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Pain hurts.

Let me be very clear about that: pain hurts. Pain is not just the body's way of saying, "Stop that this instant!" — over the long term it's debilitating, enervating, and several other -ings.

Five nights a week, week in and week out, I have to hurt the person I love more than life itself. I have to cause pain that's often severe enough for her to cry out loud.

Five nights a week, knowing what's about to come, she sits and accepts it.

This, to me, is true bravery: doing what you know has to be done, whatever the pain and personal cost.

And yesterday was Kitsap River's birthday.

My partner, Kitsap River, has written eloquently about dialysis in Chronic Tonic and KosAbility diaries, but one aspect she somehow omitted was that in order to reduce (not eliminate, but somehow make bearable) the pain of injecting herself with two big-assed 15-gauge needles, I have to pre-inject her access sites with Lidocaine.

Most hemodialysis patients use Emlacream (an ointment containing Lidocaine and Prilocaine) to numb their buttonhole sites, but she's allergic to the stuff; it gives her the rash from Hell. Others are able to use a Lidocaine patch, but the adhesive causes an even worse inflammation.

So, five nights a week, I have to hurt the one I love. And five nights a week, she endures it.

I first met her at a social gathering; she was giving away some of her late husband's special T-shirts. I asked for two of them— one in particular had a heart-shaped tie-dye design that I found quite appealing. (I later learned it was part of a matched set, and Kitsap River agreed to let me take it after deciding we probably wouldn't see each other again so there wouldn't be any mental trauma of having someone other than her late husband wearing it. Irony, much?)

It turned out that our social circles overlapped, and I would see her from time to time. She always made a point of saying "hello", even (or especially) when I was feeling particularly depressed. (I was going through a very nasty relationship breakup at the time.) We began to IM each other, and when she found out I was going to be essentially alone for Thanksgiving she invited me to a mutual acquaintance's holiday feast.

We hit it off amazingly well and agreed to meet up later that night at a party. One of her cats had been hit by a car the day before and was in hospital, which is why we simply didn't go directly to the party; Trouble (the cat's well-earned name) eventually lost a leg but thrived for a number of years afterward.

That Thanksgiving was our first date, and it has never stopped. I proposed to her the following New Year's Day, we were handfasted in August and married at the end of the next January.

I love her deeply, and admire her even more.

Five nights a week, I have to hurt the one I love. And five nights a week, she endures it.

Pre-dialysis Lidocaine is injected subcutaneously — that is, into the layer of tissue between the outer skin and muscle. The needle goes through the layer which contains pain receptors; moreover, the Lidocaine itself causes a burning sensation prior to becoming effective. Once I've done the sub-Q (as it's called) injection (or injections; sometimes I have to do this on either side of her dialysis channel), I have to inject more Lidocaine directly into the channel. If the Lidocaine has done its job, this doesn't hurt quite so much.

Then I do it again, into the second channel.

This hurts; she knows I know it, and tries very hard not to admit how much it hurts, but it's not always possible and she cries aloud with the pain.

Five nights a week, I have to hurt the one I love. And five nights a week, she endures it.

My beloved's birthday was yesterday, the 10th of December. We spent much of it at the Northwest Kidney Center for her regular monthly checkup. That night, as we do five nights a week, we did dialysis.

Only afterward, only when she had finished enduring the pain in order to stay alive, only then did we enjoy a quiet dinner together.

Five nights a week, I have to hurt the one I love. And five nights a week, she endures it.

She is the bravest person I know, and I love her dearly.

Please wish her a belated Happy Birthday in the comments below.

Updated: This is my obligatory "Thank you for my first time on the Rec List" update, although (strictly speaking) I've been here before; I posted this diary via Kitsap River's account last year.

Once again, thank you — and thank you, my beloved, for being who you are.

Originally posted to Charles CurtisStanley on Sat Dec 11, 2010 at 03:10 PM PST.

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