I’ve been receiving iron infusions for my iron deficiency anemia over the last 6 weeks. My hemoglobin and ferritin levels are coming back up and I’m feeling a little more energetic.
As I got hooked up for yesterday’s infusion – my fourth – and settled in with my book, I thought how lucky I was to be on the road to regaining my health.
I read a couple of pages as the iron started to flow through the IV. I felt a little bit dizzy but just shrugged it off. It was hot outside and maybe I was a little dehydrated. The dizziness didn’t go away, and then my fingers started to tingle. I suddenly felt like something was wrong.
A nurse walked by my room and I called out to her that I didn’t feel right. She took one look at me and rushed in the room and turned off the IV. I felt myself getting hot and had trouble breathing – it was like a weight was on my chest. The nurse ran into the hall and shouted for help and came back in with an oxygen canister. I told her I couldn’t breathe.
Within seconds my room was full of people. The nurse asked me if I could breathe but I couldn’t answer. I felt like my tongue was paralyzed – all I could do was make a groaning noise.
My doctor held my hand and told me that I was having an allergic reaction to the iron. She was so calm and looked me in the eyes and kept telling me that in a few minutes I would be better. I just had to hang on. They were giving me benedryl and steroids through my IV.
Three doctors and five nurses were crammed into the infusion room working on me.
It seemed like an eternity, but it was only a few minutes. I started to breathe again, but it was labored. My mouth still felt paralyzed. I was terrified. So full of fear.
The most emotional part was the memory of my father. He died suddenly in March. The last words he said to me were “I can’t breathe.” I repeated those words yesterday. I thought I was dying.
Those few minutes of utter fear taught me some lessons. Or reminded me of lessons I’ve already learned.
- Listen to your body. Always listen. If you don’t feel right, then something is not right. Don’t ignore it.
- You have one life. It can change in a second. Embrace and appreciate every day.
- Health is so important. I’m 47 – I’m probably more than half way through my life. Looking after myself is my number one priority – so I can be there for my kids and family.
- Be educated about your health and the medications that you may need. I knew that allergic reactions were rare and unlikely, but I also knew what the signs were. Even though I ignored it at first. See Lesson #1.
So what do I do now to treat my anemia? I’m having blood work in two weeks to see where my iron stores are at. If they are adequate, then no more infusions are needed for the time being. If I’m still low, then some decisions will have to be made regarding medication choices. There are other iron drugs I can take, but I will be very nervous to try them due to yesterday’s reaction. One step at a time.
Yesterday was terrifying. Today I woke up with a very red face – residual from yesterday – and have been very shaky. I also keep thinking of my dad. That he couldn’t breathe.
I’m so grateful to those 8 women who looked after me yesterday. Holding my hand, telling me that I would be okay, that I just needed to hold on.
I held on.