But I'm getting ahead of myself...
About three years ago I went to the doctor, which I rarely do (luckily), for a sinus infection or something. The physician's assistant wanted to do blood work since I hadn't had it done in forever. Low and behold...low iron.
I've had iron deficiency anemia on and off my whole life. Like, since infancy. For my entire life, whenever this issue would crop up, I would take a month's worth of iron pills and all was right with the world for another few years.
Because this has been an ongoing problem since I was a kid, no one ever really explained what havoc anemia can wreak with your system and how very serious it can be if it gets out of hand. For this reason, I took my iron for a couple of months and never went back for a follow-up. My mistake, for certain, but also the PAs mistake for not explaining how very low my iron was at that time. I probably hadn't had blood work done since my previous bout of anemia, when I was pregnant with my son, three and a half years earlier.
Fast forward to December of 2014. I went to the doc for a nagging ankle injury and another innocent blood test showed that my hemoglobin was seriously low. Finally, people started explaining to me how serious this could be.
- No iron absorption, no production of red blood cells
- Fewer red blood cells, less oxygen carried throughout the body
- Less oxygen and less blood, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chills, ice chewing, severe fatigue.
|My transfusion. Long, exhausting, expensive, done in a hospital.|
Whoa. I had all of these things and my hemoglobin was so seriously low that after trying oral iron supplements, I still had to have a blood transfusion. When the transfusion didn't raise my hemoglobin count above "critical," I had to start seeing a hematologist. More iron supplements, more iron supplements, more iron supplements.
The crappy thing about iron supplements is that they can't be tolerated by a whole lot of people. For me, it got progressively worse: stomach upset, mostly. And when I wasn't willing to put myself through that hell any longer, and when my numbers weren't going up because I couldn't take the iron, we decided to start iron infusions.
So now, a year and a half later, lots of exhaustion and huffing and puffing, plenty of heart palpitations, and some damn scary realizations on my part, I'm getting one iron infusion per week for five weeks. The infusions are different from a transfusion. The transfusion is adding blood to your body. The infusion is dumping bags of iron into my blood to enable my body to make its own red blood cells. When my five weeks of treatment are over, I'll probably have to have three-month lab check-ups and additional infusions in the future.
|This is IV iron. Looks a bit like blood...or rusty nail water.|
If I'd been better educated I would've done everything in my power to make sure I didn't get here. My gynecologist put it into perspective when her mouth fell open, and she said, "You would die in a car accident."
Not enough blood.
I've been asked lots of times if I felt bad while my hemoglobin was on the way down. The truth is, until I got critically low, I just thought I was normal tired. Tired because I have three jobs, I write a lot on the side, I have a family, I often have insomnia. But let me tell you...if you wake up feeling like you never slept, if you get winded walking from your car into your office, or if you mow through cups of ice....go get checked. Even if you don't do those things...if you have any history of anemia...go get checked. Take it from me, critically low is a bad, bad place to be.
My doctor tells me that I should begin to feel better, more like myself, by the time I have infusion number three. That's next Tuesday, so wish me luck!