Getting Back to Health - My Troubling Health Journey

By Carmen, 11 September 2019

Hello everyone,

As I said in a previous post – I’m going to do a blog post about my health issues – and this is the blog post where I will be discussing it. I’ll first go through the actual thing that happened, then I’ll be delving a bit deeper and going into my thoughts about the whole thing. Oh – and I should probably add a disclaimer and a warning: If there happens to be any guys reading this blog post; I will be delving into the topic of Menstruation – so be WARNED; I will be talking about this. Also another warning: this post might be a little bit long. Please note that the pics used in this blog post are ONLY used for illustration purposes and to break up the long blog post a little bit.

It was supposed to be a normal doctor’s appointment that Tuesday; with the intention of getting my cold sorted out. But here’s how it actually happened:

While they were doing routine checks – blood pressure, iron levels, etc. – they came across that my iron was very low, lower than it should be; even though I was on my period (i.e. menstruating). For all the girls/women who have been through this – I’m quite sure you know what’s coming. Anyways, moving on.

Doing a basic blood test was the next step – and the results were concerning; so going to a pathologist lab that same afternoon was the next thing I did. As the test results were only available the next day, I went back to the doctor – up until that point, I’d only ever experienced having the odd injection and having blood drawn in relation to being exposed to needles. I wasn’t a fan of having blood drawn, but considering the circumstances, it needed to be done. Oh – and take note; I was helping out at my old work place since they were short on office staff – by that point; I’d been helping out for about five or six weeks. The doctor gave me off the rest of the afternoon as well as the next day. Having a cold at this point wasn’t pleasant – but with the visit to the doctor; the cold was of secondary importance in comparison to the iron issues.

Going back the next day, I found out that my iron was almost dangerously low. In between all this; I’m wondering how things are going at my old work place, since the receptionist was most likely running things mostly on her own. Here the doctor started explaining how Iron levels worked, especially in relation to menstruation – which on its own had its effects, my iron wasn’t being allowed the time it needed to build itself back up to what it needed to be. At this point, the doctor recommended blood transfusions.

Now, with me being the naïve person I was – I reckoned that something like this was going to be done and dusted that same afternoon. Not so – I would have to take more time off work to have these transfusions take place. The doctor said that I should be at his office early the next day, so that he could book me into the town’s private hospital.

Now, take note – up until this point – I’d never been booked into hospital. So I’ve had my first hospital experience at 30 years of age. Some people might call that lucky.

Anyways, so here’s me booked off work the next day too. I had a very early morning, since I had to be at the doctor’s rooms at 7:30am. One thing I was happy about was that I’d gotten stuff for my cold. Once I’d arrived at the doctor’s rooms, he started making arrangements for me to be booked into hospital.

From there it was off to the hospital. The admission was pretty quick – thankfully the medical aid would be covering for this one, and there wasn’t a co-payment either. I was booked in on the first floor in the first ward. It felt strange being in hospital. At that point in time, I was alone in the ward – and definitely wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t long before I got breakfast, and I reckoned that if I was going to be going through hospital procedures, I was going to be needing all the food on my plate – especially since my iron wasn’t what it should be; at that stage I was considered anemic. In between all this, I was getting asked all the routine hospital questions by one of the nursing staff.

Thankfully I didn’t over-think any of the hospital procedures that I would have to go through – otherwise I would have been a bit of a wreck. Once breakfast was done, it wasn’t long before the nurse rocked up with the (afterthought: dreaded) IV needle. Yes – an IV needle was a new experience to me, and I most certainly did not know what I was in for. But, with my health issues – it was one that I tolerated – but didn’t necessarily like. Even though it wasn’t a pleasant experience, the nurse tried to be quick and as gentle as it was possible to be with an IV needle as well as efficient. Hence, and suffice to say, I sat for a few minutes feeling quite light headed and sipping from my cold drink bottle to keep myself from passing out.

Once I’d gotten back to normal, I was alright. The IV didn’t bug me too much once it was in. From there, I sat and waited for the doctor.

Medical Staff (Illustration Purposes ONLY)

It wasn’t long before other patients started coming in. The doctor also arrived not long after that, where he did his routine check, and from there scheduled another blood test, whereas after that the blood that I would need would be ordered. It appeared as if I would need three units of blood. Which meant that I was likely going to stay overnight. In between all this – I was also trying to keep everyone in my circle up to date as to what was happening. It wasn’t long before lunch rocked up, and as before – I basically ate almost everything on my plate. By that time, blood had been drawn from me twice – once for the hospital, and once for the blood test that needed to be done by the pathologist. After my experience with the IV needle, having blood drawn was almost like a walk in the park at this point.

I alternated between reading, texting people and occasionally silently watching TV. As I said in one of my other weekly posts – I didn’t get much reading done during my stay in hospital.

It was late afternoon when the blood arrived. Turns out that my blood type is A+. The nurse explained the procedure – and how the blood bank goes through a vigorous test to make sure that the blood that they’re providing you with is compatible with your own blood – to minimize reactions. The nurse also explained that if I feel any out of the ordinary strangeness, that I must make sure to use the call bell, though the machine that I was hooked up to would detect any strangeness before I even felt it myself.

For the first few minutes, the nurse stood at my bedside, to make sure that everything was running smoothly and that there wouldn’t be any reactions. After that I had dinner, and from there I alternated between reading and watching TV. At times it felt a little weird having the blood go through me, but other than that, that side of things was alright. I couldn’t move around a huge amount – these blood bags were on a steady drip for four hours, and I had three of these bags to go through – one after the other. Which meant that I mostly made peace watching a little bit of TV. I watched bits and pieces of Marley and Me as well as Duke. Nothing too interesting was on.

