Many people struggle to stay warm. They flee to Florida and Arizona, to Spain, pretty much anywhere the summer springs eternal. When they cannot do that, they jack up the thermostat.

When my sister returned to Massachusetts on break from Arizona State University, she’d rack the heat way past 70° F. As soon as our mother or I heard the furnace fire up, we reset the thing to 68°. After all, we are New Englanders, frugal with our heating dollars and accustomed to a slight chill in the air. It is our idea of comfort.

Competing Needs

The other evening as my Tattooed Boy and I left a Melissa Etheridge concert, we simultaneously exclaimed at the precipitous drop in temperature. I reach for my corduroys as fall sets in; he grabs his hoodie. We both would prefer a little more winter if it meant a little less summer. Dressing well—or at least stylishly—is impossible at the torpid top of the calendar.

My Dear One does not agree.

A Worsening Situation

Kidney disease, among other things, has caused my Dear One to lose rather a lot of weight. The pounds persistently dropped from his big-boned, six-foot frame in the few years before the diagnosis. I worried about it to his doctors.

Later, as his kidneys performed less and less well, we used diet to control the numbers.

A pre-dialysis kidney diet restricts protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium. In other words, vegetables, meats and dairy are all on the bad list. Most food is on the bad list. Protein was reinstated when he started dialysis but we still had to avoid sodium, phosphorus and potassium. My Dear One quickly dropped another twenty pounds, bottoming out at 110. And I freaked out.

Bloodwork Saved My Sanity

After a couple rounds of bloodwork, however, his numbers were perfect even though he felt like hell and hardly had the strength to get upstairs to bed. Dr. Patel looked at the results and looked at us: “Eat whatever you want,” she said. “No problem,” we answered. I think we started with a quarter-pounder-with-cheese meal at MacDonald’s. Then I made a flan. If my Dear One had a yen for something, we put it on the menu.

It’s taken four months or so of the eat-whatever-you-damn-well-want diet but it is definitely working. The scale is back to 130, give or take. His face—still thin—has regained a look of health. His numbers are excellent.

On the other hand, my Dear One is still freezing his tushie off.

Dressing for Treatment

Shivering during dialysis is not a good thing.

We started with a pillow under that bony tushie, a blanket over the knees and a throw atop the shoulders. Wasn’t enough without layers of clothing.

sweatshirt, blanket and throw

Layering shirts doesn’t work for at least two reasons. First, I have to take his blood pressure every thirty minutes and that means I need access to the right arm. Second, I have to get to his fistula on the left arm in order to cannulate (insert the needles). Aside from those issues, the tubing must remain undisturbed during treatment. The Cycler, the machine that manages the blood flow, is exceedingly sensitive; flapping fabric could upset it.

improved sweatshirt and heating pad

My Dear One had a stroke of genius. What if we got a sweatshirt and cut the left sleeve off it? I ran to Walmart for a sweatshirt, snipped the sleeve away. We attached the blood pressure cuff before he put it on and ran the air tube down the right sleeve. The fistula on the left remained available. No problem.

“Warm enough?” I inquired.

“Better.” But the bare arm, the fistula arm, was still cold.

Could we do more? I got another sweatshirt and slit the sleeve right up the seam so that it could lie every so lightly and gently over the needles and tubing. Even better. Then he remembered he had a spare heating pad in the linen closet. Hung that behind his shoulders.

Better still. In fact, just about good enough.