I didn’t plan on being here. At one point, not too long ago, I had aspirations. Nothing too lofty, just a loose plan to climb a corporate step-ladder. I worked in the medical industry. No, I wasn’t a doctor, or nurse, or any kind of caregiver. I designed and tested devices that those people used in their professions to heal people, repair people, give people hope. And by doing so I gave myself hope, too. I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong. I had dreams of being in the Navy many years ago, but a heart condition prevented those dreams from coming true. I’ve regretted that periodically, throughout the years, but never to the extent that it caused longful mourning for a life lost to chance. Perhaps that’s why I ended up in the medical field; a need to do good by others that could not be fulfilled through military service to my country.
My life as a product designer was enjoyable. I like working with my hands and that work allowed me to do that. Bending, cutting, and grinding steel into a widget or contraption to perform this or that task. Doing good for humanity and enjoying your job is not a bad way to scuttle through life. About 8 years ago I got some bad news, however. During the Spring, or Summer of 2011, or 2010 I began developing high blood pressure. It was unexpected as I was only in my late 30’s, wasn’t in bad shape, and didn’t have a family history of it. The dots in my head didn’t connect for about a month regarding what it could possibly be caused by. A sonogram later I had my answer. I had Polycystic Kidney Disease or PKD.
PKD is inherited. My Mother has it, her father had it, his mother had it, and even my own daughter has it. Some years ago I had been tested and was told I did not have it so the thought of it entering my life this late in the game never crossed my mind. There’s no cure for it, and it leads to complete kidney failure and the need for dialysis and a transplant. At the time I had 60% kidney function so the news wasn’t life-changing. I kept working and just took my high blood pressure medicine as my doctor told me to.
In 2015 the company I was working for started having financial problems and I was beginning to sniff out opportunities for other work in case things really went south. The company I worked for sub-contracted me out to West Pharmaceutical, that leased space in our building and most of the work I did was actually for them. West offered me a job as their 3D CAD modeler, to be in charge of maintaining the models of their current projects. It would have been a decent paying position, with nice benefits, employee investment in the way of training, possibly some travel, and a way to expand my skillset. Me, being the savagely intelligent idiot I am decided to instead go to work for a start-up company on the brink of deploying to the world a medical device that would make everyone at the company rich beyond their wildest dreams. At this point, you can see where this is going.
I worked for this startup for about a year, was paid one (1) time, went thousands of dollars into debt with family and friends, and watched the company fold under, taking my tens of thousands of dollars I was owed with it. The owner of the company took off to Alaska and never spoke to any of us again. And to top the year off I began getting sick right around the end of my unemployment payouts.
With failed kidneys and no prospects for work, I filed for my disability with the help of my wonderfully awesome girlfriend, Morgan. The year is now 2015, I’m at 15% kidney function, and I’m suffering from the effects of Stage IV kidney failure: fatigue, nausea, weakness, tiredness, and ruptured cysts that feel like you’ve been shot by a bullet for three days to a week at a time. Of course our wonderful government, adeptly slow at the minutest of tasks, took 3 appeals and 2 years to approve my disability. From other horror stories I’ve heard I count myself among the lucky ones. Even my own lawyer had told me to not get my hopes up.
After having basically mooched off my girlfriend for 2 years I was finally check-in-hand! I paid off my child support, caught up on our bills, lost nearly all of our food stamps, had our rent at the Housing Authority increase by $400 dollars a month, and lost my Medicaid for a $1060 disability check. Grateful to finally not have to deal with the nightmare that is the Social Security Administration, we were now just as bad off as we were living on just my girlfriend’s disability check. But I digress.
There are many positives in my life. I have a wonderful girlfriend, my bills get paid, I have my own dialysis machine so I can perform my treatments at home instead of in the meat locker they call the dialysis clinic. Ten hours of dialysis a day sounds bad, but it’s really not that awful. After all, I have a 20-foot tube so I can access at least half of our apartment while I’m “hooked up”. I’m on a waiting list for a kidney. And now I am the proud owner of an orange and white, ridiculously hairy, turd of a cat named Frodo.
Our lives aren’t amazing, but we get by. My girlfriend and I enjoy each other’s company. We go to Wal-Mart and smell all the candles at least once a month. And I find the older I get the angrier I get about politics, which takes up a good portion of my days. I cannot complain too loudly about my situation in life. I sometimes think of choices I didn’t make, as does everyone I suppose. Maybe next time.