Jeff and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad (Medical) Day

Do you know this title reference? It’s from a kids’ book. I don’t know the story: Alexander’s Super Bad Day, etc. I never read it as a kid. By the time the book came out, I was too old for it. And somehow, as a parent with two young children and a serious read-aloud addiction, I missed it completely. My kids never heard the story either. From the title, I suspect it’s about Alexander’s especially bad day. I had one of those on Sunday.

Over the past year, I wrote about chronic dizziness. Frequently, when I exerted myself—exercise, chores, etc—my head spun. Concerning and disturbing. I wrote about it Here, and
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and Here

Oh wait, maybe that’s all I’ve written about for the past year.

Anyway, two months ago my doctor and I figured out the cause. When I stopped eating meat in February (2020), my blood’s iron level crashed. Dizziness is a common symptom of low iron, as is breathlessness—another ongoing complaint from the past year. “A simple fix,” my doctor said, “take a supplement.” And I have ever since. A few weeks later, the dizziness disappeared. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Iron levels don’t change over night. I returned for a blood-test six weeks later. It disappointed me to see that my iron only rebounded by half. My level was now squarely within the ‘normal’ range, but still well below my baseline from the past several years’ tests. Still I felt OK, not dizzy, so I considered myself cured.

On Saturday night, Mark texted me. A few coaches planned to mountain bike Sunday morning with their kids. Were Eli and I in? Yes, of course we were.

Here’s the thing about your blood. You have no idea what’s going on in there from one week to the next without repeated tests. They’re expensive and inconvenient, I haven’t had one in weeks. I expected my iron level to keep climbing after the last test, putting my terrible year to bed for good. But I guess that hasn’t happened.

Two miles into our ten-mile loop I knew I wouldn’t make it. I grew increasingly out of breath on each riding segment, and my rest breaks became annoyingly long. I hyperventilated, caught my breath, then hyperventilated again, over and over. A mile and a half later, I started to worry if I could even make it back to the car. I envisioned myself stuck in the woods, out of steam, five miles from the trailhead. I left Eli with the group and headed back to the car, walking all of the inclines. Defeated, embarrassed, feeling like a loser, I knew I still have a long way to go with my blood problem. So in general, a terrible, no good morning.

Later that day, Eli passed out. I called into the next room to let him know that dinner was ready. On his way to the kitchen, he paused five feet away, just on the other side of the half-wall that separates our kitchen from the room we call our ‘parlor.’ Eli reached high, fingers brushing the ceiling, making that “aaaahh” sound people do when they really stretch. I looked down to cut up broccoli for our salads, and THUMP. I looked up, Eli was gone.

Eli fainted dead off his feet. I ran into the parlor and found him on his side wedged behind a chair. He stared blankly into space, while I screamed “Hey, hey, are you OK?” Thirty seconds later, he was completely unfazed by the incident. “Huh, I guess I passed out. Let’s eat.” Me, on the other hand, I was freaked out, stringing together worst-case scenarios in my head the rest of the night. So really, a horrible, very bad evening, too.

As I went to bed at the end of the night, my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad medical day (and maybe the whole year) caught up with me. It’s enough to worry about my own medical problems without adding one of my kids into the mix. This past year has seen one test after the next: an MRI, an EEG, a stress test, and electrocardiogram. Each time I left the house to exercise, I worried about heart failure, about strokes, about the possibility of fainting during a run or a bike ride and smashing my head open. With my iron deficiency diagnosis, I just recently got a break from all that worrying. Now I’ll start over with Eli. Sunday night, I climbed into bed knowing for sure that everything has gone wrong.

As it turns out, Eli’s doctor is pretty unfazed by his fainting as well. She thinks it’s related to low blood pressure and standing up too fast. She says it probably won’t happen again. I’m not convinced. His blood pressure is suddenly really low, and no one has given a reason for that. As we sat in the pediatric medical practice waiting for Eli’s doctor, babies screamed, toddlers ran to escape their mothers, and the scent of fouled diapers hung in the air. Eli asked if maybe it was time for him to switch to my doctor, an adult doctor. I think the timing is perfect. Today I made the call.

Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

PS: I wrote most of this early in the week. Since then, I adjusted my diet, added more iron, and a lot more vitamin C (which supports iron uptake in my blood). I made some changes to my Tourette Syndrome medication, and had two really awesome workouts over the past three days. My mood has done a complete one-eighty. Thanks for reading.

