For an overweight 41 year old Black woman I am pretty healthy. My one chronic issue in the past five years has been my high cholesterol. Yes you can be fat & healthy….yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus.
I wrote last about my journey from morbidly obese to simply obese. Today I want to talk about how when I do get sick, like everything else about me I go hard in the paint.
I rarely get sick…I have no time for it. I catch the occasional cold because I have a kid and they won’t let me send him to school in a bubble. I’ve never had the flu, or any serious illness. I have recurring bouts of Athlete’s Foot but overall I am a healthy chick. HOORAY!
In 2011 that health came to risk with a gall stone. I’d never known that I had them until one got stuck in my gall bladder – would not move – and sent me into crisis. Gall stones are bad. Gall stones that get stuck in your gall bladder can kill you.
I found that out on quiet Friday morning when the pain started. By the time I got to the ER and was diagnosed the doctors explained that I had days to get my gall bladder out or it would die and the resulting infection would kill me.
I got past that and went on with my “I ain’t got time to bleed!” life. My responsibilities require nothing less.
I’ve felt like shit for months. There was nothing specific at first except a feeling of blah. Blah is so generic that I could attribute it to almost anything. Depression – lack of penis – change of season – Tuesday. The thing about blah is that it can be difficult to pinpoint the origin of the blahs.
As the weeks went on my blah turned into damn I’m tired. Once more, that’s not unusual. If you did all of the shit that I do in a given day your ass would be tired as well. So I paid little to no attention to the rest of what was happening to my body because… I don’t have time to get sick.
About a month ago things started to get worse. One night I went into a one hour coughing fit. At the end of it I found that I could barely breathe and that I was inhaling and exhaling without obstruction so it seemed, yet, I felt like I could not get enough oxygen.
After that night my ability to do much of anything was impaired. I slept 12 hours one day. I have nights where I don’t sleep 2 yet there I was snoring and drooling for literally half the day. Once I drug myself up out of the comfort of my bed trying to do the daily chores was impossible. Yes impossible. I would start a simple project and 10 minutes into it I found myself exhausted and had to sit to rest.
I was the walking dead and as I watched the laundry pile up and the windows streak I was physically helpless to do anything about it.
By the beginning of December doing anything other than laying down found me with labored breath and chest pains. I still did not think that I had ‘time’ to be sick, but I did know that something had gone wrong and if I didn’t get a diagnosis god help me. It would not matter which god, but I would need one of them to help me.
I went to see the doctor on December 6 and walked out of the office no more hopeful. I had a variety of referrals for tests in my hand but walking more than 10 feet left me standing, sucking air like a prostitute anxious to get on to her next trick, and feeling like my heart was going to leap from behind my rib cage and run the New York marathon.
Saturday morning while sitting (I could do no more than that) and talking with a friend the phone call came. It was from the on-call doctor with the practice and the message was get to the emergency room. I had a dangerously low hemoglobin level. A normal level is about 12 give or take. My level was 4.5. My body was not producing red blood cells at a level to keep my organs functioning. The doctor said on the phone “I have no idea how you are standing upright and not in a coma.”
OK! (so much for bedside manner)
Like my prior emergency I was unprepared for this and it took some scrambling. Bonnie & Clyde must always be accounted for and on the off chance that I might be kept at the hospital arrangements needed to be made. It took hours but I made it happen and off to the ER I went.
I had a plan! I would get my blood transfusion and come on back home. I would be back before sunrise after my oil change, and Bonnie & Clyde would be none the wiser. A funny thing happened with that plan though – the universe had a different one in mind. The universe won.
I took the first pint of blood like a baby on a tit. The second pint….not so much.
Almost as soon as the second pint started an elephant sat on my chest. I tried to inhale… nothing. I tried again…..nothing. People came in and started checking connections and shoving shit into me [not in the GOOD way]. Finally a rocket scientist gave me an oxygen mask and the elephant lifted a leg.
The doctors huddled in the corner of my room tossing around words like ventilator and congestive heart failure. I could do nothing except listen and suck on my oxygen dick. There was no part of what I listened to that was attractive but that little thing about not being able to breathe kept me from doing anything. I tried to take off the mask to ask questions and the big assed elephant sat down on my chest and apparently brought a friend to sit with him.
They shipped me off to the critical care unit. They stuck a needle in my wrist to check my oxygen levels in my blood. It’s called an arterial blood gas test. Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Peter, Paul & Mary and all those other biblical characters that I don’t believe in I never want to have another one of those again. I ended up having 4 of them over my hospital stay and who ever came in to try number 5 was going to get Sparta kicked. I was not in fighting shape, but damn it that motherfucking thing HURTS.
I vaguely recall other tests and x-rays and personnel coming in over the next 24 hours to figure out what was wrong. I kept my eye open for the chick with the artery needle though. I was positive that I would eventually have enough strength to kill her.
After a day or so the assumption was:
- I was anemic
- I was iron deficient
- My fibroids were the most likely culprit
They figured out how to give me more blood by also giving me medication for fluid. Apparently there is nothing wrong with my heart. The doctor called it a SUPER heart actually.
The problem seemed to be that my heart had grown accustomed to the low blood levels and had not adjusted to all the fresh stuff being pumped into me. They moved me out of critical care December 10 and that was my Q to make like a tree and leave.
With a new hemoglobin level of 6.9 and steady I left the hospital. I came home and wrapped my arms around Bonnie & Clyde and thanked the universe for my partners in crime.
I’ve been trying to take it easy since I got back, but life and this episode has shown me that no I still don’t have time to be sick…but I can be sick if I plan for it. I have gratitude to those who pitched in to help me out and care for my babies. I have a little less that gratitude for some of what I experienced. I won’t get into that right now, but it’s never been MORE clear to me that I have to be Superwoman and that relying on others is something that is detrimental to my family.
For my female readers: If you have uterine fibroids be mindful that while they might appear quiet and merely a distraction they can be life threatening. Fibroids are more common in African American women than Caucasian women. They can exist in your uterus without causing problems, and over time they can grow and endanger your health. See your gynecologist on a regular basis, and have ultrasounds regularly to check their size and placement. If you are not currently insured you can get GYN services through your local Planned Parenthood at a reduced or zero cost. You can also check to see if you qualify for insurance through the ACA [Affordable Care Act] by visiting their website.