By Bill Peckham
DSEN has taken a turn, hasn't it? It went by fast these last three years ... someday I'll have to tell you about it. But for me, for now, I have been given the opportunity to go back to work and I welcome the chance.
My immediate goal is to work 330 hours by April 1. If I do that, I earn three months of health insurance (including dental) starting May 1; 330 paid hours in a three month period is just the first step but everything else depends on it. I work through the carpenter's union as a tradeshow specialist, something I've been doing for 16 years. The union's health insurance is very good, it reimburses for charges not covered by Medicare, for instance dialysis abroad.
Work = Insurance, Insurance = Travel, thus Work = Travel ... I figured out that little equasion about 6 hours into my first union shift in January 1995. It was the Seattle Boat Show, which was going in at the old Kingdome, former home of the Seahawks and Mariners. A college friend worked for GES, a big national tradeshow company that was setting it up, and they needed bodies to fill out the install crew. The union had an open call.
This being the days before Facebook, I think K called me to get access to some of my lay about friends. Since my transplant had failed in 1990 I had been using dialysis and mostly not worked, but K and I had been to Burning Man the previous Labor Day Weekend so maybe she thought I would be willing to do it. It was an overnight shift carpeting the 100 Level of the Kingdome for the show opening the next day.
We had to kick out rolls of 9' wide carpet and tape them down. The 100 Level had to have been half a mile around; the crew I was on carpeted it, one roll of carpet at a time, all night. Some of the rolls were 100 footers and it took three guys mule kicking it in sync to get it to roll out, others were shorter and could be handled alone or with one other guy. Once the carpet was kicked out it had to be taped down on all four sides. There were rolls and rolls of 2" double stick tape. This went on through the night, we had a 30 minute lunch dinner food break about 2 in the morning, plus the 15 minute union break every two hours.
It was about as bad a first shift as it sounds, but it was also fun and exhilarating. To just work, to be working. The physicality of it, the camaraderie, the bitching. I was so physically tired, my muscles so sore but as physically tiring as it was, mentally it was energizing. It was like waking up. Maybe this experience is why FixDialysis with its focus on Re/habilitation speaks so strongly to me, I know it can be done and there was a time when I didn't think it was possible. But after that first shift I took another, and then another. I would dialyze incenter three days a week and take shifts that fit. By 2001 I had switched companies, jobs and dialysis modalities. At work I spent a lot more time at a computer than I did on my feet and at home I dialyzed, first on the B Braun then on the Aksys PHD. These were good years. Years of work, travel and volunteering.
By the time I started DSEN over Christmas 2007 I had increased my commitment to volunteer activities at the cost of deemphasizing work, and for the next three years volunteering was a priority. These too were good years, I'll take the good and the bad. I feel like I made good use of my time away from work, immersed in CKD advocacy and the provision of dialysis, but now I need to get back on the clock. It is time for me to reemphasize work, regain health insurance and start visiting new countries. Work still equals Travel.
The tradeshow business follows a business cycle, the season starts about now and goes to the weeks before Thanksgiving with a slow period usually in the summer (August conventions? Not popular). Today was my first shift of the new year. I'm back on my feet, working in the graphics department as production lead, which should keep me busy if I can keep up.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I last worked on my feet, week after week, month after month. For now DSEN will mostly be reporting from this journey to 330, however, I can't help but keep an eye on industry news and trends, in advocacy, reimbursement, politics and the provision of dialysis. But for now, certainly for the next three months, DSEN will be about me, work, and thoughts on what it means to be rehabilitated. I'll tell the tale of combining dialysis, volunteering and work, with the emphasis on work ... and if the plan comes together dialysis, volunteering, work and travel. (Spoiler alert: To me rehabilitation means being able to do all four).
I had 7 hours and forty five minutes clocked today; my feet are tired; my back hurts; I need a shower.