30 thoughts on “Jeff and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad (Medical) Day

  1. I loved the Alexander book as a kid. It aligned with by worry wart/fatalist tendencies as a kid. Oddly now that I have mellowed I have an anxious dog! I am glad you’re on the path to feeling better. I used donate blood and a few times got turned away because of low iron. I would have a high iron supper and donate blood the next day! That’s great Eli is has grown up past using a pediatrician (or did that make you sad)? Your description of the pediatrician’s lobby and the smell of “fouled diapers” made me laugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eli switching doctors doesn’t make me sad at all. Really, it’s overdue. I’m glad he mentioned it. Medicating anxiety disorders and Tourettes is tricky. sometimes the drugs counter act one another, the the tendency is to want to just keep loading up on both. For days after my switch, I feel unbelievably better. Although the TS is more obvious now. Susan suggests I just embrace the tics and make them part of my personality. She’s very smart, that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The worst!
    I think Eli will be ok. Young fit people, and if he’s lanky and tall, tend to have low heart rates and low blood pressures, so liable to fainting. Glad you’ve had some killer workouts to turn things around!
    When I was just starting biking, I had my B12, thyroid, hemoglobin and iron checked because I’d be dying all the time on climbs, but it turns out I was just really unfit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The possibility that I’m just out of shape crosses my mind all the time. I recognize I should expect some aerobic decline with age, but dammit, I’m exercising as much as I can reasonably fit in my schedule. Maybe it’s time to reinstate HITT.

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  3. Jeez, you need to catch a break, Jeff! Glad the past few days have been better, and I hope that trend continues. For Eli, too.

    More iron!

    Remember: really fit people typically have low blood pressure. Add dehydration, and…dizziness, and fainting upon standing quickly, are not uncommon. Maybe Eli was dehydrated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eli swears he wasn’t dehydrated, but he’s fifteen so I doubt he was paying any attention. We were talking about it last night and he was making the same sort of vague comments about dizziness that I’ve been making for a year. Now I know how my wife feels when I say, I’m not sure if I’m dizzy. I feel dizzy, but maybe it’s all in my head.

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  4. I concur with the other comments and the doctor. He probably held his breath when he stretched too. Low blood sugar, standing too fast… yadda yadda yadda.
    What happened to the ‘medically prescribed steaks”? Supplements and spinach is great, but vegetarian/vegan doesn’t work, health-wise, for everyone.

    The Human body is so weird! I’m still trying to figure out why I can’t gain weight, but my cholesterol is high. I have fat blood.🤷🏼‍♀️

    I’m glad you got good workouts in, and feel better than you did earlier in the week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As soon as I started eating meat again, muscle cramping and inflammation returned (the reason I quit meat in the first place). My body infrastructure really doesn’t like meat. Right now, I think I’m doing everything I possibly can to boost my iron. If this doesn’t work, I’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I added in meat and then took it back out again. It was causing inflammation and muscle cramping. I’ve decided to wait for the results of my next blood test before I add back in meat, which I’ll probably do one animal at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha. I spent 8 months last year convinced I had long haul covid. I’m now sure my symptoms aren’t covid related and Eli’s don’t seem that way either–something is up with his blood pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am glad you are feeling better with a little tweak of diet and supplements. I am glad Eli is okay too. I don’t think my kids take very good care of their diets and hydration and could see one of them pass out since they don’t fuel their bodies to compensate for all their sports. I was thinking about changing the kids Doctor to an adult one too, for Bobby especially. We were in the ER last weekend getting another round of stitches from a basketball injury and the stitches came out yesterday. Getting them out seemed to be more traumatic for him than getting them in. Suddenly the pediatrican’s office seemed to be the right place for all the whimpering that he did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Yeah, technically, my kids can stay at this medical practice forever, but I don’t really like most of the doctors and we have little control over who we see (although one I absolutely refuse to see). My practice is led by a doc who’s an avid runner so I think a sports focus comes out into whatever they do.

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  6. glad things turned around for you later in the week, but that must have been frightening to see your son faint. Hopefully it was just a one-time incident and that there are no underlying health issues. It’s much more stressful worrying about our kid’s health than our own…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, the last sentence of this post is fantastic!! I had a friend who tried to be a vegetarian – for her that meant more carbs – she had iron issues and lost a bunch of hair. It took her a long time to recoup her iron levels. I’m glad you are feeling better!!! That’s great news!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Whew! Glad your changes to your diet had a positive impact on your mood. I am certainly not a medical expert, but as a high school teacher, I will tell you that over the years, I did have several kids pass out in class. One minute they seemed fine, the next minute, they were out cold. I always panic-called the nurse, but they always turned out to be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m on the mend. I did a really hard run today in Michaux with ample opportunity to walk and I pretty much ran the entire thing. Eli just needs to get a couple of good workouts under his belt.

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