I had only heard the word 'kidney dialysis', didn't know what it all entailed, how life changing it is for those concerned until a few years ago when a friend of ours, out of the blue was diagnosed. 'Out of the blue' seems to be the norm. After which there is a complete lifestyle change, a disruption of normal life routines, your name on a waiting list for a new kidney, if you're a suitable candidate, if one can be found which your body won't reject..........when your turn comes.
Now dialysis is a word that pops up regularly because a member of our extended family has been diagnosed with kidney problems. The dialysis machine does the work of the kidneys when they are no longer able to clean all those wastes from your blood.
Three times a week this 85 year old woman, Eleni, the sister of my daughter's mother-in-law, must travel one and a half hours to the Clinic, spend 3 hours being hooked up to a dialysis machine and then one and a half hours home again. She's lucky to be part of a large close-knit family. There is always someone to drive her there and back. Otherwise she would have to take a seat in a small bus which takes all the local patients 3 times a week. The bus will only take her and not her escort and the whole journey would be much longer and far more tiring.
Last Wednesday no-one else was available so I took Eleni and 80 year old Tasia, her sister, as escort. It is summer, it was hot. Winter will mean snow and rain and wind but they must go whatever the skies hurl at them.
Eleni and Tasia are the maiden aunts who brought up their siblings 9 children while the parents were working long hours in the tourist industry.
Eleni made huge loaves of sourdough bread decorated with red eggs at easter, walnuts and almonds at Christmas. She made the most amazing fried feta cheese flat bread, piles of it and gave it away to all the cousins and nephews and neices, and us too once we were part of the family. She taught me how to roll and cook homemade pasta. Every season had some home made speciality which all the family loved, loves still. Tasia has goats and the easter sacrificial lamb was always one of hers. Eggs? I've never known hens to lay so many eggs. Another 20 were 'forced' on me when I brought them home the other day. Fresh eggs for our growing grandchildren.
The goats have now gone. Tasia no longer has time to look after them. Her main concern is her sister. Eleni walks but unsteadily now. Tasia is always at her elbow. These are two strong and caring women.
Eleni's rose bushes are legend. She grows the biggest, most luscious blooms in every colour, looks after her garden as she looked after the nephews and nieces, and now the 'greats'.
The clinic is relatively new by the looks of it and naturally very clean. There is a waiting room with soft chairs and coffee is offered for those waiting, without charge. I didn't waste any time ordering an iced coffee (frappé). The aircon was at a comfortable temperature and I could have spent 3 hours there reading and drinking coffee with ease
After an hour the previous lot of patients all trooped, shuffled downstairs. Most of them in their 80's, as they told us later while discussing benefits and costs, all of them having dialysis for years, all cheerful, all ready for a chat. All with a permanent tube in their arm or shoulder.
The treatment for those 85 and older is free and they get an amount to pay for their transport.
They sat and waited for their bus, eating their toasted sandwich and drinking the orange juice provided by the staff. One of them in a wheelchair, some just able to walk and some from towns even further away than ours.
I brought a book with me but didn't even open it. Greeks don't read and it seemed rude to sit and engross myself in this story* instead of talking to Tasia and trying to make those 3 hours less of a burden for her.
Next time I'll drop them off and go shopping.
* Sol, the book is Harry Mount's Odyssey
Ancient Greece in the footsteps of Odysseus.
By Harry Mount