Archive for March, 2010

Anticlimactic.

March 29, 2010

I had high hopes for my weekend, as evidenced in the post below. However, as per usual, things didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped.

Here are the things that my weekend did NOT consist of:

My friend R and I got to Pittsburgh about 10:30, and our friend T had a veritable feast waiting for us. We went to bed around 2 a.m. and got up around 10. He made breakfast, we showered, and generally pissed about as we tried to figure out what to do. Our friend J, who was driving from California, had some car trouble along the way and was running about a day late and wasn’t going to arrive until the afternoon.

I had really wanted to go to Ikea, where I needed to return a pair of curtains. I figured it was a lot easier to return them while I was in a city with an Ikea rather than having to drive an hour to the one closest to where I live. However, my friend didn’t feel like driving across town, so there was no Ikea for me.

We ended up going to a fancy outdoor shopping center and went into Sur la Table and Urban Outfitters, where I bought this and this to add to my growing collection of E’s. I have a minor obsession with typography, and plan to have a shelf with all of these somewhere in my house.

Then we headed back to  T’s apartment, as our friend J had finally arrived. We chatted and pissed around for another few hours, then headed to a local restaurant/bar for dinner. There was a band playing there later that we wanted to see, so we bought our tickets, at dinner, and had some beers.

Then, I got accidentally drunk.

This happens about once a year. I seem to forget how rarely I drink, and halfway through my first drink, I’m already feeling tipsy. That fact, combined with the fact that I hadn’t eaten much during the day, led me to be drunk by my 2nd beer. Then we all decided to take a shot (!?) When we went upstairs for the show, I had 2 more beers and 1/2 of my friends drink that he didn’t want. It was pleasant, though, and made standing for 4 hours more bearable. And, luckily for me, there were tons of these at the show:

The show didn’t start until 10, and there were 2 opening bands. The second opening band was awesome, and they really out-shined the headliner, who finally took the stage at about midnight. We stayed for about 3 songs, but just weren’t feeling it, so we left. Went to bed around 2 again, woke up at about 11 on Sunday.

We had talked about going to Fallingwater on Sunday, but it was rainy and cold and generally unpleasant. I wasn’t the slightest bit hungover, thankfully, because I had chugged about a quart of water before I went to bed. T made his famous french toast for breakfast, and we just hung around until about 4 when R decided we’d better hit the road. I wasn’t ready to leave, and I technically could have stayed and left with J this morning, but I decided not to prolong the inevitable. I am kind of sad now that I didn’t stick around, especially because J is moving to Austria to live with his girlfriend and I have no idea when I’ll see him next.

The drive home last night SUCKED. It was rainy and foggy and generally unpleasant.

I am one of those people who, if I am going to drive 3+ hours to go somewhere, I want to do/see/eat things that I couldn’t do/see/eat at home. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of that this weekend. But, it was good to see my friends. And it was especially nice to come home last night, for the first time after a weekend away, to my OWN house. That almost made the whole weekend worth it.

Two Pickets to Tittsburgh

March 26, 2010

In about 2 hours, I’m leaving for Pittsburgh for the weekend. I haven’t packed yet.

Here is what my weekend will probably consist of:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

A Primanti Brother’s sandwich

No explanation necessary.

Boys with beards (There are few things I love more in life.)

These shoes. They should be waiting for me at home right now. I hope they’re half as comfortable as they are cute.


Hope y’all have a lovely weekend! Catch you on the flipside.

Having a moment.

March 25, 2010

I’m having a rough week. I have lots to do but can’t seem to get anything accomplished. I don’t feel like doing anything with friends. Work has been frustrating and stressful. I’m supposed to go out of town this weekend, and I don’t want to go. I haven’t been to the gym once, and I haven’t tracked a single WW point all week. Yesterday, I ate at McDonald’s. TWICE.

I feel gross, and tired, and apathetic about everything.

For some reason, the prevailing thoughts in my head this week have been centered around the family members I lost last summer. I don’t know why these feelings are starting to bubble up now. The anniversary of my aunt and uncle’s death isn’t until the end of June, and the anniversary of my Gigi’s death isn’t until the end of August. But suddenly, I find myself tearing up at random times (like right now) with thoughts of them. Yesterday afternoon, I had to shut my office door because I started sobbing uncontrollably. This is very, very unusual for me — I am not typically much of a crier.

