ON THE EDGE
Living on the Edge
2017 Louisa Ausai-Magele
by EA Books Publishing, a division of
Parables of Central Florida, Inc. a 501c3
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated,
from The King James Version.
KJV is public domain in the United States.
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love to our devoted father, Ausai Tupai-Magele and mother,
Feagaima’alii Tagaloa Nofoagatotoa Pouoa Uasu.
Table of Contents
1 The Biggest Regret
2 A Birthday Gift
3 Unfortunate Discovery
4 First Kidney Biopsy
5 Faith in Prayers
6 Welcome Home
7 Duties and Decisions
8 Catheter Insertion
9 Peritoneal Dialysis Training
10 Life vs. Work
11 Medical Retirement
12 Financial Nightmare
13 Legal Separation and Home Restoration
14 A New Beginning
15 Kidney Transplant
16 Steroid Side Effects
17 Recovery vs. Medications
18 Stresses and Kidney Rejection
19 Second Hospitalization at UMC-Tucson
20 Back on Peritoneal Dialysis
21 Switched to Hemodialysis
22 Start Anew
23 Second Stroke
24 Brain Surgery & Seizure
25 Move to California
I would like to thank my editor, Peter Lundell for his masterful
developmental editing and brilliant suggestions, especially his
patience and compassion that assisted me to complete writing this
I am also
grateful for my brother, Pastor Sunuialaifale Nofoagatotoa Magele for
prayers and blessings to achieve this goal. I am very blessed and
grateful for your constructive feedback, support and help. Without
all your effort to assist me, I could not achieve this dream.
Thank you to the
team at EABooks Publishing for bringing this dream to reality
In 2006 I began my journey as a kidney patient and progressed to
end-stage renal failure. You may have a similar health problem. Or
you may be a supportive family member or friend.
I hope my story
might be helpful in evaluating your own situation as a kidney
patient, or as a patient with any other kind of chronic or
degenerative disease. I also hope my experiences might benefit you if
you are supporting a loved one who has kidney or another disease. I
believe that you’ll discover how similar our experiences are.
Most of the
medical professionals I have dealt with are true professionals who
care and have done their best to help me. Unfortunately, some in the
medical field, perhaps 5 percent, do not follow proper procedures,
and their negligence costs patients unnecessary pain and in extreme
cases their lives. I was horrified at how easily I could become a
victim of a mistake by those I trusted to help me overcome my
life-threatening illness. I was raised to believe I could always
trust medical professionals to do everything in their power to help
me. I believed they would be diligent, effective, and would only do
what was required to treat me.
I was sadly
In a 2013
nationwide study, The Leapfrog Group (America’s leading advocacy
organization for hospital quality, safety, and transparency)
estimated that 440,000 people die annually from preventable hospital
This puts medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the
United States, underscoring the need for patients to protect
themselves and their families from harm, and for hospitals to make
patient safety a priority.”
experiences I learned that patients have to take responsibility for
managing their illnesses. At times, they must go against their
doctors’ advice or recommendations and choose the path that is best
for them. Out of respect for the privacy of many of the people
discussed in my book, I have changed the names of the individuals
involved in my experiences. However, I have disclosed the names of
the hospitals I was admitted to and dealt with.
I sincerely hope
that by reading about my experiences, both good and bad, you or your
loved one can avoid or overcome some of the many problems I
encountered. I tell my experiences in order to offer knowledge and
strength to keep you or your loved one from becoming a victim of
irresponsible healthcare employees or unethical medical practices.
I also hope that
sharing my experiences can help you turn the negative aspects of
dealing with catastrophic illness into something positive, or at
least something tolerable.
My story is told
in order, beginning from the first event until the last, and all are
based on real experience.
I grew up on the island of Western Samoa. As a child, I was active in
sports, church, and family activities. I didn’t realize then how
healthy and happy my life was.
At Falealili High
School in Western Samoa, I achieved a Straight-As certification. It
secured my spot to attend Teachers’ Training College for two years.
I completed two years in college and at age twenty started to teach
in public schools. While teaching was certainly an honorable
profession, it did not pay very well. I also learned that I was not
as well equipped to deal with the political antics in the school
management and environment as I thought I was. I became disenchanted
with my chosen profession and decided to move on.
