A Drive to Maryland

A few weeks ago, Pam and I headed down to Snow Hill Maryland to participate in a two day plein air event and to teach a three day workshop for the Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painters. We had never really spent any time in Maryland and we were looking forward to it. After packing the car to be sure it would fit all the art gear plus all the medical supplies that go along with doing home dialysis, including the 70 lb dialysis machine itself, we were off.

Nine hours later we found ourselves turning left onto a dead end road that would take us to where our gracious host was putting us up for the week. It was midnight! We had our very own guest cottage and lights were left on for us so that we would know that we were in the right place. The cottage was absolutely beautiful and the scenery all around us was spectacular in the moonlight. We were on an ocean creek and even after a day of packing for three hours and driving for nine more, Pam and I were wide awake and trying to take everything in. For me, the coffee that I drank at 9:30 p.m. might have added to my awakened state!

I began to unload the car and unpack. I even lugged the 70 lb dialysis machine up the flight of stairs to the second floor bedroom by myself and began to set all the pieces together. We've been giving Pam home dialysis for over a year and a half now and we've traveled to many places with it. We even took it to Monhegan Island, which is 12 miles off the coast of Maine and isn't really set up for any emergency situations. There is no doctor and any real emergency would mean getting a helicopter in to airlift you to a hospital but we tried not to think about that. There is really no need to think that a 'situation' would arise and we just did our thing and prayed that the island electricity which was in the habit of going off almost everyday for a short period of time, would not go out during our time of dialyzing Pam. It did! It went off the very first time I had just put her on the machine and so I did what is called an emergency rinseback and all was fine. After that, we had no more problems for the remainder of a two week period.

After the two weeks of dialyzing Pam on that little tiny island, my confidence in handling the machine grew by leaps and bounds and so dialyzing her in Maryland wasn't much different than dialyzing her at home. AND..we had the coolest home for a week to stay in!

The 800lbs of dialyzing supplies that were shipped ahead were also waiting for us in the barn right next door to the guest cottage. Pre-mixed dialysate comes in bags which comes in boxes and when you go someplace for a week, it arrives ahead of you on a nice big pallett. At home, we can make dialysate from our own water source that goes through an elaborate filtration process and we can make enough for three days at a time. It takes a lot of work to travel with it, but AMAZINGLY, we CAN travel with it. Monhegan is Pam's favorite place of all to visit and paint and without this portable machine, she would not be able to get there. Nx Stage was not even an option until a few years ago when the system became available. For anybody reading this who gets hemo dialysis in a center or knows someone who does, you should look into Nx Stage. It is very gentle on the body and because of it, I got my wife back! The dialysis at the center is much harder on the body and when a patient is done being dialyzed the stress of it is like running a marathon and a half. No wonder Pam never had any energy after being dialyzed. The next day was always spent recuperating from dialysis and then the next day was dialysis again.

Dialysis is a part of our lives. It seems if I'm not wearing my painting hat, I am wearing a mask and exam gloves and playing the part of a dialysis technician. So it is was with our trip to Maryland. We taught all day and then would come home to our beautiful cottage, eat a quick dinner in between setting up the supplies and the dialysis machine and then we would spend the next few hours dialyzing. Then off to bed we'd go and get some sleep so we could wake up to start fresh with a new workshop day.

We dialyze Pam 5 or 6 nights per week and with everything involved, setting up, running her, taking her off, breaking down, monitoring and ordering and moving around supplies, it takes 25 to 30 hours of time.

So, I bring this all up because on this particular workshop trip, it was our last time of having to take the dialysis machine with us. Pam is scheduled for transplant surgery at the end of June and her daughter Heather is giving her a kidney! A little over one month later, we plan to be on Monhegan Island again. And we will get to enjoy the sunsets too!

Our workshop in Maryland was a fantastic time. We had a full class of great students who wanted to explore new ideas. We had pretty good weather too. Spring was in full bloom. How can I explain it any better than that. On Tuesday night, our night off from dialysis, we had a gathering at Bishop's Stock Art Gallery. Ann Coates was very generous with her time and allowed us to have a night of hanging out, drinking wine and playing some music. Gary Pendelton was kind enough to join Pam and I on the guitar and he did some great accompaniment on harmonica.  Someone else played some blues with Gary too. It was a good time.

It was a three day workshop and of course, as with all workshops, regardless of length, it went by too quickly. The main things I pushed during the three days was composition and a solid value plan. It's my belief that if a painter spends the time and makes a solid beginning, the painting can almost paint itself at that point.

After drawing in a solid composition and then massing in a strong value plan of lights and darks, Emile Gruppe would consider the painting finished. He would say that all the hard work was done and now anybody could come along and finish the thing!