I mentioned in my last post that I come from a long line of fighters and survivors. On Friday, July 15, life gave me an unexpected reminder of this fact.
Those who know my birth story know that it’s pretty much a miracle that both my mom and I survived on January 2, 1983. Since that day I’ve encountered a variety of obstacles, physically, mentally, and emotionally, yet much like the Energizer Bunny, I just keep going, and going, and going…
Last Thursday, at my doctor’s request, I had routine bloodwork done since it had been over 2 years since I’d had any. First thing Friday morning I got the call that there was something abnormal about my results and the doctor needed to see me as soon as possible.
I raced to the office, panicking the entire way. Every worst case scenario that you can think of clouded my thoughts. As soon as I arrived, a nurse escorted me quickly to the scale and then right into an exam room. She took my blood pressure and noted that it was rather high…odd considering I’m typically on the low end. She inquired as to whether I was nervous and I nearly screamed, “YES!” As she exited the room she reminded me to think positive thoughts. Well meaning but not happening lady!
Almost immediately my doctor rushed in with my paperwork in hand and gave me the news. Everything was fine except my hemoglobin. “Thank God!” I exclaimed. “I thought I had cancer!” His reply? “I can’t tell if you have cancer with these results.” Thanks, Doc.
He continued on by explaining that my hemoglobin level was half the minimum it should be which made me severely anemic. He asked a few questions about my periods and diet and I reminded him of my gastric bypass. He rattled off some symptoms and asked if I’d experienced them. Um, YES. I’ve been attributing them to other health concerns, one of which I had just seen him for earlier this week!
“You could collapse at any moment. This is bad, Kari. Your levels have probably been dropping for awhile now and you’ve just gotten used to feeling the way you do. We need to get you to the hospital for a blood transfusion immediately. I’m going to make the calls now.” He was out of the room almost before I could blink and the well meaning nurse returned with another set of paperwork in her hands.
“You’re going to have to deliver this to the hospital now.” She handed me the sheets, gave me directions on which entrance to use at the hospital and sent me on my way along with the instruction to pick up my prescribed super strength iron supplement as soon as I was finished at the hospital.
I texted my mom and asked her to meet me at the hospital. I filled Big Daddy B in but he was with the kids and I didn’t want them to worry. At the hospital, I approached the registration desk and when they saw my name they told me they were waiting on paperwork which I promptly handed to them. “We’re getting your blood ready now,” I was told and within 5 minutes I was registered and taken back to a room filled with “comfy” chairs and a few patients already receiving fluids of some sort.
The first couple hours were spent taking my vitals, drawing more blood to make sure they had a match for me, drawing blood again to double check the match, and playing a super fun game called, “Find the Vein.”
Side Note: I’m an expert at this game. I hide my veins so well that it’s more likely I’ll be poked 5 or more times until someone finds a vein than getting it on the first try or two. This happens almost every time a medical professional needs to find a vein. My record so far is 8 sticks in one sitting. My arms were covered in bruises the next day and that made for some entertaining public outings, especially since I was pregnant at the time. I’ve met all sorts of IV teams and anesthesiologists because of this game. This particular visit however, they finally found a vein on the 5th poke.
The vein they were finally able to find was small however and the nurses were worried about pushing so much blood through it. At this point though, they were out of options and so decided to begin. While the first bag of blood was coursing through my tiny hidden veins, one of the nurses informed me that she checked my hemoglobin levels from my bloodwork and was surprised I was alive and standing. She also noted that she thought I’d be back for another bag or two of blood because the two that were ordered for me probably wouldn’t help as much as everyone was hoping considering how low my hemoglobin was. Thankfully my rising anxiety was quickly stifled as she handed me a menu so I could order lunch.
I spent 7 hours at the hospital. I met some very kind people along the way. I was able to have my mama by my side. And perhaps most importantly, I felt so much appreciation for those who donated blood and saved my life.
Which brings me to a deep realization. It still blows my mind that the blood of a kind stranger or strangers is coursing through my veins. My heart pumps the blood of these good Samaritans and I know nothing about them other than the fact that we share a blood type. I can’t tell you their race or gender. What’s their religion? Political affiliation? I have no clue. Whoever they are though, they saved me. And I will be forever grateful to them and anyone who donates blood.
So in August I head back to the doctor to follow up. It will take months to fully recover. However the day after my transfusion, I already felt so much better. Since Friday I’ve had much more energy, many of the symptoms I was experiencing have subsided and perhaps my most favorite…every night beginning Friday I have been able to fall asleep quickly! And I wake up so much easier (not easily…just easier!) and actually feel somewhat rested. WHO KNEW?!?
So get out there and donate blood. Or if you can’t, at the very least do a random act of kindness for someone. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Really look. This is your life. How are you living it?