Permanent Deferral

This week I learned that I can no longer donate blood.

I have B Negative blood. It’s reasonably rare in the general population: rare enough that in the past when I’ve mentioned I faint when giving blood, it’s been considered not a problem for me to donate. 

Someone donated B Negative blood and because of that, my Gran lived for me to know her. For the longest time, I was the only one who could donate for other people to pay back that gift of life that someone else gave to us. Gran was diabetic. Aunt Net had Hepatitis. Mom’s veins were too small to hit reliably. 

You can drive a cardiac needle into my veins. They’re that big. So what if I always fainted? I was giving someone else their grandmother or their child. I can’t do that anymore and it’s a bigger blow than I expected it to be. I hadn’t realized how much of my identity I had wrapped into that act relatively simple act.

They were willing to put up with me fainting if I was willing to donate. Stage three chronic kidney disease, on the other hand, is a permanent deferral. Put simply: I need my blood too much to give it to other people. Blood flow influences kidney function and I have to protect my kidneys.

In theory, if I get better someday, I can donate again. Chronic Kidney Disease does not get better. 

You maintain where you’re at or it progresses. That is how CKD works. CKD is the other health problem that has been in the background, the one that I haven’t wanted to mention. The one that I’ve been fighting without really telling everyone about it. It’s the one that I don’t want to be real, but it’s all too real.

Many people maintain for decades without progressing. My doctor says I shouldn’t obsess or worry about it. I just need to be proactive in protecting my kidneys.

Proactive. That’s a polite way of saying “obsessive,” because this situation cannot be allowed to progress. Progressing means medication and dialysis and a sitting on waiting list for a transplant. That’s not even an option. It can’t be allowed to happen. That means everything is now about my kidneys. 

I can’t take ibuprofen anymore. It’s hard on the kidneys. Naproxen helps when I have a migraine. It’s hard on the kidneys, so it’s limited to migraine use only. My liver function is great, so I may have up to 500 mgs of acetaminophen to treat normal pain, like a normal headache. Anything beyond that needs a call to my doctor to get approval to use it because it might be hard on the kidneys and I no longer have kidney function to spare.

Currently, every four months I get to have my Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) done to make sure my kidneys are still maintaining their current level of functioning. My next test is in April. If I hold steady for long enough, I may be able to go down to testing twice a year.

I have to start trying to get the flu shot every year and treat my reaction to the flu shot. I  cannot afford to get sick. My kidneys have to be protected. I cannot allow this condition to progress.

And now I can’t donate blood. I can’t be the person who gives other people their loved ones. I’m too sick for that now. Unless someone comes up with a regenerative therapy for renal damage, I always will be too sick to donate blood. I have to figure out how to live with that.

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