“When you walk into the Dutch Dialysis Center you see blood everywhere.” Sherri Rosen accompanies a male friend to dialysis and learns about herself in the process.
His name is Henk. He is 59 years old. He lives in Holland and is dealing with a health crisis, and he is my friend. I would describe him with a Yiddish expression as a “mensch”, someone who is really nice.
I went to visit him in Amsterdam, Holland a week after New Years. We had met on the internet over 10 years ago, and this was the first time we were to meet in person.
He has been suffering from kidney disease for over a year, and has to go to dialysis 3 times a week. Before I came over he asked me if I would like to go with him. It’s a 4 hour process. I thought about it and said I would go. He goes from 3 pm until 7pm.
I went with him on the first day I arrived in Amsterdam. A taxi service has been arranged to bring him to the dialysis clinic and be there when he needs to go home
When you walk into the Dutch Dialysis Center you see blood everywhere. Not in a violent or messy sense, but people attached to machines where you see their blood traveling through tubes to be cleansed and help them stay alive. They are each in private cubicles separated by curtains.
Beforehand Henk asked me if I wanted to watch a DVD during the long process with him, so we chose to watch “Dr. Zhivago”.
I told Henk that I just did not want to see the needle injected in him and taken out. I asked him if it was painful when they put the needle in and take it out and he said yes. They keep using the same vein to make it healthy and strong to undergo such weekly treatments.
It seemed like such a natural occurrence for me to be there with him, and he was so very appreciative of my support. He even asked me what food he should buy for me ahead of time so I could eat while there. The center gives each patient supper if they are there in the early evening consisting of protein, starch, a vegetable, yogurt for dessert and juice.
I kept nodding off because I was so tired from the seven and a half hour flight. My friend kept thanking me for coming. He was surprised that I would actually come and I was surprised that it seemed the most natural thing to do.
I’ve never had such an appreciation for blood—and such an appreciation for all these lives that were being saved and seeing my friend so well taken care of by the nurses. The people see one another every week so a community is formed with one another saying hello, sometimes joking with nurses or sometimes feeling very depressed and not wanting to talk. My friend told me many feel hopeless, but Henk has this wonderful youthful spirit full of hope. He also told me he is not afraid to die.
I had another male friend who had to go thru dialysis many years ago before he got his transplant, but would never allow his wife and 2 children or anyone of his family or friends to see him while he was hooked up to the dialysis machine.
The dialysis machines make these funny sounding noises if everything is okay and another sound if a patient’s machine needs regulating. The nurses are very aware of what is going on and are constantly checking the patients. There is also another sound when the patient’s 4 hour treatment is up. My friend would look at his machine and occasionally he would have to make adjustments. Before the doctor knew what my friend was suffering from he almost died. Could not walk and had to depend upon his friends and his brother to keep him alive. Such a challenge for a very independent man who was never in any kind of long term relationship. He said that, “I would now like to come home to someone to share my life with.”
When his doctor says he is ready for a kidney transplant his name goes on a list or Henk’s brother may donate his kidney if he is in good health at the time. My friend said, “I would do the same for my brother.” His younger brother was so scared of losing him, because the rest of the family is deceased and they love one another.
While there, Henk would check his cellphone, watch the film, look at me and smile and continuously say, “thank you for coming with me.” I would also witness his energy become more vibrant as his blood was being purified. So much so that after the taxi dropped us off to go home we went to a local cafe for a coffee and dessert, and the next 2 days we toured all through Amsterdam.
How many men do I know that would allow me to see them in this most vulnerable state? Not many, but when they do I feel their courage and strength and it’s not only healing for them but for me as well.
Photo: newslighter / flickr