Thursday, April 10, 2008

What happened?

Oh, sweet, nectar-like irony. Remember in the last post I mentioned I would bet a bottle of red they wouldn't find anything wrong with me when I did the blood tests? I was so wrong that it was ludicrous. I failed the blood test. Gave them some blood on Monday morning, as well as a jar of wee thrown in for good measure, and then retreated back to bed, the world still gaily spinning and my stomach dancing a pretty funky beat with it.

On the Wednesday, the GP at the drop-in clinic asked us to drop in, and while we were there, he briefly explained that we needed to get to emergency/casualty ASAP. That was scary. M was excellent; commented that we were just being sent over for more thorough testing. I was so dizzy and feeble. M dropped me outside the emergency entrance and went to park the car. My job was to go inside and present myself. I was too addled and confused to do this. I had to have rests (plural!) on the 5-metre walk to the doors, and when I got inside, I was too baffled and dizzy and scared of puking on someone to really get anything done. Fortunately, M parked the car quickly and hurried in, and took things in hand.

Next thing I know, I'm staring at the ceiling from a bed in the Resuscitation wing, with a drip in my left hand, ECG monitor plugs all over my boobs and tummy and someone removing some of my blood from a vein in my right hand. What happened? M was whisked away to formally register me as a patient in the hospital, and this was strangely comforting. I figured that if I was dying, they'd let him stay.

So I was wheeled off to the Emergency Medical Unit (EMU! Lol!) and spent the night trying not to upset the ECG machine and make it beep wildly. And since it beeped wildly if I breathed in too deeply, it wasn't a restful night. The next morning brought more blood tests and a group of friendly endocrinologists who prodded me and asked me odd questions ("Do you crave milk?" "Is your vision blurry?" "How many angels on the head of a pin?") and left me to mull things over in my dull bed.

The result? I have Addison's disease. I cried when they gave me a diagnosis: I was so happy there was something obviously wrong, something we could fix. I wasn't just being feeble and my body wasn't just stupid. Addison's disease is an auto-immune disorder; it means the body has invented antibodies to its own adrenal glands. It turns out that my body no longer recognises its own cortisol -- the hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex which regulates blood pressure, blood volume, fluid and salt retention and all manner of important things. Without it, you can't do much, as I learned in the weeks preceeding my admission to hospital. It's pretty rare, and there has to be a genetic predisposition for it. Then, during a traumatic incident last August, my body OD'ed on its own cortisol and decided to invent antibodies. I'm paraphrasing this from memory.

They plugged huge quantities of cortisol into my drip (which was my constantly beeping companion everywhere in hospital) and I began to feel better almost immediately. I'm on much lower doses now that I'm home, but I'll be glad to reduce the dose even further. My current dose is about four times the daily dose I'm working towards, if that makes sense. I'm tapering off towards a specific target of miligrams of cortisol per day.

I don't want this blog to become Addison's-obsessed, any more than I want to define myself by this condition. It's been a lot to take in, but gradually it will become another part of my lifestyle, like playing the clarinet or knitting or shouting at the radio newscasts. I'll probably discuss the whole thing in more detail over the next couple of posts, but I've been doing other stuff, too, and I can't wait to show you.

1 comment:

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