Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the ex-hypochondriac on route to the OC - Part 2

Firstly, apologies for being a bit rubbish about posting. I have been rather manic and unable to post due to Blogger blocking my idea why! Anyway expect a number of posts this week updating everything...and I promise to post more regularly!

And secondly here is the next part of what happened to me when I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure in California..enjoy!

God knows what my poor Grandparents thought as I stepped of the plane in to the hazy Californian sun. Face so puffy with fluid I could have easily been mistaken for a giant marshmellow I wheezed a ‘hello’ before collapsing in to bed to recover for a couple of days. Jet lag added to my tiredness, but having just arrived in California (and it being Christmas, the spirit of…Christmassy things) I forced myself to join in with my families activities. As every step got harder and as every hour went by and I felt worse and worse it slowly dawned on me that things weren’t going to get better.

Although I was literally drowning in my own fluid, that didn’t stop me being the thirstiest person in America at this point. Those who’ve been to America (or for that matter have seen the film Super Size Me) will know that over there (like everything) they have huge jumbo size juice cartons, so big you have to use two hands to pick them up and pour. Anyway, I was guzzling these by the gallon..which is odd, since I was so fluid over-dosed at the point. I would have thought what with the body being such a marvel something would have told me to stop drinking, or at least stopped my thirst…but nooooo there goes another liter of Welch’s grape juice down me. Although having too much fluid is unpleasant (for a kidney patient), it’s really the effects of the juice, sorry fluid, that actually has on a person that is the danger not the fluid itself.

Fluid is a devious little monster, it will find anywhere and everywhere to store itself. Face and ankles are a particular favourite with me, but I think it differs with everyone. If a person is particularly overloaded when they walk around fluid descends itself down through their legs, and then usually snuggles up in their ankles making wearing skimpy shoes a big no-no. Not being a big skimpy shoe wearer myself I would much rather that than my bodies favourite place for fluid to collect – which is my face. After a particularly fluidy day I will wake up looking like I’ve been punched in the night…not a good look. God knows why said fluid feels it must surprise me like this in the morning, but seeing a big moon face in the mirror when you wake up isn’t exactly what you want on a Monday morning…anyway, I think I may have gone totally off the I said, fluid can hide itself everywhere, and you would have to drink a lot more than 2 and a half litres (which is what will start the puffiness off in me) for it to actually cause any real damage. However, fluid does cause high blood pressure as the fluid puts pressure on to your heart. Another thing that kidneys do is break down and get rid of potassium. Potassium is in so many things…bananas, strawberries, oranges, tomatoes and even…sigh…chocolate. So there I was in America, at Christmas, stuffing myself with all these chocolate santas and banana ‘shakes not knowing that the potassium in my blood was shooting up to dangerous levels.

I fell asleep (as usual) on a car journey to a local mall, and telling my parents to go ahead without me I stayed asleep on the back seat. A few minutes later I heard a tap on the window and my Mum informed me that there was a free ‘blood pressure tester’ in side the Supermarket there. I wandered in and stuck my arm in the machine. Not knowing that beforehand my whole family had checked there own blood pressure and it being hugely lower than mine I couldn’t understand why they all looked so worried when mine came up as 227/180. They insisted that I took it again. And again. And then even the Pharmacist was called over who informed me that I should get to the ‘ER’ immediately.

After that I wasted no time, but was still quite relaxed about the whole thing. I expected a four hour wait, then a check up and some antibiotics. I had no idea what was about to come. My breathing was increasingly bad by this point so when my Mum mentioned this little fact to the receptionist at the casualty department I was rushed straight through (skipping the queue – woop!) to a Doctor who took my blood pressure again and confirmed that it was dangerously high. Giving me a very small dose of a blood pressure lowerer medication, he then went on to tell me he thought I could have a thyroid problem but I ought to go to the main hospital just in case.

Expecting to jump straight back in to my Grandma’s car, I was a little shocked when they bundled me in to an ambulance, insisting that I had to be strapped to a stretcher. I found this all a little humiliating and insisted I was perfectly capable of walking. They appeared not to hear me, and whacked the ambulance siren on as they sped through the streets of California with my Mum and Grandma following in a car close behind.

When I reached the hospital I was carried through the ER department still strapped to the stretcher (I was not amused) and fast tracked to see a Doctor straight away. A lot of blood was taken, a lot of prodding was done and a lot of machines were attached to me until finally they announced they had a bed for me. Pushing me through the corridors of the hospital on the bed (I still didn’t understand why they insisted I lay down) and I began to get increasingly worried as more and more signs to ‘Intensive Care This Way’ appeared. Clearly alarmed I started to question the nurses who were pushing me towards this, they must have made a mistake –I’m not that ill! All pleas were ignored and I found myself in a huge unit surrounded by lots of alien looking machines.

After being introduced to my nice nurse, a young J-Lo look-a-like who found my accent to be very amusing and after every word (or whimper) muttered by me, rather embarrassingly she would respond by aww-ing and coo-ing. There was also the small matter of the language barrier...

Me (to J-Lo) : I feel really sick!
Nurse J-Lo : Aww, I know honey - you're really sick.
Me: No, no I feel sick!
Nurse J-Lo : *pats my head* Sweetie, I know.
Me: Nooo. I mean I'm going to be...*bleugh*

Anyway after lots of tests and the doctors ruling out that there was anything wrong with my thyroid (their first assumption) they came to the conclusion that it might be my kidneys playing up. So I was sent down to have an ultra sound where the nurse spread a load of very cold jelly on my back and then pressed a large torch like piece of equipment and had a look at what was going on in there. She didn’t seem to have a problem with my right side, but when it came to the left she kept on repeating the same movement obviously double and triple checking what she was seeing. After doing this for a while she announced in her most trying to be calm voice ‘I’m just going to get someone else to take a look at this..’ Anyone that has been in a hospital for more than 5 minutes will know that whenever another opinion is needed, it’s normally not good news.

After the ultrasound I was sent down for an MRI scan, I had never had one of these before and so wasn’t aware that you are shoved in to a massive tube, head first, strapped in so you literally can’t move (claustrophobics beware) and then once the machine has been turned on the noise can only be described as a mixture of really loud bad drum and bass music and an industrial washing machine. It was so loud. Being rather ill and drugged up though, I promptly fell asleep. Apparently I was the first person they had ever known to do this! Score.

After a couple of days the doctors realised that the source of the problem was in fact my kidneys and a rather brisk and straight talking doctor came down to break the news to me and my very worried parents. The doctor had obviously never been trained in having a good bedside manner as he announced without any thought to how I’d feel that my life was pretty much over, I’d never be able to behave like a normal twenty something and I had a life of medical procedures and dialysis ahead of me. Everyone looked distraught in the room, I noticed J-Lo even had tears in her eyes. Weirdly enough I wasn’t that panicked, I was simply relieved that they had diagnosed something wrong with me and that I could finally begin the journey of getting better.

...Part 3 soon, promise!


Holly said...

Great Blog, can't wait to hear the next installment!

The doc who told me I was ill obviously went to the same school for bed side manners! He told me in one sentence that I had ESRF, would go on dialysis and eventually have a kidney transplant before swiftly walking out of the room, and that was it!

Hope you are keeping well x

Donna said...

I found this blog via a link you left on a Facebook page, I can't even remember which one now!
I find this really interesting and it's taught me some stuff. I wish you well for the future and I will keep reading :0)

Holly said...

thanks donna! it's always nice to know people read this thing! glad you enjoy it x