Hospital Bed (Illustration Purposes ONLY)

The thing with machines, especially if there’s other patients in the ward with you, is that if you’re just drifting off into REM sleep, and a machine goes off – you almost get jerked awake from the sound, and then you wonder if it’s your machine or someone else’s. This was quite a thing the first night for me, especially since I had three bags of blood to go through. The nurses also did their routine checks throughout the night with all the patients, to make sure that everything was running as it should.

As you can imagine, I was pretty tired when I finished with the third bag at around 6:30am the next morning – as the nurse warned me; I didn’t get a huge amount of sleep, and it was nice to drift off a little bit for a nice proper nap before having breakfast at around 8:30am. The pathologist also arrived after breakfast to take more blood for another blood test to see how things stood after the blood transfusions. I wasn’t quite sure if anything more was going to happen after this – so I waited things out, watching some more TV and occasionally reading. It seemed like I had an appointment with the gynecologist after breakfast; which someone from the hospital staff came to fetch me in a wheelchair for, and which was right across from the hospital itself. During the session, the gynecologist just did a routine sonar to check that everything was as it should be, and very briefly explained that I should consider being on some form of contraception, so that my iron levels could build up to what they should be, since it seems as if it was my fairly heavy menstruation that caused this iron deficiency that I now had. Once I had gotten back, I watched little bits and pieces of Love Blossoms, having lunch in between as well as the doctor popping around.

Things were definitely looking up, though to solidify things, the doctor scheduled an iron supplement – and this one was going to be an 8 hour affair. Suffice to say – I was also supposed to be on sound duty at church that weekend, and sound practice that Friday night. So I had to let the pastor know that I unfortunately wouldn’t be able to do sound for the weekend. It was nearer to dinnertime that the iron supplement started, and a little while after that I started watching High Strung – which was a movie I enjoyed and watched properly in its full entirety (I ended up missing a little bit of the beginning) when I got back home.

Another movie I ended up watching later that night was Extortion (after I’d had quite a nap after dinner) – and that was a movie that crept me out quite a bit; and is still quite vivid in my mind. After watching this movie, I decided to see if I could get some sleep. It was early the next morning – around 3am, that I finished with the iron supplement.

And so breakfast came along, and I was glad that the iron supplement was done – I felt that the iron supplement was a little bit more pleasant that the blood transfusions had been, it felt a lot smoother and didn’t feel weird on the odd occasions.

It was after lunch that the doctor came around, and with things going better with my iron levels after having the blood transfusions and iron supplement, he asked me how I was feeling. At that point, I was feeling better than I had in quite a while. I also asked about the sort of diet I should have to keep my iron levels up (hint: I shouldn’t become a vegetarian anytime soon!); and recommended that I should go on contraception to keep my iron levels as they should be and allow them to build themselves up especially after having gone through so many years of fairly heavy menstruation. Other than that, he decided to release me.

There is one hospital tip that I will give to people – wear fairly loose clothing – especially when it comes to tops; for IV drips/needles. I made this mistake wearing a long sleeved top – trying to take the top off took very careful maneuvering.

IV Drip/Bag (Illustration Purposes ONLY)

This past week I was able to book an appointment with the same gynecologist to discuss what option I would take for the contraception. My initial thought was to go with the injection, but then after discussing the pros and cons of the main three forms of contraception, I decided to go with the pill. I reckon that I will most likely stay with this gynecologist. So on the way home I got myself the monthly pack that I needed – the one I was put on is Zoely; and I also got myself some iron tablets as well. So I’ve got these contraception tablets ready to go next week; and will just need to remember to take them – though that is one of the functions I can use on the Clue App (a lovely little app created for women and their menstruation cycles).

Once I’d gotten back home, I did a lot of resting as well as taking it easy for the first week back at work. I also managed to do my monthly shopping, where I stocked up on some iron-rich things – broccoli, spinach and liver will definitely be lasting for the month; I can’t eat these things in large quantities.

Other things were also going through my mind after this experience at the hospital. Sometimes I feel that people in the caregiving industry are a little bit underappreciated. I am aware that there are those in the caregiving industry that abuse their positions, but thankfully I didn’t come across that sort while I was in hospital. Here are some of the things/people that I appreciated and am grateful for during this hospital and medical journey of mine:

The hospital staff; for the services that they provided; also the time they took to ensure that everything was as it should be, and that I was comfortable. Also to the blood bank – these guys provide a huge service to people who need blood. To my little circle – for the support.

It’s quite a process on my way back to health; and there were times where I’ve wondered how my health got to where it was (a pretty obvious one, but anyways). One thing I will say – don’t take your health for granted; it might not always be available to you, your body has a limit – and you can’t push it past that point. It’s important to look after yourself. But I definitely haven’t felt this good in a long time; chances are – this deficiency has been lurking around for a while. There are still days where I need to be careful how I spend my energy.

This was a bittersweet experience for me – there are times where things weren’t so great, but there are times where I look back with a bit of nostalgia. Even though this was a bit of a hard experience, there’s always something to learn from it. I’m just glad that I’m getting back into routine and with a little bit more energy than I’ve had before.

Besides for having more energy, I have more of a consistent appetite, and I don’t get as cold as I used to – and I will most likely be feeling the heat more intensely this summer (living in the southern hemisphere). So things are definitely going better – and I’m grateful for it.

Road to Recovery (Illustration Purposes ONLY)