I am wondering if I somehow repressed some of my feelings about their deaths because I had so much else going on at the time – a new house to work on, a huge fundraising at work to plan. But now those things are over (except for my house – I still have a bit of work left to do) and I somehow feel like I’m just starting to grieve.

I never really grieved before all of this. I lost my grandmother and great-grandfather a few months apart when I was 13, but I wasn’t very close to either of them. Plus, at 13, I don’t think I had a very firm grasp on the finality of death. I was more concerned about boys and what I was going to wear to school the next day.

Of course, in the 15 years since then, I have known other people who died. Many of them were classmates and the children of family friends who were taken too soon. And their deaths made me sad. I cried. And then I moved on.

But I just can’t seem to move on this time, especially by my aunt and uncle’s death. I am haunted by what happened to them.

I know these feelings will pass. I know I’ll snap out of this and will get back on track. I am determined that next week will be better. For now, though, I just want to get through this one.

Lowered expectations.

March 24, 2010

No, I’m not talking about the skit that ran regularly on MADtv a few years ago…although it was pretty funny. I’m talking about lowering my expectations of myself, and of others.

Here’s the thing: I am an overachiever. I am a borderline perfectionist. As much as I wish I wasn’t, I am most definitely a Type A personality. I cringe as I write that, because when I googled ‘Type A personality’ just now, the things I read were not flattering. They don’t strike me as particularly “like-able” traits. Here’s what it said:

“Type A individuals can be described as impatient, time-conscious, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing; and are sometimes disliked by individuals with Type B personalities for the way that they’re always rushing. They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays. Because of these characteristics, Type A individuals are often described as “stress junkies.”

As such, I have high (sometimes unreasonably so) expectations of myself AND of others. I have spent a lot of time disappointed by the Type B people in my life, some of whom are my best friends. Their apathy and/or the fact that they seemingly have no sense of time drives me crazy. It’s caused long-standing tension (on my part) in some of these friendships. I can’t stand to be late. If I see a problem or am unhappy in a situation, I work to change it (i.e. if I hate my job, I find a new one, instead of bitching about it incessantly for months or years on end). To me, solving problems comes naturally.

The one problem, however, that I haven’t been able to solve is my weight problem. I beat myself up over it all the time. When I look in the mirror every day, I find myself reminded of the one problem I haven’t been able to totally fix yet.

I am an all-or-nothing person. I typically see things in black or white. If I’m watching my weight, I will either be totally on-plan or will fall off the wagon completely. When I read this post by Krissie the other day, I saw myself. Total success or total failure. There is no in between.

When it comes to weight loss this time around, I have especially high expectations. I have a lot of events coming up later this year that I am hoping to lose weight for. Vacation in June. A wedding in July. My 10-year high school reunion in October. Because of these events, I am putting a lot of extra pressure on myself to lose the weight quickly so that I can enjoy these things without feeling cripplingly self-conscious.

I have these expectations of losing 3, or 4, or 5 pounds a week. My friend Jenn and I were just discussing how it seems so many people are losing that kind of weight every week, and when you aren’t…it makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong. How are these people losing 4 or 5 pounds a week consistently and I’m not? I have a lot of weight to lose, and so I just EXPECT that I will lose more per week.

When I don’t lose the amount I was expecting, I get disappointed. Two weeks ago, when I gained 3.6 pounds, I was distraught. It turned out to be all water weight, but I still felt like a failure. It really threw me off. Last week when I weighed in, I had lost 5 pounds – but when you consider that 3.6 of that was water weight from the previous week, it left me with a loss of only 1.4. Yes, it was a loss. But I feel like I’m still too early into this process to only be losing 1.2 or 1.4 pounds a week.

I look at the fact that I have lost nearly 20 pounds since January and although I am happy to be rid of that weight, I am disappointed that I haven’t lost more.

I am coming to realize that I really need to learn to check my expectations at the door. I need to evaluate whether or not my expectations are realistic and achievable, or if I’m just going to be disappointed when I don’t reach them. I need to monitor my expectations of others, and not get totally frustrated when they don’t do what I expect them to do or do something different that what I would do. It’s not wrong, it’s just different. I need to be easier on them, and easier on myself.

