PKD Connection Blog

PKD Will Not Beat Me

A good day

Valen with her infusion nurse, Michael Torres.

When you live with chronic health issues, the definition of a good day can be much simpler than what most people think. I have also learned that we cross paths with people for a reason. There are individuals in the medical field that are exceptional at their jobs and deserve to be recognized. I was fortunate to have a medical angel for a nurse during my recent sepsis episode in Pennsylvania who made every day I needed to get an infusion a good day.

After 10 days in York Hospital battling sepsis, I returned to my parents’ home in York, Penn. and was drained from all that my body and mind had endured. When I was released from the hospital, the fight and treatments weren’t over. My blood cultures revealed that there was bacteria in my bloodstream but my doctors were unable to determine the cause. The best treatment was a two-week course of antibiotics administered intravenously. My infectious disease doctor at York Hospital opted out of having me get a PICC line for fear of infection and wanted me to try and keep a peripheral IV for the remainder of my treatment post-hospital stay. This included one week of going to an infusion center and getting antibiotics daily.

I am a habitual “hard stick,” whether for labs or an IV. My veins are tiny and have a tendancy to roll and my IVs quickly clot when there is not fluid flowing constantly through the vein. The thought of leaving the hospital with an IV and hoping it would work every day at the infusion center and then being saline-locked until the treatment the next day was quite concerning. I left the hospital with the mindset of “one day at a time.”

Valen receiving an antibiotic infusion.

My mom and I arrived at the infusion center the day after I was released from the hospital and that was when I met my infusion nurse, Michael Torres, aka “Big Mike.” He had kind blue eyes and a sweet demeanor. I had a good feeling about him right away. I have been a patient since the age of five, so I have learned to analyze those caring for me right away and assess their aura. He flushed my IV that was still in from my hospital stay and it instantly infiltrated. I thought, ‘Here we go.’ There was no option but to remove the IV and put another one in. Michael put the tourniquet below my left elbow, looked at my arm while turning it to the left and right, did not feel for a vein and then opened the IV kit to place the IV. Next thing I knew, the IV was in my vein, there was good blood return and I tasted saline in my mouth, which I love because that is the taste of success. I was shocked, speechless and grateful. How did Michael put an IV in my arm on the first stick and without feeling for a vein? Can I say “medical angel?” Yes!

As the next couple of days unfolded, I went into the infusion center where the antibiotics were given and I was sent on my merry way. It went way easier than I imagined. After several days, though, my IV failed and I needed another one. Once again, Michael got me on the first stick without feeling for the vein. I was amazingly impressed. I needed to know his secret. He said that he looks for the shadows of the veins versus feeling for them. Incredible! I have never met anyone like Big Mike. My second IV lasted the remainder of the week. I was in awe as I walked out of the infusion center every day giving my mom or dad a thumbs up, high fives and a hug as we happily exited the building. I was overjoyed and relieved every time that my appointment went smoothly, having forgone countless sticks, pain and stress. Leaving Apple Hill Medical Center after accomplishing my main goal of the day, getting the vital antibiotics that I needed, equaled a good day in my world.

Valen feeling happy on her last infusion day.

While it may have seemed to Michael that he was just doing his job, he was helping me heal by making a challenging time in my life better than expected. He showed me that exceptional individuals in the medical field can make difficult tasks easier, and he made my treatments an enjoyable experience with his happy spirit, eliminating a lot of potential stress. A fun connection that Michael and I discovered at my last appointment was that he knows my dad. It is a small world and I believe I crossed paths with this special infusion nurse for a reason.

My white blood cell count wound up spiking again while I was getting my IV antibiotic infusions, meaning there was an infection brewing. Due to this, my doctor had me take an extra week of oral antibiotics when I was finished with my infusions. I’m now back home in California getting weekly bloodwork and more diagnostic tests. I’m also seeing an infectious disease doctor, hoping to catch the infection before it gets in my bloodstream again, and still searching for the cause of my sepsis.

