In PT school we spend a LOT of time learning how to keep patients from falling—whether they have amputations, neurological conditions, sports injuries, or medical conditions that challenge their energy and balance—we have tricks up our sleeves for just about anyone.
But what we did not learn was what to do when WE became the fall risk. You know where this is going.
So I survived another week of being home bound. Got my biopsy results and was told I have a “myofibroblastic proliferation of inflammatory cells.” Say that 5 times fast. That’s right-nobody could explain what that meant. So that was really comforting. In my spare time I pulled up some case studies on PubMed and turns out it is incredibly rare, nobody knows what it is, where it comes from, and whether or not it is cancerous. Even more comforting.
I awaited a call from the surgeon to explain the results, and finally got a call on Monday the 10th from his scheduler, asking me to schedule surgery for the 13th.
WAIT A SECOND. I don’t even know what my pathology is, much less which surgery I’m having. Neither did she. So I decided to forgo surgery for 2 weeks until I could meet with my surgeon in the office.
I was a little bummed I was going to have to wait even longer, but confident that I had made the right decision to be able to meet with the surgeon and get all of my questions (and my husband’s, sister’s, dad’s, and mom’s questions) answered.
In the meantime, I continued to binge watch Friday Night Lights and Friends on the couch.
What I may not have mentioned is something that had been going on with me for several weeks now. Over the past 2 months, each morning I wake up feeling incredibly drained and so fatigued that even doing the slightest tasks make my arms and legs very tired and sometimes make me feel lightheaded.
Over the past 3 weeks, this has gotten a lot worse. I attributed it to stress from all the procedgeries I’d undergone. Daniel and I got into a ritual of giving me apple juice and electrolytes before I even got out of bed, thinking I was really low on blood sugar. I did some light bed exercises to raise my blood pressure before getting up, thinking maybe it was orthostatic hypotension. But none of this seemed to help what was extreme light-headedness and dizziness and a feeling of extreme pain throughout my arms, legs, and neck after being up and moving around for about 5 minutes. I would get so sick-feeling that I would have to sit down in the nearest seat and put my head down if I could and just breathe. Eventually the strange feeling would pass and I would get some breakfast down and feel a little stronger. Sometimes the strange feeling would come back around bedtime.
Tuesday morning, I was getting some breakfast ready when the strange feeling crept up on me. I quickly exited the kitchen and melted into our big living room chair and noticed it took a long time for it to dissipate—maybe 10-15 minutes—when “normally” (because hell, I was getting used to this) it would dissipate in a minute or so. That was odd and scary to me, but I kept on truckin’. I felt better within an hour of breakfast and went on with my day. That is until I was leaning over the sink and coughed so hard that my low back gave out on me.
I was home alone, and this was exactly what I did NOT need to be dealing with. Now, for those of you who don’t know me—I don’t have the world’s greatest and most supportive spine. This is not a new occurrence for me, and normally I just kind of deal with it and get a colleague to treat me, then go about my life unhindered. However, given my stress level, being alone, and my intolerance of having to deal with much more health-wise—this was the end of the rope for me.
I COMPLETELY LOST MY MIND.
Screaming, crying, kicking, coughing, choking, gasping, limping all over the house trying to pretend it didn’t happen.
Fortunately, I know the right people.
I managed to finagle my way onto one of my colleagues’ schedules to get treated that afternoon. In the meantime I lay flat on the floor and tried to get it to calm down.
It didn’t work very well.
While I lay on Johna’s table and she kindly massaged my spasming back, my phone rang.
It was my functional medicine MD, Dr. Grossman.
I’d seen Dr. Grossman the day before and she ran a bunch of labs, still trying to get to the bottom of my fevers, anemia, and weight loss.
Dr. Grossman doesn’t call normally. Turns out my hemoglobin was 7.5. To translate—this is borderline dangerously anemic. This means I had very little iron and oxygen-carrying capacity in my blood. Just a reminder-human tissues and cells don’t function too well without oxygen.
I said back to her “well that might explain the extreme fatigue and lightheadedness I’ve been having every morning.”
She told me I needed to seek urgent medical care and maybe even get a blood transfusion. She called ahead to the Northside ED and told them what to expect, so I obliged and called Daniel to tell him to meet me at the ED.
