I have been wanting to share this health update with everyone for a long time, but I was pridefully, wanting to tell it after I was all better, except that hasn’t happened yet.
Now let’s start by going way back to when I first became pregnant. Like many pregnant women I struggled with keeping my iron levels up. I tried to take vitamins, but nothing seemed to help. Then after I had the baby I bounced back to my usual healthy self. With Elle it was so bad that in the hospital my hemoglobin was 6 and I had to have two blood transfusions.
For reference a low hemoglobin count is generally anything less than 11.6. A hemoglobin of less than 5 can be fatal.
After Elle was born I never really worried about my iron levels. I was a busy mother of four at that point and I figured if I was tired it was to be expected. I never went to a doctor for regular checkups in that season of life. I just assumed I was fine. However stuff kept adding up over the next five years and in 2021 I made it a resolution to get checked.
Sorry for the lengthy story, but I wanted to share in case it’s helpful to anyone out there struggling with anemia. I went to a general practitioner in January and told her I was having trouble sleeping and also dealing with restless legs. She wanted to put me on meds. She kept pushing the prescriptions! She even repeatedly asked if I had anxiety. The whole thing felt off. I told her I was uncomfortable getting a prescription without doing research on it first. I then added “I guess I just thought maybe you would tell me I could do some stretches before bed or something.” Her reply was “Stretches! That’s a good idea.” My jaw was about on the floor at that point.
The worst part about the whole experience was that when my bloodwork came in I got a call from a nurse to inform me that I was borderline diabetic and I needed to cut out carbs. She also casually threw in that my iron was low. I was devastated! I took this prediabetes diagnosis as fact and started researching what to do. It was very serious to me. The thing is, the more I researched the less it made sense. For my lifestyle, age, weight and even ethnicity it appeared that I was at extremely low to no risk of being prediabetic.
I began to study my lab results and started investigating. I discovered that a low red blood cell count can falsely elevate your A1c (the test that shows if you are diabetic). I already knew I wasn’t going back to that doctor now I was mad and ready to get a second opinion ASAP. I made an appointment with a new doctor, but in the meantime everything came crashing down for me before I even had a chance to see her. It was a Saturday night and I was photographing a wedding the next day. I felt fine when I went to bed but I woke up around 1:00 am with crazy heart palpitations. I tried so hard to ignore it. It was really intense though. I woke Jeremy up, but even after praying together my whole body was trembling and I thought my heart was going to explode. He took me to the ER. Once I got to the exam room and the nurse was checking my vitals I told her I thought I was going to pass out. I never did, but she said “No wonder. Your heart rate is 168!” Keep in mind that was my resting heart rate. They immediately started hooking me up to machines and doing an EKG. I eventually calmed down and after they checked every single little thing about me the doctor told me all they found was anemia. At that point my iron was at 8 and my ferritin was 2 (ferritin is iron reserves and that is extremely low) . Now why would that have anything to do with me being in the ER with heart issues? Well, anemia can cause shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and heart palpitations. It was explained by the that I had had a panic attack. I have talked to several friends since then that had similar experiences and were treated poorly and made to feel foolish by doctors. That is so unfortunate and shouldn’t be the case. I am happy to say that this doctor had great bedside manner. They wanted me to have a follow up appointment with my GP and I explained that I already had appointment scheduled.
When I saw my new doctor she was extremely helpful and sent me to a hematologist for my anemia. He also told me that I was a text book case for anemia and every one of my symptoms should clear up when they raise my iron levels through an iron infusion.
- ice chewing (MAJORLY!!!)
- restless legs syndrom
- pale skin
- shortness of breath
- heart palpations
- cold hands
He told me the only way I was still standing with my ferritin that low is because it must have happened very gradually. He compared to having a thermastat slowly turned up and adjusting to the temperature. So I had two iron transfusions and sure enough it almost immediately reversed all of my symptoms. In fact for almost a year I didn’t have any of them!!!
I was really hoping that was the end of it, but sadly at about 18 months after my infusion I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t as bad off as I had been, but I was headed that direction. My doctor ran blood tests to confirm my suspicions.
So the next course of action is to do a colonoscopy to see if they can find the root cause of my anemia and that is scheduled for this Friday. I start fasting and laxative treatment today. FUN! I am a little nervous about already being depleted and being on a liquid diet with no vitamins and having my “innards” cleared out for two days straight. Ugh. I know it’s going to be okay though. People do colonoscopies all the time!
So there’s the whole long story. I appreciate any prayers or even advice if you or someone you know cured their anemia. I am willing to try almost anything at this point.