My faith played a
major role in my upbringing. So I left my employment as a teacher to
serve as a church missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints on the island of Samoa. After serving
one-and-a-half-years in the mission, I taught at Pesega, an LDS
Then I emigrated
to the United States. I worked diligently to start my life over
again, further my education, and find a better profession. I thought
nursing would be an excellent career. There is always a need for good
nurses. As I progressed through my school and practical training, I
accepted a position as a Certified Nursing Assistant. But I quickly
discovered I could not stomach the idea of cleaning up after sick
patients, nor could I handle getting spattered by any form of human
body fluids or waste. I didn’t have the stomach for it and was
continually nauseated and vomiting.
Then I discovered
that I had a natural inclination for the security profession. I began
my career working for airport security aviation as an entry-level
officer at the San Francisco International airport while attending
San Francisco State University part time, taking Human Resource
Management for two years. It was the perfect fit as a career field
for my personality and strong work ethic. I found the work
interesting, and felt a sense of accomplishment that I was providing
a vital service toward the security of my adopted country. My
enthusiasm for the work and my developing skills in aviation security
contributed to my rapid promotion to Checkpoint Security Supervisor,
Duty Manager, and Human Resources Office Administrative Assistant.
Eventually I was promoted to the position of Operation Manager. I was
able to achieve all of my goals with International Total Services,
Inc., because I focused and worked hard. I made it my mission to
learn as much as I could about every aspect of contract aviation
security that I possibly could. I applied what I learned and excelled
in each position. To me it was painfully obvious that anyone who
wanted to succeed could apply the same work ethic and achieve the
same kind of recognition.
young adult life, I was accustomed to working two jobs and attending
school part time. Working long hours seemed only natural, something
to be endured to meet my life goals. In pursuit of the American
dream, I bought my own home in the best neighborhood I could possibly
afford, along with a timeshare at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.
In addition, to sacrifice and prepare for my future, I bought land in
Los Angeles and Lancaster, California. My humble upbringing as a
hardworking farm girl in Samoa helped me develop the ability to
overlook the pleasures most people enjoy while they are young.
Besides working double jobs, and attending school part time, I was
also a member of the World Financial Group (WFG), California, and
achieved a license as a Life Insurance agent. I did not spend money
on clothes, a fancy car, or nights out with friends on the weekends.
Mine was truly a Spartan lifestyle. In 2000 I met my husband, a
retired police officer from Antioch, California, who became a
self-employed private investigator and a firearms instructor. We
dated for four years before finally tying the knot.
world-changing events of 9/11, I found myself working for the Federal
Aviation Administration as a temporary Aviation Security Inspector.
It was a dream come true working for the United States of America. I
attended a six-week-training course in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where
I had to pass six tests, all with 85 percent or more, to achieve my
certification as an Aviation Security Inspector. There were only two
colored students in the class, a man from Guam and me. As intimidated
as I felt, I passed all the requirements and got my certification.
After six months
I was hired by the newly formed Transportation Security
Administration as a Transportation Security Manager (TSM). I was
offered an even higher salary than I’d had previously. With
sacrifice, dedication, and hard work, I achieved an unimaginable goal
for a farm girl from the small island of Samoa. I was blessed. I had
become a United States citizen and a respected manager within the
United States Government.
Although I was
ambitious and continued striving forward, all of this was slowly
destroying the young, strong Samoan girl in me. I never saw it
coming. My position was incredibly stressful and required that I
supervised more than three hundred government employees who were in
direct contact with the traveling public, airport employees, and
vendors. I was responsible for all security operations within the
airport. As you might well imagine the responsibility was, at times,
Stress can kill.
The Biggest Regret
and ambitious, for several years I did not feel the need to have a
medical checkup. My negligence to see a physician all those years is
the biggest regret of my life.
