Trigger Warning: Boring medical stuff.
Good news, my heart looks beautiful. Can you believe it? I’m still trying to figure out why I get dizzy all the time. I’ve hit the end of the road, there’s nothing left to check. The MRI showed nothing. The electroencephalogram (EEG), normal. My stress test, perfect. The echocardiogram, essentially an ultrasound, not of a baby, but my heart, looked beautiful. That’s the word my doctor used, beautiful.
My eye exam, showed minor changes. Hearing test, ditto. The ear-nose-throat doctor shrugged his shoulders. Twelve months of dizziness, no conclusive results, until Friday. A blood test. A blood test. It only cost me twenty dollars. Do you have any idea what all that other crap cost me? I don’t. They’re still calculating the final bill.
In truth, I had my bloodwork run three time, so sixty dollars. Once by my old doctor, right as I was switching to a new practice. New doc looking over my labs: “Well these are pretty useless. He didn’t order anything I want to see.” Right from the start, she honed in on my diet. In that first appointment, I told my story: “Funny thing,” I told her, “I quit eating meat last February.”
“When did you start getting dizzy?”
She ordered new bloodwork, checking various vitamin levels. That all looked perfect too. When the stress test came back normal, she decided to check my iron. Before the pandemic, the local hospital system ran these cattle-call blood screenings. They would set up in the gym at the YWCA. Stations to register, stations to pay, a place to get poked, and a coffee bar on the way out. An endless parade of people trudged through from six a.m. until nine-thirty, each person getting a blood test. I did this for four years in a row. The results of those tests (measured in mcg/dl—whatever that means): 203, 184, 163, 177. And last week: 60. Here’s the chart from my patient portal.
I love my new doctor. First off, she wants me to call her by her name, Tracey. I’m twenty years older than her, calling her Dr. ______ seems unnecessarily formal. On Friday night, seven-ish, as Eli and I picked up a pizza, I got a voice mail. “Hi Jeff, it’s Tracey, can you give me a call tonight? I want to discuss something before the weekend.” Hmm, slightly disconcerting. But really cool she would call me so late into a Friday evening; I gave her a call. “Your iron dropped by two thirds over the past year. I’d seriously consider adding meat back into your diet.” Tracey told me that a common symptom of low iron is dizziness.
When I first started dating Susan, a work-friend did a twenty-four-hour juice fast every week. He swore by them. “They sharpen me up. I feel fresh and refreshed.” I gave it a try. Starting on a Sunday morning, I ate and drank nothing but cranberry juice for the whole day. The hungrier I got, the more juice I drank. When my alarm went off on Monday morning, I was incapacitated. My head pounded as hard as my worst hangover. I couldn’t get out of bed. I missed the whole day of work.
Just like my juice fast, I gave up meat in an effort to feel healthier. To purge all that poison from my system. I wanted to feel fresh and refreshed, again. And with the exception of being dizzy all the time, it worked pretty well.
Shortly after my second iron dose last weekend, I headed out for a run. With my iron-rich blood, I planned on killing my favorite seven-mile loop. Apparently, the effects of iron on my body will take about six-weeks to come to fruition. The run was miserable, just like all my runs. Just as dizzy, just as fatigued, sucking wind.
On Sunday night, Eli and I shared a New York Strip steak. During my hiatus from meat, he developed a passion for steak. He buys it from a local butcher and griddles it up in a cast iron pan. I’ve watched him jealously for the past twelve months as he perfected his technique. Sunday night, on doctor’s orders, I joined Eli in his feast. I didn’t miss being a vegetarian one bit.