I have a feeling that life will be a lot easier once I can learn to do that.

The near-death experience (the epilogue).

March 22, 2010

I finally got to go home on Monday, May 26 after 5 days in the hospital. I ended up going home to PA to stay with my parents, as there was a whole lot of post-hospitalization things to deal with – lots of blood draws, appointments with a hematologist (aka blood doctor) and a vascular surgeon, having to self-injection blood thinner twice a day and the unbelievable bruising the injections caused.

Normal daily tasks became totally overwhelming. Every ache and pain terrified me. I had breakdowns almost daily. I was a nervous wreck. What I soon realized was that I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A near-death experience will do that to you.

The following week, I went back to work. I got up every hour to do laps around the office to keep blood flowing through my legs. I stopped drinking green tea, which I previously drank daily, because it has high levels of Vitamin K, which can make a person more likely to clot.

When I saw the hematologist for the first time, they grew 13 vials of blood. No joke. They tested me for all different kinds of clotting disorders, and I was shocked when one of the tests came back positive. Apparently, I had a autoimmune blood disorder called the “lupus anticoagulant,” which is also known as antiphospholipid syndrome. Despite the name, it affects many people who do not have – and never develop – lupus.

In a way, I felt lucky to know that I had this blood disorder because most women who have the disorder never know until they have multiple miscarriages. They have to endure losing several fetuses and thoughts that they did something wrong before their doctor thinks to test them for antiphospholipid syndrome. Women who do have it need to inject themselves with blood thinner throughout their pregnancy, which usually ends in a healthy, full-term baby.

I was given strict instruction by my hematologist that I can never, ever go on an estrogen birth control again. In fact, I was advised never to go on any kind of birth control again. When I do hope to get pregnant, I will have to go off of my oral blood thinner and onto an injectable blood thinner as the oral blood thinner can cause major birth defects. Of course, I am not to the point yet where I am ready to get pregnant, but it is good that I know what I have to do in order to have a pregnancy that is safe for both me and the baby.

And then there is the matter of the IVC filter. Several months after this whole thing happened, I decided to move back to my hometown. I immediately got a new hematologist (Dr. K) and vascular surgeon (Dr. A). In late 2008, I visited with them and discussed the possibility of having my IVC filter removed. They both decided it was a good idea, so the removal was scheduled for January 2009.

The day of the procedure, I was a basketcase. After what I went though with having the IVC filter put IN, I was not at all looking forward to having it taken OUT. Fortunately, this time I would have anesthesia.

But as the procedure started, and I was dozing off, I felt them begin the procedure. I managed to slur “I can feel this!” and they subsequently gave me more anesthesia to knock me out. It worked, and I don’t remember a thing.

When I woke up, I was told that, unfortunately, they had not been able to remove the filter. Although it had only been in my body about 8 months, it had adhered to my vein wall, and they couldn’t remove it without risking that my vein would tear. I was so upset. This meant that I was going to have to be on blood thinner indefinitely, as the IVC filter can cause an increased risk of clotting (although that seems totally counter-intuitive).

So that’s where I am now. My filter is still in place, I am still on an oral blood thinner every day, I still have to be consistent with my vitamin K intake. I still have to see my hematologist (Dr. K) every six months. I have had no other long-term effects from the PEs.

This is the part where I get a bit preachy.

Since this happened to me, I’ve tried hard to let my girlfriends know about the risks of birth control. Of course, many, many women take it for years and years without a problem. But there are a lot of women out there who are like I was – obese and living a very sedentary lifestyle – who don’t realize that those two factors put them at risk, with or without a clotting disorder. I wish that these commercials for birth control would mention those two factors instead of only mentioning that women who smoke are more at risk for blood clots.

Of course, it is also important to note that there are also a lot of women who are NOT obese or living a sedentary lifestyle who develop clots. Most doctors never think to test for a clotting disorder unless a woman has a family history of blood clots. If a woman is adopted, or doesn’t know much about her family history, it would be worthwhile to speak to her doctor about being tested for clotting disorders.