At first, I
started feeling fatigued more often than usual. Then came a sharp
pain in my lower back. It lasted for a few seconds, then it was gone,
and I didn’t pay much attention to it. I thought the fatigue and
pain was the result of working extended hours without eating a
healthy diet and not getting sufficient rest. Taking a couple of
sleeping pills and listening to soft music relaxed me and helped me
coughed I began tasting an unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth. One
day I went to the Emergency Room and saw a doctor at Mt. Eden
Hospital in Castro Valley, California, for a bladder infection and
pain in my lower back. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and pain
medication. Because I was working long hours at the airport, I
assumed my problem was just from being tired. I continued to work
despite the pain in my lower back becoming increasingly frequent and
I didn’t know
what else to do but keep working despite the recurring symptoms. A
strong work ethic is good. Maybe mine was too good. I took my
responsibilities very seriously and gave one hundred percent of
myself each and every hour I was working—even to cover for others.
operation needed a closing manager, and since my colleague was on
vacation, I continued working to cover both my shift and her shift as
well. Working extended hours in such a physical condition further
drained me both mentally and physically. But I was so committed and
loyal to my employer that my own health was secondary.
To add to my
stress, my husband went overseas to Iraq as a security contractor to
protect classified intelligence assets. He was only allowed to tell
me that he protected government personnel and property in a
full time as a transportation security manager, I was overseeing my
husband’s security business while he was out of the country. The
stress of trying to keep his business operational and employed full
time was weighing heavily on me. I knew how important the business
was to him and how disappointed he would be if we had to close
Our dreams and
goals for the future were threatened every day my husband was in Iraq
or Afghanistan. He didn’t tell me much about what he did, he was
vague and used to say it wasn’t as dangerous as you might think and
that nothing was going to happen to him. Somehow I knew he was only
trying to protect me from the reality. No matter how much he would
tell me he was in a safe area and not in immediate danger, I just
couldn’t help be afraid for him. I worried constantly and waited
every day for a phone call from him.
Tears of sadness
and loneliness filled my eyes when I thought about how dangerous and
miserable it must have been for my husband. At least I was at home
with a warm bed and good food to eat. He sent me a photograph of
himself standing in knee-deep snow somewhere in Afghanistan. He
looked exhausted and cold. I later learned that he often had to sleep
in a shipping container converted to a room at some posts where he
was stationed. Other times he lived in village buildings at some far
outpost. The conditions were always crowded and often without power,
water, or medical aid.
At times I felt
guilty for letting my husband work in Iraq and Afghanistan. He made
the decision to go, but I still felt responsible if anything
unfortunate happened to him. How could I bear the guilt if he was
killed or severely injured? When I thought of what could happen to
him, I found myself falling back on my old habit as a young Christian
woman. I would drop to my knees and pray to God to shield my husband,
keep him safe and most of all to bring him home to me. According to
Isaiah 45:22-23, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the
earth, for I am God, and there is none else.” I also remembered the
teaching that the future is in the hands of Almighty God. If we
struggle to achieve our goals, then maybe it is not God’s plan. We
might even be going against God’s plan.
managing our personal affairs and overseeing our business in Santa
Clara, the stress from work was overwhelming.
Around the third
week of April 2006, my health rapidly deteriorated. I had been sick
for about two consecutive months, but now the symptoms were getting
worse every day, particularly severe lower back pain and metallic
taste in my mouth even when I didn’t cough. And I completely lost
my voice. These symptoms were persistent and exhausting, which cast
me into depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
Now aware of my
health problems, my supervisor adjusted the work schedule by moving
one of the managers from the morning shift to work with me
temporarily until the other security manager returned from vacation.
This new arrangement enabled me to schedule an appointment to see my
primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente on my day off.
At the doctor’s
office I was disappointed to find he was out sick. Another male
doctor would examine me. This doctor prescribed me Ibuprofens and a
written notice excusing me from work for a couple of days. The two
days passed in a blur, and my symptoms persisted. I needed additional
time off to fully recover. This made me go back to Kaiser hospital
hoping to see my PCP. Unfortunately, he was still out sick. Another
female doctor examined me and prescribed more Ibuprofens. I was not
comfortable with the idea of seeing a different doctor. In my
opinion, seeing a different doctor on each visit didn’t seem like
the most efficient or systematic way to treat a patient.