The past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of my hospitalization for anemia. That was the beginning of the medical chaos that has taken over my life. Cue the music and squint your eyes until everything becomes fuzzy and fades out. . .
I hadn’t been feeling well since I had come down with a cold about a month earlier. For some reason, it just didn’t want to go away. Over the weekend, my brother was visiting and we had a great time, but I was exhausted. Early Tuesday morning, I dropped him off and headed to work. I was early so I took a nap in my car. At 8:30, I dragged myself out of the car and into the office. I worked for 3 ½ hours and then had to take my lunch break. I went back to my car and went back to sleep. I only had 30 minutes, but I fell asleep for almost an hour. I went back into the office and worked another half hour and decided to take the rest of the day off.
That evening I spoke with my mom and she insisted that I go to urgent care the next morning. I had no insurance, but she said that she would send me the money to cover it so I agreed to go.
The next morning I walking into Studio City Urgent Care with what I thought was a cold that just wouldn’t go away. The doctor kept commenting over and over again that I was really, really pale. She was adamant about taking blood for a CBC (complete blood count) because she was sure that I was anemic. I told her that I was just a really pale person – I guess we know why I’m not a doctor. She also took a chest x-ray. It confirmed that I had pneumonia. She sent me home with some antibiotics and said she’d call with the blood test results.
I went home and went to bed. The next morning I was awoken by a phone call. The results had come in and I was severely anemic. My hemoglobin was just over 4 (the normal range is 11-14). She told me I need to go to the emergency room immediately. I freaked out since I didn’t have any insurance, but understood that I had to go.
My roommate S drove me there stopping to pick up the test results on the way. I was admitted to the ER almost immediately – I never even saw the waiting room! After about 45 minutes of trying, they were finally able to start an IV and they took a bunch of blood to run every test known to man. They also ordered blood for a transfusion. I received two transfusions in the ER – that’s 3 pints of blood.
Late in the afternoon, they admitted me to the hospital. I was put in a room with three other patients. The other women in the room had to be at least 50 years older than me. The woman in the bed next to me couldn’t speak. The patient across the room was having some horrible digestive issues. She had a commode next to her bed and every time she had to use it, the smell would float over. It was almost unbearable.
I had to stay overnight, but I didn’t really sleep. I’ve never been able to sleep well away from home. Instead, I watched television most of the night and in the morning they rechecked my blood count. It had gone up, but not enough, so I had two more transfusions. The doctors said that if my count went up enough, they would release me. To my relief, it did and that evening I was allowed to go home. . .Open your eyes slowly and let the present fade back in. . .
At the time, the doctors were unable to uncover the cause of the anemia. They finally decided to say that it was diet-related and they started me on fairly heavy amounts of iron supplements. The actual problem was that the giant tumor in my colon was bleeding, but because of the rarity of the condition and the complete lack of family history, it was not discovered that week.
It’s hard to believe that was only a year ago and it’s hard to believe that an entire year has passed. Hindsight may be 20/20, but for my own sanity, I had to stop going over the what-ifs. I can’t change the past – all I can do is focus on the present and my fight to beat this horrible disease.