No More Sucrose: Scary Stuff
Stuff your body absolutely, one hundred percent needs. Without it, you feel very, very weak. Like so weak moving is difficult. For me, I get weepy for no reason at all and my body starts aching. It takes concentrated effort to move, let alone live or be a mama.
Since 2013, I’ve received iron infusions every three months. This keeps my body moving. It is important and I look forward to these iron infusions because they make me feel like a decently healthy human. I love team of nurses : Holly, Luann, Marla—they make the process fun. When I got my port, they cheered because they knew I wouldn’t hurt as much.
My doctor, Greg Shepherd, is compassionate and really listens. He cares and he’s non judgmental.
So iron does not scare me. Quite the contrary, it excites me. Also, I’ve never had a reaction to iron. I’ve had literally every kind they have, trying to find one that might last a little longer.
So, let me back up.
In December, the 16th, I tested positive COVID. I was due for my iron but I had to quarantine so iron got pushed back 14 days. But the fourteenth day fell on a day the office was closed so I had to wait until yesterday for iron appointment. Dr. Shepherd was off yesterday but my numbers were low and he gave permission for me to get the infusion without having to see him.
It was a new kind of iron. Venefer, or sucrose, iron and it was double the ml of the type of iron I’d previously received. My nurse was Marla. Marla explained that it would take about four hours. First, I’d get a mix of a steroid, Decatron with Benedryl and Pepcid—all of these are designed to prevent a reaction. After that: iron that would drip for 3 hours and 10 minutes.
Color me stoked. Bring it on.
So… I chatted with a lady beside me whose granddaughter’s pediatrician was my daughters’ pediatrician. Small world. Marla would occasionally pop over and ask if she could get me anything. I’d say no and she’d joke that I was not working her hard enough. At one point, she commented lightly that I was pale and asked if I was ok. I felt fine, so I said yes, she replied, “if you feel anything different at all, I want to know about it.”
She went back to the desk, which was in sight of me.
Again, felt fine.
Iron dripped for around 2 hours and 45 minutes or so. At this point, I noticed a couple of of things. First, my palms. They hurt like the dickens. I couldn’t close my hands and pins and needles were like sorting through my fingertips. My shoes started hurting. But they are new shoes and I’ve only worn them once, so I chalked it up to that. I didn’t know what the deal with my hands were but weirder things have happened and I otherwise felt fine. I glanced at the bag of iron and noticed I had about ten minutes remaining.
A couple minutes later, I started getting extremely nauseous and my head started spinning. I have blacked out enough times in my life to recognize that I was going to faint. So I looked over and called Marla’s name. I remember her looking up at me but I couldn’t speak at that point, so instead I raised my hand. I saw her get up, and that is the last moment I remember.
When I came to, Dr Kent Shih, Marla, Luann and Molly were standing in front of me. Dr. Shih was yelling my name: “Ms. Johnson, open your eyes!”
Marla was giving me something through my port. Luann was trying to get my blood pressure. I heard her say, “I can’t get one.” Dr. Shih said, “get a manual cuff.” I couldn’t focus or keep my eyes open. I felt really terrible. Like I was dead terrible. My throat was swollen and I could not breathe. I told them that just as Luann said, “60/40. Dr. Shih, 60/40.”
He responded, “call a code blue to ER. Ms. Johnson, open your eyes.”
“I don’t feel well.” I murmured.
LuAnn responded, “honey, tell me more about that. What don’t feel good?”
“My throat, I can’t breathe. I’m really hot and I..” I started crying.
Dr. Shih responded, “Yeah. We know you can’t breathe. But you’re going to be ok. We got steroids going on you and we have all the machines you need right now downstairs. so I need you to answer a few questions for me, Ms. Johnson. What’s your name?”
“What year is it?”
“Ms. Johnson, what year is it?”
“Good job. Where are you?”
A moment’s pause before LuAnn said, “yeah… but who’s the president, Tiffini?”
“Um… Donald Trump?” Before she could answer I started crying again. “I can’t breathe. My chest hurts.”
And that’s the last I remember because I blacked out again. When I came to, they had pushed my chair back and I was covered in ice packets. “Okay, honey, ER is coming.” LuAnn said.
Dr. Shih laughed and patted my foot. “No, no, none of that. You couldn’t have known your body really doesn’t like sucrose iron. You can have other iron, but never again can you have sucrose.”
“Am I gonna be ok?”
“So, you’re ok. It could have taken your life, but you are very lucky because you were sitting in the hospital and downstairs they have more that they can do for you.”
ER finally arrived and I started crying again when I realized they wanted to put me on a stretcher. They helped me get up and I asked that they call my mom. They promised they would. Once in the ER, they started me on more meds and did an x-ray. The x-ray of my chest revealed a nodule on my right lung. So, that earned me a head to toe CAT scan. The CAT scan revealed bronchitis and fibroids in my uterus. At this point, my blood pressure, which normally is rock steady at 120/80, read 77/57.
All of this, combined with the fact that my chest pain has not gone away and I was about as weak as I’ve been in years, got me admitted to the hospital.
The doctor explained that I was dizzy because of my blood pressure. I didn’t feel good because I have bronchitis, because COVID really wrecked havoc in my body and because I was not fully recovered from that allergic, anaphylactic reaction to the iron. They were going to give me steroids, Benadryl and Pepcid every six hours and monitor me at least overnight.
And that’s what they did.
The dizziness, the migraine… the chest hurting… these are still here. My blood pressure improved but still is acting irrationally. One moment, it reads around 103/70. But the moment I try to sit up or, God forbid, stand, it drops to around 88/58. The doctor believes that the bronchitis and the antibodies left over from Covid in conjunction with the allergic reaction is too much. So, he ordered me to rest for the remainder of this week and to continue taking Decatron and Pepcid every six hours with Benadryl as needed.
I can also take my narcotics to keep the migraine at bay. I need to see an OBGYN to clear up the fibroids. And I was told I need: “real rest, like for real rest.”
I’m home now and back to planning a birthday party for Alight (family only, of course, because COVID-19 scares me). And I am sooooo grateful for miracles.
There were a lot of them.
I knew I was about to black out and, before I did, I signaled for Marla , whose other patients that day had rescheduled, which meant she wasn’t busy and was within earshot. LuAnn, the most experienced nurse, was there. Dr. Shih was visiting with one of his patients who just so happened to be in the same bay as I was in. So, I had a doctor right there. The reaction came in the Nick of time. Had the reaction been ten minutes later, I would not have been in that chair. Instead, I likely would have been walking to my car and passed out in the hallway or, worse, made it to the car before blocking out. But, no, I had the reaction five minutes before the drop was empty, which meant I was in the presence of people who could help.
He called a Code Blue, which got the ER there quickly and was able to secure a bed for me right away. They didn’t just do a CAT scan on my lungs; they did a head to toe one; if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t know about the fibroid and that would have only grown worse. Now, I can fix it before it gets really bad. They caught the bronchitis. And they knew how to address the severe allergic reaction. They also knew how to be compassionate. Holly wiped my tears, LuAnn made me laugh when my world was hurting and Dr. Shih’s commands to constantly keep my eyes open and questions helped keep me alert when otherwise I would have rather go to sleep.
Miracles aren’t one big event, they are small things that add one to a saved life. And they are proof of God’s presence. A presence I don’t deserve, but am so thankful for. Because, ultimately, I still love life and am still happy for the chance to watch my baby girls grow.