15-20 years old
In July 2004, after 9 years of compulsory learning, I graduated from high school. This was a miracle, as according to my earlier medical reports this should not have happened. Due to all my hospital appointments during those 9 years, I hadn’t even attended school full-time since I was a child. Graduating was a personal highlight for me, along with being “confirmed“ by my church.
Missing school for periods of time, and regularly missing classes even when you are able to go, can be very challenging in the future. Typically back home, people start an apprenticeship in any job possible once graduated from high school. For someone like me, who couldn`t always go to school, it was very challenging to step into an apprenticeship straight away and I also didn`t quite feel ready for that big step – neither physically or emotionally.
However, I had the opportunity to start another school, which we call “BVS“ (Berufsvorbereitendes Schuljahr) in Switzerland. “BVS“ is a year for people who aren`t quite ready for an occupation or who don`t know what direction they want to go in.
This school year was very tough – lots of homework and classes, and long days were common. I persevered though, as I had one dream at that time – to do an apprenticeship, like everyone else did.
A few months later, due to difficulties with my dialysis catheter, I faced another big health challenge! As I’ve explained before, I`d already had many catheter changes in my body. In fact, I’d had so many that at the end of 2004 the doctors said that it was no longer an option for me! Instead, special access to my body was now needed in order to take blood for my dialysis treatment.
This special access was via a fistula implant on my left arm. A fistula is basically where a vein and an artery are connected in order to make one big vein, in order to get enough blood for the Dialysis treatment.
Making the decision to have a fistula was very tough for me, as I knew there would always be two sticks with big needles every time I had dialysis treatment. But I had no other choice if I wanted to stay alive!
Not long after that, everything got too much for me with school, dialysis and other health issues. I realised that I did not have any strength, motivation or excitement for my life! Doctors diagnosed burnout and I spent a few weeks in hospital. All I did there was get vitamin compounds and not do much, which was very challenging for me. After a few weeks, I left hospital and continued doing my school year, which I successfully finished in June 2005.
That July I was very blessed to be able to go on holiday with some of my friends! This was one of the first times I went away with friends, and the first time for longer than two or three days, and as I had my fistula, I was also allowed to go in water. It was also my first time having dialysis in another hospital. I’d not done it before but it was much easier and safer now I had a fistula.
In August 2005 I was able to fulfill my occupational dream of becoming a painter! I started my apprenticeship at a small painting company in my town. I was very blessed that the owner of the company was eager to take me as an apprentice. The apprenticeship normally goes for three years. However, I would miss 3 afternoons a week for dialysis so we agreed that I would do the apprenticeship for 3 years in theory and 4 years in practice.
In September 2015, I personally was asked by a owner of a non-profit organization, called “Kids Kidney Care“ to jump for a tandem skydive for a donating purpose. I had the privilege to jump with the world`s best skydiver at that time and some other music, actor, sport and fashion celebrities helped in this project. For me it was a big highlight! Not only could I do my first skydive but I was picked up by helicopter in my town with some of the other celebrities. ☺
In October, I`ve had my first introductory course for my apprenticeship. During the introductory course, I became very unwell, with over 40C fever, and I ended up in hospital again. I couldn`t finish the course but was able to continue with my apprenticeship straight after leaving hospital.
In July 2006 I went on holiday abroad for the first time, on a youth camp This was a big highlight for me as doing a big holiday in another country, across another country was one of my biggest dreams as child. Once again I had to book ahead for my dialysis, which was quite challenging. I still clearly remember that trip: where we went; who was there; and what we did during those two weeks.
Apart from going on that holiday, I worked hard at my apprenticeship. It was very challenging physically, emotionally and spiritually. There were times when I came to the edge of all my strength, but I didn`t really care as I wanted to fulfill my dream.
Everything went pretty well in 2007. Going to work every day and having dialysis three times a week was hard for me physically, but it was during this time that I first realised that I could live a life that where I flourished day by day. Having the fistula was also a huge blessing as I didn’t have any issues like with the catheter and I was less burdened as a result.
Another dream I fulfilled was getting my driving license. Considering my life story and what doctors and nurses had told me, this was an incredible miracle for me! I was pretty much independent from that on as I could now drive myself to my treatments.
In 2008 another miracle happened! I passed the theory exams for my apprenticeship and therefore became a professional painter on paper. I then just had to do one more year of practical work.
Apart from work and dialysis, I spent the rest of my time with friends/family, going on holiday, having fun, being in church and driving around with my beloved car. This was a time when I learned a lot about life and flourished hugely! I still felt like I had a lot to learn because I’d missed out on things by not really being “alive” during my childhood, but day-by-day, I was improving and prospering.
To be continued…