I also have tried to let people know how important it is to LISTEN to your body. Many times, people intuitively KNOW when something is not right, yet they are hesitant to see a doctor or go to the hospital because they are too busy, or embarrassed, or self-conscious, or in denial, or don’t have health insurance. The only thing that I can say is that if you think something is wrong, DON’T WAIT. It could be a matter of life and death. If I hadn’t found my way to that hospital, I probably would not be sitting here writing this right now.

I am lucky that I got a second chance. There are many who were not so lucky. Because I survived, I feel like I need to spread the awareness and live a long, healthy, and productive life in honor of those who didn’t make it.

The near-death experience (part four).

March 19, 2010

Read part one, part two, and part three.

After I returned to my room after the procedure, I had myself a good cry. I had never felt so miserable. I had never wanted to take a shower so badly in my whole life. My nerves were totally shot. I was scared. It hurt to eat, to swallow. I had a foreign object implanted in my body.

Having a foreign object implanted in your body is a very weird experience. On one hand, I found a great sense of relief in the fact that the filter was there and would protect me from any future blood clots. On the other hand, I absolutely hated the fact that there was a medical device hanging out in one of the biggest veins in my body. It felt totally unnatural.

I also hated the fact that I was eventually going to have to go through the procedure again. The IVC filter I received was removable, and the doctor told me that depending on how I was doing in 6 months or so, I could have the filter removed. If it couldn’t be removed, then I would still be OK – the filter was FDA-approved to become “permanent.”

By this time, the physical details of what caused the pulmonary embolisms (PEs) began to become clear. A technician had come to do a Doppler ultrasound on my legs to see where the deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot, that caused the PE had come from. They determined that it had formed in my left leg, behind my knee.

It didn’t take long for me to connect that clot to some pain I had been having in my shin about two weeks before. I hadn’t been exercising, so I knew that it wasn’t shin splints…but it still was an annoying pain. At the time, I had called my mom, who works at a hospital, and she asked some of the nurses what the pain might be. They all suggested that it could be a phlebitis, or the swelling of a vein. They advised me to start taking a baby aspirin to see if that helped. It did, and I never thought another thing about it. As it turns out, that phlebitis didn’t go away — it just got worse.

The interesting part was that in the days leading up to the PE, I had no pain in my legs. This is pretty unusual. A lot of people who have DVTs experience redness, swelling, and pain which sends them to the doctor or ER. I didn’t have any of that.

So, the blood clot had formed in my leg — but why?

During this time, I was living an extremely sedentary lifestyle. I was working full-time and taking 9 credits at grad school. I would work all day, come home, eat dinner, and then sit for 5-6 hours, doing school work. Or, I would work all day, then drive an hour to school, sit in class all night, drive an hour home, and go to bed. There was no time for exercise. This went on for weeks and weeks.

On top of that, I was obese. With obesity can come increased odds of blood clots. Doctors don’t really know why that is, but it’s been proven.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was this — birth control pills.

I had only been on birth control for about 9 months at the time. I went on it because my periods were irregular and my skin was a nightmare. I thought a low-dose estrogen birth control might help. The doctor prescribed it without any concerns.

I had seen enough birth control commercials to know that they came with an increased risk of blood clots. However, they always seemed to give that disclaimer in relation to women who smoked. I didn’t smoke, so I thought I was in the clear.

Those three things — obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and birth control— are what caused the DVT to form. That DVT broke loose at some point on May 21, 2008 and traveled to my heart.

***

I was in ICU for a total of three days. By this time, I was allowed to get out of bed and walk around. I was moved to a semi-private room that I had to share with a crazy lady. She wasn’t sick, but she had been involved in a domestic dispute with her son and I guess the police didn’t know where else to go with her.

It would be three more days before I would be able to go home. The doctors were switching me from IV blood thinner (Heparin) to an oral medicine (Coumadin). I wouldn’t be discharged until I was at a “therapeutic” level on the Coumadin, and it took longer than expected.

My friends, who had been planning to spend the holiday weekend at my cabin, drove the two hours to the hospital to visit with me. My best friend from high school and her sister came down as well, and as soon as my friend walked in, she started bawling. My grandparents and brother came down to visit. I checked my cell phone and had 12 voicemails from people calling with their well wishes. I had never been so touched in my life.

