Baby steps: Attitude and habits to fight anemia

Although my current quest is to understand (after decades of life existence) my cerebral palsy, recent bloodwork has shown that my body continues to flirt with anemia. I see my doctor at the end of the month.

It is time.

The last two years have been stressful— the dissolution of my marriage, a job that threatened my emotional wellness, helping teenager two, raising my own teenager, the pandemic, and the menagerie. This time frame has posed challenges and offered delights.

But the heavy fatigue I feel in my bones is not the change to a second shift schedule nor is it due to working in a warehouse with my disability.

I was diagnosed with anemia circa 2009-2010. My daughter was in kindergarten. I survived a stint in non-profits then, in a position that drove me to panic attacks.

Very similar to my situation today. Hopefully I have learned from my mistakes.

Emotional eating has been a huge part of my existence and unemployment may have also caused my nutritional habits to plummet. And now my body feels the loss.

My largest downfall— not including the impulsive fast food buys and late night junk food binges— is not liking fruit. Not a big fruit person. That brings me to anemia tip #1:

Vitamin C helps the body process iron.

Pair iron-rich foods with fruit or vitamin C laden fruit juice. Example: cream of wheat with fresh strawberries.

Symptoms of anemia, by the way, include mixing up words, not being able to move your body as quickly as you are used to, and fatigue not lifted by caffeine, sleep or sugar. Your nails can pale. Your hair can weaken. I also have increased balance issues.

So I am now recommitted to improving my eating habits. Luckily, a lot of my favorite foods are iron rich. I believe that’s my body saying I need more iron.

But I am not a big carnivore and typically people turn to beef and other meats. I move more toward nettle tea, dark leafy greens, nuts and beans.

I also bought some liverwurst. I’m not a fan of “sausage” or organ meats, but it contains close to 30 percent of your daily iron and lots of coblamin, part of the B-vitamins, which promotes healthy red blood cells.

“Whole Foods” and lots of fresh vegetables provide nutrients your body needs.

I’m a fan of spinach and kale wherever I can add it, and like mentioned above, iron-rich nuts or beans can top many dishes.

And even though it seems impossible to function, it’s important to limit caffeine.

Reducing coffee consumption can allow your body to absorb more iron.

But when you’re in the throes of anemia, coffee becomes an IV fluid. So it’s a double-edged sword.

And it’s important to know your particular symptoms and take supplements if needed— talk with your doctor and find out what supplements will benefit you.

You can often tell by your bowel movements if you are taking too much iron. The more iron in your system, the darker and harder your stool becomes.

Supplements can help, and can increase the body’s stored ferritin. Note that the body will deplete vitamin D before iron, so vitamin D supplements often go hand-in-hand with iron.

Regular blood work, a healthy diet and the right supplements can get your body back on track but it often can take months to fully recover.

And if it’s summer, the heat will sap your remaining energy.

Impatient inpatient insights

I left my home at 6:15ish a.m. on Monday. I was in the ER within walking distance of my home by around 6:30, blood drawn around 7 a.m. and admitted shortly thereafter. I was transferred to another hospital, arriving at 3 pm, and I haven’t left my 9th floor room every since.

It is 9:30 am on Thursday.

I had a cat bite. One tooth. Punctured my finger. 3 pound kitten.

The almost instantaneous cellulitis was scary.

The fact that it got infected is not unexpected—most people don’t realize that 50% of cat bites get infected versus 5 to 10% of dog bites.

This whole adventure taught me a lot about animals, emergency medicine and hospitals.

My favorite nurse Michelle just announced I am being discharged as soon as she can fill out the paperwork. They cultured my blood— that was those bottles I posted the other day—and nothing grew!

So now that these have come back clean, I can head home. My neighbor, Jan, little dog Sobaka’s mom, is on her way.

I have set up my follow up appointment with my primary care physician, who will be very glad to see my blood pressure has reached normal levels.

I can’t even remember what I wanted to write in this because I’m so excited to go home.

  • I drink a lot of water and also urinate a lot. If the average person urinates 2000 ml a day, I probably hit almost 3000 ml.
  • I heard a “rapid response team” code 3 times while in the hospital, once each night around 8 pm. Last night, it was in a room a few doors from mine. Seeing the red cart fly by and people streaming from every direction, including the corridor I could see from my window. It was sobering.
  • I always feel like I’ve ordered half the hospital menu and when the food comes, I’m always shocked at how little food is on the tray.
  • My blood pressure was consistently about 117/75.
  • Being in the hospital for 3.5 days allowed me to follow the routines and “get to know” the staff and the other patients. In this time of Coronavirus, I couldn’t leave my room without mask and what not and really where would I go?
  • I saw the nurses deal with several difficult situations.
  • I watched the patients walking the corridors for exercise, in their gowns and with their IV poles.
  • I loved watching shift change, and when the residents and interns gathered for rounds.

