Stella Odie-Ali – In-Center Patient

It was Tuesday, March 4, 2010. After almost a month, I had been discharged from the hospital the previous day. Most of my painful hospitalization was spent in intensive care on a diagnosis of sepsis. Many of my siblings and their families had traveled to Fort Myers when my situation was critical and had all lovingly rallied around me. On this day my brother, who had flown in from New York, had driven me to Fort Myers DaVita and escorted me through the walkway. In addition to my bodily pains and weak physical state, all the negatives that I had heard about dialysis weighed heavily on my heart and I was so encompassed by trepidation that even the beauty of the picture-perfect Florida day was lost to me. I was barely aware of my surroundings.

Then, surprisingly, the sweet sound of my own name filled the air and pierced my depressing thoughts. “Ms Odie!” said a happy and booming male voice. “Welcome to Fort Myers DaVita!” Wow, I thought, someone here not only knows who I am but has come out to welcome me. Later when my family was discussing the events of my first day on dialysis, my brother expressed how grateful and impressed he had been.

I looked up and came face to face with a burly young man dressed in hospital garb, standing by an open door. He walked towards me, led me towards the open door and pleasantly introduced himself as David, a patient care technician. David’s enthusiastic welcome was so infectious that the patients in the waiting room also smiled at me.

The surroundings in the patient care area presented another surprise. Yes, there were the scary space-age looking dialysis machines that I had previously seen in the hospital, but the room was far from the depression I was expecting. The area was clean, airy and well lit. There were motivational slogans strategically placed all around. The main wall caught my eye. It was colorfully decorated with happy photographs of patients who had celebrated birthdays. Indeed, there was celebration of life in this place.

After David weighed me and escorted me to my chair, he sought to make me as comfortable as possible and proceeded to prepare me for the procedure that was about to take place. Then he loudly called out “Heparin!”and in a second, another white-coated man was beside me. David the technician introduced him as David the RN and left. David the RN shook my hand, warmly welcomed me and congratulated me on my decision to embark on hemodialysis. The expertise with which he attended to me left no doubt about his professionalism. But most of all, as I looked at him and listened to his summary of what was to follow, I was impressed by the genuine kindness in his eyes.

David the technician returned, this time accompanied by another technician. He explained that he was about to go off-duty and introduced his replacement Kim. She was equally warm and caring with a bubbly attitude and a gold-toothed smile. I liked her immediately. Yes, I thought, some of the nicest people do work here.

After Kim had hooked me up and my dialysis was comfortably in progress, it seemed as though every staff member was vying to welcome me and make me feel as comfortable as possible. I had to admit that their efforts were successful. I gradually began to relax and I actually snuggled down into my chair. First there was Janet, the administrative officer, who in addition to explaining the various forms that I was required to sign, brought me a gift of a blanket and a bag. Then there was Janice the pleasant dietitian, Erik the dapper social worker and the quiet nurse Ginny who told me that she was my caseworker. I deliberately closed my eyes as I needed to process and digest. And they all realized this and courteously let me be, while promising future contacts.

Just when I thought that I would doze off, the sound of music and other happy sounds assayed my ears. I saw Janice the dietitian dancing a jig while showing off a huge sign that boldly read 5.5. She looked so funny that I could not suppress a chuckle. Then Janice picked up a basket laden with gifts and presented it to a patient. Days later I learned that 5.5 represented the phosphorous level that the patient was able to keep. Cheers followed the presentation. The happiness of staff rippled over me as I am sure it did to my fellow patients. By the time my session was over, my trepidation had disappeared and I was comfortably anticipating my future. Thanks to the well-trained and caring staff of Fort Myers.