From the age of about 10 I was a complete hypochondriac. I was one of those kids that couldn’t sit though an episode of ER or Casualty without self-diagnosing themselves with at least three terminal diseases. This was fuelled by nurses coming to my school and explaining the dangers and symptoms of meningitis which obviously put the fear of God in to me and prompted me from then onwards to test every little rash with the ‘rubbing a glass over it’ test and checking out every ache and pain in my handy ‘How to spot meningitis’ leaflet I was so attached to.
Luckily (or perhaps unluckily?) my hypochondriac-ness wore off by the time I was about 17, which is ironically when my symptoms really started to kick in from the old kidney failure. Anyway, before saying any more on that I probably should just start at the very beginning…(this’ll have to told in a few parts I think…)
I was in my last year of school in London completing my A-Levels. (Cue filmic whoosing sounds as we zoom back in time...) Days were spent attempting to complete the Heat magazine crossword every Tuesday and devising new and exciting ways to entertain ourselves in out ‘study’ periods. Favourites included obstacle courses (which involved diving through a hatch in the kitchen), setting up tent competitions and who-can-keep-a-polo-in-their-mouth-the-longest contest. Then, of course, there was the occasional Shakespeare essay thrown in.
Whilst tucking in to a cheesy baked potato one day (my staple school lunch diet for two years) I noticed that my hand was trembling as I ate. Thinking I must be worried or nervous about something I brushed it aside, but as the trembling carried on day after day and got steadily worse I began to get a bit puzzled. Now at this point most normal person would probably take a swift visit to their doctor, but being 18 and far too stubborn to admit that there was actually something wrong with me I decided to leave it. Mistake numero uno. Needless to say I now embrace the doctor with open arms when I discover any unwelcome ailments in my body.
Looking back now it seems blindingly obvious that there was something quite wrong with me, but I guess it’s all very well to look back in hindsight. As well as quite bad nose bleeds (which coincidently my Mum endured when she was about my age so I put that down to being hereditary), I also felt like I was in a massive daze all the time, and not really myself. This is backed up by my parents and friends shocked faces when I announced instead of doing something a bit creative at university, as everyone expected, I decided I was going to become a primary school teacher Cue gasps from all those around me. Not only was I not exactly the child loving type, the thought of being in a school all day with little horrors running rings me makes me feel quite nauseous now.. hats off to all those teachers that manage it every day. So I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking at the time, quite out of character to say the least.
Anyway, fast forward to December 2004, where I am living in a box in the halls of residence at a university in London. Having had a very unproductive term with bizarrely many things going wrong - all pointing me in the direction of not completing the teaching degree..such as not getting a placement in a school (the university forgot to find one for me, apparently), being put in the wrong class with people twice my age, and being given a prison cell for a room...was almost like someone was trying to tell me something! I had began to feel worse and worse, but putting this all down to the rather full on Fresher's week I had endured, and then the obligatory Fresher's Flu..I brushed aside any thoughts that it could be something serious.
Towards the end of term even getting out of bed became an effort, I would spend days in bed sleeping for eighteen to even twenty hours a day and still feeling exhausted. The only thing that really kept me going was an upcoming family trip to California for Christmas that year to go and visit my Grandparents. I was desperate to be well for this, so at the time all the sleeping I was doing appeared to be somehow productive in my eyes. A few days before we jetted off I decided I had enough of the university lifestyle and decided to end my very short teaching career. (Definitely a smart move!)
The night before leaving for the U S of A, I thought that I must have a chest infection as my chest felt increasingly tight. Now I know that this was actually fluid on my lungs...writing this I feel alarmed at the fact that despite not really being able to breathe properly I got on a nine hour flight. I just about survived the first flight to our stop over point, with only a couple of nose bleeds but by the time we touched down at Dallas airport I had to began to feel even worse with a rash all over my body which was creating big swellings which were popping with fluid, looking a bit like bubble wrap…surprisingly satisfying to pop...but also very worrying. Now I know this was because my kidneys were shutting down and my body didn't know what to do with all the extra fluid so the only way it could expel it was by pushing it out my skin. Not pretty…but amazing the way the body works.
Anyway I’ll leave you with that little snippet to start with and next time I will tell the exciting tale of what happened when I actually arrived in California…
Sending some smiles!
2 months ago