I certainly am not but is that because of a bad life or because of chronic hyperglycemia?  Dr. Mickey asked me, vis a vis medication for emotional distress, what was my problem.   I pointed to Dr. Ron and said, “Ask him.”  He promptly said, “Despair.”

Did he have to say it so quickly and with such certainty?  C’mon guys, give me a break.  I added “irritability.”

Does everybody feel despair with a glucose of 431 and GFR of 34?  Does the body’s breakdown conspire to make you feel despair?  Is sickness the despair, or is the despair about sickness.  Naw-w-w, I remember.  I used to be happy.  I used to be clever and smart.  I also used to be twenty-three years old and wear a size three dress.

So the body breaks down.  The clay vessel crumbles, leaks and no longer serves its designed purpose.  But what of the spirit?  Can it still hold water?

You better believe it can.

God is.

When my spirit is done with this body then it will return home but you better believe that separating body from soul is a bitch.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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