I was feeling better. I had a MAJOR black eye from when I hit the glass face-first. I still felt disgusting, as I still hadn’t be able to take a shower because I was constantly tethered to an IV stand. But I was able to laugh and relax a bit.

My parents did their best to keep my spirits up. One day, on their way back into the hospital, they stopped in the lobby where I had done by face-plant into the glass wall to check out “the scene of the crime.” I had told them exactly what happened – about the bench I was heading for, and the tree I fell into – but I don’t think they believed me.

That is, until they saw the imprint of my face on the glass. It was still there, days later. They took a picture of it. They also made sure that every person who came to visit me went to see that imprint. They thought it was hilarious.

I had to agree.

The near-death experience (part three).

March 18, 2010

Read part one here and part two here.

Once I was in my room in Intensive Care, I told the nurse I had to go to the bathroom. She informed me that I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed because the doctors were worried that if I had another clot in my leg that it could travel to my heart, which was already compromised because of the trauma that it had gone through a few hours before. They told me that if, by chance, I ‘threw another clot’ (their term) that it could kill me. So, if I had to go to the bathroom, the nurse was going to have to help me use a bed pan.

(Also, this might be TMI, but did I mention that I had my period during this whole ordeal? Talk about adding insult to injury!)

Most of the time, if a person is in Intensive Care, they are either so sick or injured that they don’t really know what’s going on. I, on the other hand, knew EXACTLY what was going on. I didn’t sleep much that first night – or any night I was in the hospital, for that matter. Someone was coming in to draw blood roughly every four hours. The nurse would come in to hang new bags of saline or blood thinner about every two hours. All of those fluids made me have to go to the bathroom all the time, and every time I had to pee, I had to call for the nurse to come help me. Needless to day,  I  never got more than an hour of sleep at a time. On top of that, I was terrified to even move lest another clot break loose, so I laid flat on my back and tried to stay as still as possible.

My parents had stayed at a hotel that first night, and came back first thing in the morning. By this time, the gravity of what had happened to me was beginning to sink in. Every doctor or nurse who came into my room told me how lucky I was to be alive. I wanted to cry, but I was afraid it would make things worse.

It was then that I began to realize how close I had been to dying. If I had tried to drive to that other hospital, I might not have made it. If I hadn’t ended up falling into that glass wall and passing out on the floor, that clot might have stayed stuck in my heart and I would have died right there, on the floor in the lobby of the ER. If things hadn’t happened in the exact sequence in which they did, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.

When a doctor came through mid-morning, I thought it would just be a routine check up. Instead, she told my parents and I that I needed to have a procedure ASAP – I needed to have an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placed. They would feed the closed filter down through a tube that would be inserted into the jugular vein in my neck. The filter would then be placed in my inferior vena cava, which is the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart. Once it was placed, they would open it up like an umbrella. That way, if another clot was to form and break loose, the filter would “catch it,” thus preventing it from traveling to my heart and/or lungs. Here’s what the filter looks like:

Small clots could pass through, but any big ones – the harmful ones – would stay trapped in the filter. Once the filter was placed, I would be allowed to move around more.

The prospect of some foreign object getting shoved down into my body through my jugular vein made me (and still makes me) lightheaded. I asked the doctor if I would be put under general anesthesia. She said that considering what I had been though, she had recommended that I just be given light sedation.

Except that’s not what I got.

Early in the afternoon, I was wheeled down to radiology to have the filter placed. I thought I’d be having the procedure in an operating room, but apparently they wanted the filter placed ASAP and there were no operating rooms available on that short of notice.

I was told to lay down on a stainless steel table – the kind you’d lay on if you were going to have an x-ray of your hip or back done. It was really uncomfortable, and there were like 7 people in the room, including what appeared to be two high schools students observing for the day.

Then they told me that not only was I not getting any kind of sedation, but that I would be fully awake for the whole procedure and it was really important that I lay there completely still. They would be injecting Novocaine into my neck so I wouldn’t feel any pain, only pressure.

Having that filter placed was the most horrible experience of my life. To even type about it right now makes me feel nauseous. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that I could feel the filter being put in through the incision at my jugular and could feel them moving it down until about the top of my rib cage. It didn’t hurt, per se, but I could definitely feel it – and it was totally unnerving.

