(Note: I am posting this on the one year anniversary of the initial event.)
I made it through the first part of my journey, which was getting to the emergency room. At this point, I still don’t think anyone took me seriously. After checking in with the office, despite all my symptoms, I had to walk clear to the other side of the emergency room. By then, I was extremely weak. I felt like I was going to faint. The man sped from the office to the other side of the building, not even slowing down to see if I was behind him. By then, I was regretting coming to the hospital and wondered if everyone was going to be rude.
I don’t remember the order of everything that happened next. By this point, I was probably close to passing out. I was given a Covid test, which was hideously uncomfortable. I was hooked up to an IV, which also was painful, and I still have the mark on my arm from it. My blood was taken to the lab. My hero, an emergency room doctor, came into the room and determined my lungs were okay even though it was hard to breathe. She did note that something was definitely going on. I was wheeled to radiology to have an ultrasound done. The man there was kind and knowledgeable and even pointed out a connection that no one else had before. People with vitiligo like me usually have a sensitivity to contrast dye. Because of this, I was given a dose of Benadryl. The last thing I remember was sliding from the hospital bed onto the table.
When I woke up, the scan was over. While I waited to be taken back to the emergency room, I groggily took a selfie and sent it to my sister. In it you can see that my eyelid is swollen from having a reaction to the contrast dye, despite the medicine. I feel like there was a doctor and a nurse waiting to talk to me, or one appeared shortly after I returned to the room. My hero doctor’s shift ended while I was in radiology, but she discovered that I only had about 25% of the blood that a person should have in their bodies.
They asked if I had ever had a blood transfusion before. I hadn’t, but I remembered that my mother had multiple times. The gist was I needed to have a blood transfusion. I was given an overview of the process and possible consequences and was told I would need to stay in the hospital. I signed the consent form, and someone immediately came in with a bag of blood. I think they must have been waiting outside the door with it. (This was 6 months into the pandemic, so the door was closed at all times. Everyone wore masks and shields.) My potassium was very low, so I was given a bag of that as well. I was told that it would burn, but between the Benadryl and the illness, I didn’t feel anything.
My nurse kept returning to the room to check on me. He kept the conversation light and I was grateful for that. I was still under the Benadryl’s spell, but I remember he was funny. I wasn’t nervous about the transfusion because something told me it was the right thing to do.
Sometime after midnight, I was told that a hospital room was available, so I was moved out of the emergency room. I must have fallen asleep because I don’t remember being moved. If you have ever been in the hospital, you know there is no such thing as an uninterrupted sleep. I was extremely groggy through the first couple of vital checks. By sun rise, I was starting to feel better. Some of the symptoms I had for the last month had magically disappeared. I was no longer nauseous and the thick mucus I would cough up (or vomit up) was gone. The pounding in my ear was gone. I realized later this was the sound of my heart working overtime to try to keep the small amount of blood flowing through my body.
The symptom that was making me feel awful was discovered. Now, there was a question of why I had so little blood to begin with. Coming up, was another rough part of my journey.
I would like to thank the nurses and doctors in the emergency room for taking care of me and showing me compassion. I recognize how difficult their jobs were / are, especially considering the pandemic.
Coming up next week, will be the conclusion of this essay. I’m realizing now that it may have to be split into 4 parts.
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