Battling Anaemia 

The week before last,  on Thursday I suddenly felt something in the stomach, it wasn’t painful, felt more like a cramp. That happened around 14:30 then around 17:40 I decided to go home, stood up and could feel that my heart was racing. I initially thought nothing of it and decided to go home. However as soon as I tried to cross the road I felt that something was seriously wrong with me and I had to sit down. I then slowly proceeded to the closest tube station but even that proved extremely difficult.

I finally gave in and got a cab that took me to the train station. Thinking about the stomach cramp I had earlier I thought I had a bad sandwich and one day off sick should do it.

Meanwhile I could barely walk and after getting to the second floor of my house my blood pressure would skyrocket to 160/110 and my pulse would be around 130bpm. Everyone around me was commenting on how pale I looked,  suggesting I go to the A&E. Initially I refused,  but later I realised that I’m not getting any better and the A&E wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

So my dad drove me to the local hospital (my mum works there as well) and we went to the A&E. Expecting to wait for ages I was actually admitted relatively quickly, by then I really looked very sick. A nurse took few vials of my blood and sent me back to the waiting room.

Half an hour later they asked for me again but this time I was greated by a guy with the wheel chair! This is where I got really really scared. Then the nurse told me that the lab called them to tell that my haemoglobin level was 49 g/L (this is dangerously low, versus normal 160 g/L) and I require an emergency blood transfusions and would remain in the hospital. I was beyond scared by this point.

They said that normally people collapse when their haemoglobin levels are that low and the fact that I was relatively “alive” meant that my body got used to it. After even the first unit of blood (308ml) I felt almost high and full of energy. The consultant said that I require at least 4 units to get my levels above critical (1.2 litres in total). Each bag takes about 2-3 hours and my transfusions lasted well into the night. By then I was moved to the observation ward.

Next morning I was taken for the ultra-sound, and then for upper endoscopy (which was “fun” as I didn’t feel any sedation) , as they were thinking that I must have a bleed somewhere resulting in slow blood loss. Nothing was found.

Next day at the hospital they took about 20 vials of my blood for various tests. The consultant haematologist couldn’t find anything either apart from my still very low haemoglobin (81 g/L after all transfusions).

In the end I was discharged with a diagnosis of “iron deficiency anaemias”.  Which means that I either don’t absorb enough iron (celiac disease would do that for example)  or have a bleeding somewhere in my lower GI. I was given a bunch of ferrous sulphate pills to help maintain my iron levels.

Upon discharge from the hospital I was still a bit high from the blood transfusions, but that quickly subsided. Then all the “pleasant” symptoms from anaemia appeared – extreme chills (I would wear my hoodie even if it was +24 in a room), shortness of breath, headache, low grade fever, anxiety, inability and unwillingness to do anything, insomnia, night sweats, inability to regulate body temperature. Every day I would measure my blood pressure to gauge how hard my heart was working. If I had been sitting for 2 minutes or more my blood pressure was perfect 117/77, however if I did something slightly physically demanding it would again skyrocket to about 140/100. After 5 days of taking the medication I wasn’t feeling any better. Every day would be like a Groundhog day to me – I would wake up at 6 after only sleeping 4-5 hours and having nightmares. I would then sit quietly on the sofa wearing everything to get worm, even though the room temperature was never below 23C. I would then spend the whole day watching telly and sleeping which in turn would make my insomnia even worse.

However today is day #10 and it’s the second consecutive day that I suddenly started to feel better – temperature is down, I can walk without stopping, my headaches are gone and so are the chills.

I still have several outpatient procedures to go to establish the exact cause of such acute onset of anaemia.

All in all anaemia sucks big time, because of lack of oxygen in your blood it hurts to think, I couldn’t sit in front of my PC at all,  you hate yourself for not being able to do anything, one of the most unbearable symptoms is the constant feeling of cold. It basically sucks all the will to live out of you!

In the hindsight, my symptoms began long before August this year, now I think that I might have had some anaemia for at least 6-7 years. I’m now looking forward to recovery, and if I had it for a while I wonder how I would feel with the normal haemoglobin levels!

Day #11 and I certainly don’t feel any worse. About to drive to the clinic all by myself!

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