As I laid there on that stainless steel table for over an hour, with my head turned awkwardly to the left, I prayed like I have never prayed before. I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but not particularly religious. I haven’t attended church regularly in probably 12 years. But in the moment, my mind just went somewhere else. I tried to remove myself from that room, in that hospital, from the entire experience I’d been through in the last day. I just closed my eyes and prayed that I could remain totally still and that nothing else bad would happen and that there wouldn’t be any complications.

Once it was over, and I was taken back up to my room. The incision was very small, but my neck was sore and it hurt to swallow.

But finally, I felt like I didn’t have to hold in my tears any longer.

The near-death experience (part two).

March 17, 2010

Read part one here.

Before I came to, I remember that I was having a dream. I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but it was a pleasant dream.

When I woke up, I was laying on the floor of the lobby. My shoes were off; I never did figure out why. There were a few people standing above me. I felt better – not as short of breath.

I was, however, missing a contact lens. It must have flown out of my eye when I did the face-plant into the glass wall. I also realized that I had peed myself while I was passed out, which was somewhat embarrassing…but when you’re lying on the floor of an ER lobby and you don’t know what is wrong with you, you tend not to care about that kind of thing.

The nurse asked me if I could stand up. I felt OK, so I did. They put me in a wheelchair, and took me to a triage room. They asked me a thousand questions: Why were you coming to the hospital? I told them about my shortness of breath and racing heartbeat. Had I been sick recently? Nope. Do you have a history of syncope (fainting)? Nope. Had I taken any long flights or car trips lately? Nope.

Was I on birth control pills? Yes. (More on why that fact was so important later.)

That one question really got things moving. Apparently I was dehydrated, so I was given a saline IV and taken for an MRI. They also started me on blood thinner, based on a hunch from the doctor. I never experienced such fast service at a hospital. If you ever need attention at an ER fast – just pass out in their lobby. That’ll get you taken care of pretty damn quick.

About a half an hour after the MRI, the doctor came back in with the results. I had never seen MRI results come back that quickly. I will never forget his words as long as I live: “You need to know that this is a life-threatening situation.”

It turns out that I had massive blood clots in my lungs – “bilateral pulmonary embolisms”, if you want to be technical. What had started in my leg as a blood clot, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), had traveled up from my leg and through my heart, which responded to the clots by beating like crazy to try and move them through, hence the shortness of breath. The doctor said that, while I had probably knocked the clots loose from my heart when I passed out and hit the floor like a ton of bricks, the situation was very, very serious because these giant blood clots were now hanging out in my lungs, and you definitely don’t want giant blood clots hanging out in your lungs.

The thing was – aside from missing a contact lens, having wet pants, and a slight headache from my face-plant – I felt fine physically.

But although I felt fine, I was totally scared shitless. I was in the ER being told that I was in a life-threatening situation and my parents were 2 hours away. I had given the hospital my parent’s phone number, and the doctor called to tell them what had happened. I knew I couldn’t talk to them or I would start crying, and I didn’t want to make anything worse.

I felt like my parents got to the hospital in no time at all. I remember the doctor coming and talking to us about how normally they would give me a “clot-busting” drug that would make the giant clots in my lungs go away almost immediately, but because I had hit my head pretty hard before I passed out, they were afraid that I could bleed into my brain, which could kill me. So, instead, they would just pump me full of IV blood thinners so that the clots could dissolve slowly on their own.

That night, my parents and I sat in the ER and watched the finale of American Idol; it was the year David Cook won. My parents called my boss and my friends to let them know what happened and that I was going to be out of commission for awhile. There would be no Memorial Day weekend celebration, and I would not be attending any baby showers.

Not long after, I was wheeled up to Intensive Care. INTENSIVE CARE. Those two words really did it for me. You only went to Intensive Care if you were really, really sick.

This really WAS bad.

The near-death experience (part one).

March 16, 2010

It was a Wednesday – May 21, 2008. The night before, I had finished my second-to-last semester of grad school with the completion of my portfolio presentation. The most stressful semester of my entire academic career was finally over.

