There is something about growing older that causes us to be more comfortable in our skin, in the choices we make in our life as a whole. My birthday greeting from my lifelong friend Grace summed it up well.
There is also something else about growing old that sometimes hits home from time to time and that is we become aware of our mortality.
I celebrated my 40th birthday on February 26. There was no huge pomp and ceremony, just enough for the 6 of us. Unfortunately, we are still enduring the Pandemic so there was no party but that was fine. I had my family. This celebration was one of appreciation and gratitude.
You see about 3 months prior I started being plagued with severe heartburn and chest pains. I reached out to my family doctor who like most doctors is doing phone consultations before seeing patients. He informed me that I may have gas and I should take Beano. That sounded like utter nonsense but he is the doctor so I indulged him.
As you would suspect, that did not work. Chest pains were waking me up every night. I would have to take deep breaths or drink warm water to rid myself of them. I called my doctor again to update him. I was asking him to recommend a complete checkup but he said it could be stress from the pandemic that was causing the chest pains and I should use a drug called Rabeprazole Sodium. He never mentioned to me that I might have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD occurs when the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. The lining of the esophagus can become irritated by the backwash commonly called acid reflux.
The Band Aid
One of my friends had previously made mention of GERD and my research suggested that might very well be what was plaguing me. The pill he recommended addressed the stomach acid, kind of like suppressing it. The pill was not very effective. I was still having chest cramps, all-day nausea, and a fire that lit my esophagus. The chest pain, by the way, was stomach pain. It just felt like chest pain. My mom suggested that I use baking powder in my water and that worked well. My mom-in-law and my friend Gordon suggested apple cider vinegar and that worked as well. The combination was better than the pills prescribed.
At the end of the 30 days, my family doctor recommended a second dose of Rabeprazole, suggesting the heartburn might be chronic. At this point, I was livid. How much would it take for this individual to have some tests done to see what the underlying issue was? How do you keep prescribing drugs without a little evidence of what was happening?
I called another doctor for a second opinion. She immediately recommended blood work. She said we would start there and then do an ultrasound and then a possible gastroscopy. See this is what I wanted. I did the blood test that same day. I was ready to be better and I was starting to feel nervous because google symptoms all end up with the patient having cancer.
About 2 days after doing my first round of blood work, the doctor I had spoken to for the second opinion called me. Her tone was urgent; I had to go to the ER immediately. My hemoglobin levels were beyond low. My levels were 72. The doctor advised hemoglobin levels should be 110 in a healthy female. I spent all night at the hospital where they did more blood work. My levels had fallen even more. They were at 70. The hardest part was being alone and having to try and shut the negative thoughts out. I just wanted to be home. I had a blood transfusion that night in an attempt to boost my levels.
After the blood transfusion, I had to return to the hospital the next day for a check-up. My hemoglobin levels were up to 86, so they recommended an iron boost. This was another entire day practically at the hospital. The kids were expressing their fear. I was trying to be brave but I was scared. The days that I was home, I was still carrying on as per normal but I was in great pain. I was just putting on a brave face.
The Multiple Tests
Over the next 10 days or so before my birthday, I had a great deal of blood drawn and tests done but I wasn’t complaining because I was getting a thorough examination.
The doctors were concerned that there was no visible source of a hemorrhage that resulted in my hemoglobin levels being that low. Another blood test tested for D-dimers. The results were unusual. They pointed to me having a pulmonary embolism. I remember being on video chat with Brent and the kids. I remember seeing all the places the twins had applied crayons to the walls and remember complaining about every time they did it and having to clean it. However, there I was seeing the scratches on the walls and just wishing I were there and promising not to fuss anymore. I just wanted to be at home.
I did a CT scan and luckily, there was no blood clot. I did an ECG and my heart was fine. I did an ultrasound as well and no abnormalities were found. Thank God. The final set of tests were a gastroscopy, a colonoscopy, a biopsy, and a polypectomy. Nothing abnormal was found. Thank God.
From all the tests, it was discovered that what I was experiencing was severe heartburn or GERD that could be treated by diet. I just had to reduce acidic foods and not eat too late at night. I had microcytic anemia that could be treated by increasing my intake of iron. I was prescribed a new pill called Pantoprazole to help reduce my stomach acid. It is a much better option than the Rabeprazole Sodium with zero side effects.
What I did notice, was having taken the blood transfusion and iron intravenously, the stomach acid issue had improved 98%. Dr. Google says that anemia can cause chest pains, so who knows?
I know I am a little extreme and I was very emotional during that period because I had no real idea what was going on and I just kept thinking about my husband and children. After the gastroscopy, Brent and the kids came for me. When I got into the car, Shiloh announced, “I won’t let them take you away from me.” She has been saying this to me every day. She hugs whichever part of my body she can get a hold of and says those words.
The Happy End – Happy 40th Birthday To Me!
So happy 40th birthday to me. My takeaway is to get a new family doctor, always to get a second opinion, not to take life for granted, appreciate what you have, watch your diet, pray and just enjoy life. This birthday was different for all of us, we were truly thankful to have me healthy again. Family is everything.