Our health can simplify some of the seemingly complex things in life and show us what truly matters. Although I was exhausted and not feeling well after I got out of the hospital, my mom, dad and I made the best of our days together. Accomplishing the important task of getting the necessary meds I needed to recover counted as a good day in our minds. Anything else beyond that was a bonus. Life is precious. I encourage you to find the good in every day, no matter how big or small it may be.

Do you have someone in the medical field who had a positive impact on your health journey? If so, I encourage you to share your story and acknowledge and commend them for their efforts.

What do you classify as a good day?

Comments

  1. Maureen Gardner says:

    Thanks Valen for sharing this amazing, uplifting story!!!

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      You’re so welcome, Maureen! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. xo

  2. Laura Callahan says:

    Valen,
    Thanks for sharing your story. You never cease to amaze with your constant positive spirit and resilience. I really appreciate that you took the time to recognize Michael, despite all the pain, fatigue and frustration you were experiencing.
    Hope to see you soon!
    Laura Callahan

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      Hi Laura,
      You’re very welcome! Thank you for your sweet sentiments and for your support of my blog and my journey. 🙂 Michael was a positive part of my sepsis health hiccup and I’m so happy to be able to recognize him. I hope to see you soon, too! Hugs!

  3. dominique says:

    you are amazing and it does help when one has caring professionals to help comfort you when it can be scary.. i too have small veins ..i try and conquer the days when i go to dialysis im glad to leave afterwards and proceed with life as usual as this allows me too.. hope they find answers for you then please share //hugs to you Valen

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      Aww, thank you sweet Dominique! You are so right, it is very comforting to have caring professionals to help us along this PKD journey of ours. I can totally relate to how relieving it feels when a dialysis treatment is complete and knowing you have a small amount of freedom until the next treatment. I hope you are feeling well and able to rest and enjoy your time outside of dialysis. I’m cheering you on and hope you receive a transplant real soon. Thank you very much for your well wishes. I’m hoping for answers too and will be sure to share. Big hugs to you!

  4. Jan says:

    My transplant Angel Nurse Practitioner that I had for almost 20 years , just retired in May. I actually cried when she phoned to tell me. She was my everything and always took the very best care of me. I never worried knowing she was always there for me. It’s been quite an adjustment getting used to someone new. We haven’t met in person yet and I’m hoping that will help when we do meet in September. It is wonderful when you have that very special someone, that you trust with your whole heart. Keep well my dear xo

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      Aww, I’m so sorry that your angel, who provided you immense comfort, great care and who you wholeheartedly trusted, has retired. I know that if my nephrologist retires, I would cry too. Trusting someone outside of yourself with your health is something really special and I’m sure it was hard for your nurse practitioner to say bye to you. I hope with time that you are able to gain trust with the person who is now your nurse practitioner. Your angel will always hold a special place in your heart and I trust that you hold a special place in hers as well. I hope your first meeting in September goes great! Hugs my friend! xo

  5. DONNA M MYERS says:

    Thanks for continuing to share your story, i too have small viens that roll but i have been meeting people who like Michael who get them with one go.

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      You are very welcome, Donna. It is an honor to share my journey.
      It is so comforting and encouraging when we find those special individuals who find our veins and especially on the first stick. I’m glad that you are crossing paths with talented people in the medical field who are making things easier on you since you too have small veins that roll. Wishing you the best!

  6. Christine Richer says:

    I had a good experience recently getting my blood drawn at Baystate Medical Center Transplant Services lab. The woman saw that my arm was cold and put a hot pack on it to draw up the veins. Then she found a tiny vein I didn’t even know I had and got five tubes from it! Such a pleasure to not be stuck 3 times as usual! Thanks again for sharing your story and reminding us to find the good in every day! Take care, Chris

    1. Valen Keefer says:

      Ahh, this is wonderful! So happy to hear that you had a good experience getting blood drawn. I have a phlebotomist at my local lab that I really like and I have him draw my blood every month. He always puts a little hot pack on my arm first and it really seems to help. Thank you for sharing your positive experience. I hope you have many more smooth blood draws.
      You’re so welcome, Christine. It is my pleasure and honor to share my journey. I hope you are having a beautiful day! 🙂

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