Memorial Day weekend was in a few days, and I was hosting my friends at my family’s cabin for the weekend, like I always do. I had a lot to do to prepare, and with everything else that had been going on with work and grad school, I was way behind. Not only that, but I had a friend who was having her baby shower that Saturday. I hadn’t bought a gift yet.

But that Wednesday, I was scheduled to go to a happy hour for alumni of my college – about 20 minutes from where I worked at the time. It was gray and drizzly.

I noticed as I walked down the three flights of stairs from my office that I was short of breath. I had noticed this happening intermittently in the previous day or two, but just chalked it up to me being overweight and out of shape. It’s not like it was that out of the ordinary for me to be slightly out of breath after going up a flight or two of stairs anyway.

But this time it was different. Once I got to my car, I noticed that my heart was beating really fast, and I couldn’t get my breathing under control. I have mild asthma, and carry an inhaler with me ‘just in case’. Although I hadn’t had one in years, I thought maybe I was having an asthma attack, so I used my inhaler and continued to drive to my destination.

The further I drove, the worse it got. I started getting panicky. I knew something was wrong. I knew that I probably needed to go to the hospital, but I didn’t want to believe it. Once I got to the general area of the happy hour, I pulled over and called my mom. I told her what was happening, she timed me while I took my pulse. My heart rate was through the roof. She told me to go to the hospital. I only knew where one hospital was, and it was at least 20 minutes away. By now it was rush hour, it was raining harder, and I didn’t know exactly how to get to the hospital from where I was. So I just started driving in the direction I thought was right.

A few minutes later, I saw a big blue “H” road sign with an arrow. There, to my left, was Suburban Hospital. I had heard of the hospital, but hadn’t known where it was. In the moment, I felt like God put that hospital right there just for me. But in order to get there, I needed to get across three lanes of traffic to get in the turning lane. In rush hour. In the rain. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. I pulled into the emergency room parking lot and parked my car as close as possible. By the time I got to the ER doors, I was totally out of breath and felt dizzy. I paused outside, leaning against a pillar. I looked through the sliding glass doors into the all-glass lobby area. I saw a bench, and I decided that I would go sit on it until I could catch my breath a bit.

I never made it to that bench.

The last thing I remember is stumbling forward, into a tree/planter, and my face smashing into the plate glass wall.

Doctor, doctor, give me the news.

March 16, 2010

Yesterday I took the day off work because I had two doctor’s appointments scheduled. I work about 40 minutes from where I live and so I decided that I’d just schedule the appointments on the same day rather than have to arrive late/leave work early on two separate days.

As I’ve mentioned before, doctor’s appointments have always been a source of anxiety for me, for as long as I can remember. Of course, I was always anxious because I knew my weight would be brought up, and that was the one thing I did not want to talk about. Anyway, I had actually re-scheduled both of these appointments from back in January because I wanted to lose some weight before I went in to face the music.

And for the first time ever, I actually DID lose weight before my appointments. I was actually excited to step on the scale at my first appointment because I wanted to see if my 3.6 ‘gain’ had found its way out of my body yet. Thankfully, it had — I was down to the previous week’s weight, according to their scale. I told the nurse practitioner that I was doing Weight Watchers and exercising and that I had lost about 20 pounds so far this year. Turns out that she is a lifetime member of WW, a topic we discussed while she was giving me my yearly lady-parts exam. Lovely!

When I went to my second doctor’s appointment, about 2 hours later, I knew I’d have to step on the scale again. No sweat, I thought! Well, turns out that the scale at that office was WAY off. According to it, I had miraculously GAINED 6 pounds in the last two hours. Granted, I was wearing my clothes this time (before I was just wearing one of those lovely gowns/mu-mu’s they provide). So, of course, I made it a point to tell my doctor (Dr. K) that I knew for a fact that their scale was off and that I had actually lost almost 20 pounds since the last time I saw her.

All Dr. K said to me was “Well, that’s good. Be sure to keep losing weight. Then you can buy a new wardrobe!” I thought it was a weird comment, but whatever…she is not a native English speaker, so I’ll let it slide.

I kind of hate going to see Dr. K because it reminds me of a terrifying thing that happened to me almost 2 years ago. I briefly mentioned it here but didn’t get into the nitty-gritty of it. I’m working on the first post about it now, but it will probably be spread over several posts because there’s a lot to say. Stay tuned!