Random Hospital Tidbits during a tropical storm

I think I have a sense of humor

My daughter brought extra dry erase markers so we could have fun with the nurses and my care team. Yes, as the a patient with cellulitis from a kitten bite I drew paw prints all over my board.

Today was my second day in the hospital at St. Luke’s Bethlehem/Fountain Hill and also the day that Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc in the Lehigh Valley.

This is the only unplanned hospital stay I have ever had and will also be the longest. My other other experience in the hospital was giving birth to my daughter.

There are only two parts of this experience that I have disliked: IVs, though I have learned to ignore them, and collecting my urine so everyone can monitor my fluids.

Everyone on staff has been kind, and most downright enjoyable and intelligent. But Nurse Michelle has been my favorite.

Michelle finally arranged all my IV tubes into a double Dutch arrangement so they don’t have to keep swapping them out on my arm. She labeled everything meticulously. Attention to detail is the perfect trait for a nurse.

The hospital has lovely old architecture and picturesque views.

I started betadine soaks today. I’m tickled that such basic medicine still works well. I also feel like I’m hanging out with Marge from the Palmolive commercials.

“You’re soaking in it.”

Old Palmolive Commercial on You Tube

The teenager stopped by so that was fun— we took silly pictures. Speaking of the teenager and silly photos, I FaceTimed my cockatoo last night.

And in the category of things that make me happy—

Health & blood pressure update

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, and I are sharing a juicy bowl of watermelon.

I went to the doctor today for a follow up on my high blood pressure. My original appointment was April 1, but the pandemic moved it to today.

As they directed me last week, I arrived in the parking lot prepared to call them and wait in my car. (See Medicine in the time of Covid for the full prep phone call, which I also submitted to the Mighty and should be available on their platform soon.)

But they called me as soon as I pulled into the parking lot!

The nurse came out for me and brought me into the office vestibule where she took my temperature. From there, we went into the lobby where she had me step onto the scale. Imagine my surprise when I saw I was lighter at the doctor’s office than at home.

I had horrible, emotional nightmares last night and they left me shaken this morning. I had a raging headache, which might have been dehydration but it could have been stress as I knew I had to do a self-evaluation at work and my boss only gave me 24 hours to do it.

I thought my blood pressure would be awful. My pulse was racing. I felt it.

But even that riled up, my blood pressure had dropped 10 points! Even with the work stress growing, the Coronavirus and all the other issue’s on my plate, my blood pressure went down.

I meant to ask her to take it again before I left because I bet “the good news” made it go down even more.

And according to them, I gained less than 2 pounds during Covid. My records and my clothes disagree.

But I felt really good after that visit.

Medicine in the time of Covid

I slept this morning until 8:30.

I never do that. I think the animals had started a plan as to what to do if I were dead. The three-legged cat had slowly but surely opened my bedroom door. The kittens came in and hung out in my open windows.

Last night, the teenager and I watched most of the documentary A K A Jane Roe on Hulu. The format distressed the teen as they presented Norma McCorvey’s story in her words and in the words of others (including the reverend who might be seen as her biggest adversary in the beginning)—including historical footage.

The teen found it disjointed and hard to ascertain what was “truth,” so I said with a sigh that I guess I don’t have to worry about her becoming a journalist.

We had a fantastic discussion about “when life begins,” eugenics, abortion and patriarchy and then had a little passive-aggressive disagreement about what happened to the potato chips. (Two binge eaters in the house = bad news. By the way, I’ve lost a pound. Not enough, but it’s a great start.)

This morning, the doctor’s office called me about my blood pressure check scheduled for Tuesday. They wanted to know if I still planned on coming. I said it didn’t matter to me as they had already refilled my medication.

It’s a shame my appointment isn’t today as then they might have gotten a good blood pressure reading.

And they won’t be happy about the weight I’ve gained.

So they asked me every question under the sun about my health and possibility for Covid-19 symptoms. They confirmed my medical insurance. Asked if I had a mask and if I’d be coming alone. They asked what I drive.

I am to complete my check-in online.

They will call Monday afternoon to confirm my medications.

On Tuesday when I arrive I am to call from my car. The physician’s assistant will escort me into the office when they are ready for me.

Medicine in the era of Covid-19.