My husband had been spending so much time, energy and effort to making sure I was keeping up with my appointments, making sure I wasn’t secretly doing anything to “off” myself and shielding me from my family that he didn’t have anytime to focus on his kidney disease and taking care of himself & I wasn’t there or rather I wasn’t able to look beyond my pain and take care of him for those many many months. So when we finally got the news that his situation was indeed getting worse and we HAD to get our act together – I finally agreed to taking meds. They started me on a very low dose of Prozac (10mg, which isn’t even considered therapeutic but my body is very sensitive to drugs so my doc likes to take baby steps). Things did improve marginally, I started to acknowledge that yes, I did need the chemical help. They then upped my dosage to 20 & then 30. I got into “action” mode, we went and saw his (then) incompetent nephrologist. She dropped the ball on so many occasions inspite of being informed by his PCP about the gout, rise in uric acid etc, she sat on her hands and did nothing! The PCP treated his gout (he was 29 at the time). Things deteriorated and she sat on her hands and then chose to leave a voicemail (out of the blue) on his phone saying he needed to get ready to get put on the transplant list. We went to see her and she says to my husband, “Oh, did you think this wouldn’t happen to you ? The UW hospital wont even consider you for a transplant, you are overweight and no way will you get on the list”. She then went on to tell us his potassium was 5.5 and he could have a cardiac event at anytime and could drop dead. I almost punched her in the face & till date am very proud of the restraint I showed. She then proceeded to give us this hand out that told us what were high potassium food that needed to avoid and he will soon have control phosphorus too. I asked her for a sticky note and a pen to write stuff down and she was so reluctant to give me a f*****g pen! This whole incident shocked me into reality, my husband was the patient here, he was the one facing a critical illness and I had to be the one to stand up for him and make him take care of himself. I talked to our PCP and told her about the nephrologist and then our PCP referred us to a Dr. Bruce O’Neill at the Polyclinic in Seattle. He was and still is our guardian angel! He took the time (like an hour almost) to explain to us where things were and that it wasn’t the end of the world. He said there are meds that he can try and that hubby needed to go on a strict diet and exercise regime to reduce the load on his kidneys. He gave us a plan to follow and I made my husband start working out with this real awesome, patient and caring trainer (Chris Schotzko at the ProClub in Bellevue). I am good at few things in life and being organized is certainly one of those things. I started to make my husband’s meals (I was cooking after such a long time!). He likes to eat interesting foods and getting him on such a restrictive diet was heart breaking to me. I researched more and more recipes, altered them to be kidney friendly and he found it easier to stick to the diet. We worked together as a team, it brought us so much closer, made me feel mentally so much better and had so much to look forward too in terms of progress.
Very understandably my husband was getting to be depressed with this whole situation. My parents were there living with us at this point and I found this quite stressful & I think my mental situation may have exaggerated the stress too. One day I stopped by Whole Foods to grab some veggies for my husbands meals and there I saw this dog tied to the bench just sitting there.
Did I mention that I wasn’t a dog or a pet person in general ? Well I wasn’t! My husband on the other hand grew up with dogs, cats and who knows what else! I told him right in the beginning of our relationship that we would never have dogs or cats or pets if we got married. He was ok making that compromise. I had been reading up on kidney patients and how they tend to do much better when with dogs. So I had “resigned” myself to a compromise of getting a dog to help him. I had researched German Shepherds, Goldens, Cavaliar King Charles & seemed like the Cavs would be the best breed for us. I was looking into reputable breeders (I was aware of puppy mills and commercial breeders so was doing my due diligence to ensure we didn’t support any of those). That’s when I came across this dog…I didn’t know what breed this was or why the hell, he/she was having such a supremely calming effect on me so instantly. I never liked touching animals & this one got me to touch him/her and it was like a switch flipped inside of me. I knew on some level that that’s the breed we were going to get. I got home, showed the picture to my husband and my parents (didn’t expect any support there but boy, was I wrong!). Everyone was so excited wanting to find out more about this breed! So I actually looked up breeds in alphabetical order to find out what breed this was! Thankfully “Bernese Mountain Dog” appears earlier alphabetically than most other breeds 🙂 So then we went around researching this breed, we even took a quiz to find the right breed for us & newfies and Berners were our 1st most compatible and 2nd most compatible in the results. So we looked more and realized that we would HAVE to buy a house with a yard to have a Berner and that’s what we did! We searched and searched and bought our place suitable for a Berner. We talked to several breeders and finally were put down for a pup from one’s Cindy Switzler’s future litters (average wait for a Berner puppy can be anywhere from 8-12 months). I continued to stay on my meds, my husband on his diet and exercise regimen. We brought our first fur bundle of joy on Dec 26th, 2011. Oh boy, he was crying on the way home to WA from OR. I finally pulled over and told my husband to drive and took the pup from him. Its very interesting how “maternal instinct” kicks in for a woman who doesn’t have a child or has never held a puppy before! That instant in the car when I held my pup and snuggled him and calmed him down was the instant I became a “mom”. Long story short, Wriggy brought complete joy to us and kicked our butts at the same time! My husband’s mental energy improved, we were so in love with Wriggy. He became our whole world & I cannot explain how this changes things from doom & gloom of the kidney disease and my depression to looking forward to life that next thing we wanted to do with our pup. He constantly had playdates scheduled and watching 2 pups play is experiencing pure unadulterated joy!
A year passed & we started noticing how clingy W was to us, so we asked Cindy to put us down for another pup & we brought Harry home Dec 22nd, 2012! I cannot say how much our life has indeed improved since then.
While I say our life has improved, every day presents its own challenges. I still have good days and bad days. The best advice I can give anyone in my situation is try to avoid your PTSD triggers, take your meds (easier said than done!), remember that there is NOTHING wrong with you or lacking in you – every one’s life experience is different & we were unfortunate enough to have unpleasant experiences that can cripple us & there’s always people with experiences that cripple them more – nothing diminishes what you went through and nothing diminishes what someone else went through. Force yourself to get help because you deserve it, keep up with therapy, stop blaming yourself, get all the help you need because you deserve to have a fun and happy life just as much as anyone else. Healing is not going to happen overnight, accept that and remember its not your fault or your shortcomings. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to push yourself – you don’t! You work at your pace, if you need a good cry or some alone time – take it but be cognizant that you need to check yourself to not over do it and go down the slippery slope to full blown depression. You do what makes you happy or what helps you take the baby steps towards recovery, get a new hobby if that will give you motivation. For me, photography helped a lot & still helps a lot! Hang in there, your happiness & your life are something you deserve & you should fight for!