Not exactly how I had planned to spend my Tuesday night.
4.5 hours and several needlesticks later, the ED physician sent me home with a prescription for oral iron. He was very thorough and tried to figure out exactly what was wrong with me, but it seems my case was a little too complex for a physician I’d just met. He did call the hematologist on call, Dr. D’Amato, and asked her to see me ASAP in clinic to determine what was going on with the anemia. She agreed to have her office call me the next morning to schedule with her or one of her colleagues.
At this point, it was 9 PM and I was starving, stressed, and in a ridiculous amount of back pain from being on a very non-supportive hospital gurney for 4.5 hours. I was so tired of trying to think of something “legal” to eat on my crazy diet, and just wanted comfort food. This was the moment of truth.
Daniel looked at me and said “You need to eat WHAT YOU WANT.” He doesn’t think he said it very forcefully—and maybe he didn’t (I was too hangry to remember)—but I heard him loud and clear. It was then that I realized it was time to let go of the diet and jump into happiness for a bit. I had too much going on.
So, off to ChickFila he went to get me chicken strips, chicken soup, and lemonade. We got home and I ate with my eyes closed, savoring every morsel and bite. It had been SO long, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
I took a Percocet (thanks, surgery 3 weeks ago!) for my back pain (worked wonders!) and fell asleep, vowing to wake up by 8:30 so I could answer the phone when the hematologists’ office called.
Well, wake up by 8:30 I sure did. I think I woke up the whole neighborhood.
I woke up around 8 and had to pee, so I hurried to the bathroom.
Bring on the “weird feeling/lightheadedness/dizziness”. I sat and breathed a bit until it passed, then got up to go lie down again since I didn’t feel so hot. I made it out of the bathroom and halfway down the hall (this is about 8 feet) and a huge wave of lightheadedness hit me. Daniel was standing several feet behind me preparing to go on a run. I moaned “ughhhhhhhhh” and immediately fainted onto the floor. He saw the whole thing. I remember it all, and all I can say is that I NEVER want to feel that way again. Fortunately my knees and left shoulder broke the fall, though my face and head did, in fact, hit the deck as well.
He rushed to me and asked what happened. I still felt very lightheaded and terrible, so all I could say is “I really don’t feel good.” He said he wanted to try and get me propped up against something or back into bed. I felt a little better so I agreed to try and get up and get back in bed. Surely laying down would be helpful.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I don’t remember anything after I agreed to try and get up. According to Daniel, I was all the way standing with his help and I completely fainted again, this time losing consciousness. I didn’t respond to him yelling at me for several seconds and managed to scare the crap out of him. Eventually I started muttering “WHAT?” when he was screaming my name. I do remember that part, but I don’t remember thinking or feeling anything about it. Finally, I remember waking up and I was flat on the floor. He had done a great job of catching me and slowing me to the floor. He ran to grab a phone and call 911 as I asked “Uh, did I pass out?” I felt for my pulse and it was very slow and weak.
Ok whoa. First thought: So maybe I should have been given blood last night?! Second thought: how am I supposed to get off this floor?
I was in a half-daze and half-completely aware state as Daniel talked to the 911 operator—contributing a few tidbits of trivia about myself that he could not answer. The Grady ambulance came (2 awesome female EMTs!) and carried me back to the Northside ED.
A nurse came in wearing a superhero shirt (love it!) and said “Hey!!! You were just here last night!”
Yes, yes I was. I just have too much fun here and wanted to come back.
Well, to make the rest of the long story short—the ED physician I saw this time certainly saw that there was cause for alarm and admitted me to the hospital. There were a lot of things to get sorted out—why I was anemic ,why I was fainting, why I had constant fevers, and how to keep this from happening again, especially with a huge surgery coming up.
I have to say I was really relieved. Nobody wants to go into the hospital, but the previous night in the ED, Daniel and I got into a deep discussion about how we really felt like I had no “quarterback” on my case and that there was so much more going on with me that nobody seemed to be able to manage—well not until Dr. Grossman sounded the alarm. She’s not a quarterback. So getting admitted to the hospital where a lot of smart specialists could put their heads together and figure out a plan for me was really the best approach for me.
So, off to room 321 I went…
To be continued in Chapter 13…