Obviously, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster for a long time due to some weird, rare things going wrong in my body. I’m telling my story now because I’ve shared it with very few people and there is an explanation for my oft-times erratic thought processes. My close family and two or three very dear friends know all of it, but I didn’t want to be one of those who bores others to death with every single one of their health woes. I do hope that by my telling, anyone who has medical issues not being taken seriously by their physician will do as I did. Keep pushing until you get the right diagnosis. Don’t settle for treating your symptoms; fight for a cure. If you have to argue with your doctor, don’t be afraid! They don’t know everything even though they like to make you think they do.
I have windows of feeling well enough to go out into the world and try to be a part of it. As the years have rolled on, those windows have become smaller and smaller. Now it’s a very rare day when I feel I can leave my home.
I take six prescription drugs daily, but it’s the first three that keep me from having a stroke. My youngest son (16) refers to my line-up of Rx bottles on my desk as the pharmacy because there are usually twelve containers (the other six are back-ups because my doctor has finally realized we can’t let any of them run out). It’s the last pill in the group that really gets me down. I have to take Ativan for panic/anxiety and it truly saps my ability to think. I was on Zoloft, but I quit taking that after three years of zombification, sixty pounds of weight gain, and no relief from anxiety. Nine months later, I’ve lost 34 pounds and still losing!
I was first diagnosed with high blood pressure at the age of 32. My doctor at that time also discovered my potassium was too low. She prescribed Hyrdochlorothiazide, prescription potassium, and Wellbutrin because it seemed to help my outlook on life in general. I stayed on these for several years and seemed to do okay. Then she had to add Lotensin to my daily regimen. My bp wouldn’t stay in an acceptable range.
I’d always had a bit of anxiety, but had only ever had one panic attack that I attributed to excessive worry over driving with my babies in the car. You know how your mind can conjure up all kinds of scary scenarios? Mine went overboard that day. I eventually stopped taking all four meds. Our self-pay insurance doubled to $800/mo. We had to take me off the plan to keep it affordable for the kids. (We’ve owned our construction business since 1987. New housing started falling off in IN for us in 2003. I have a theory as to why, but that’s neither here nor there in this story.) I probably felt fine and didn’t think I needed the meds. Then in February 2004 I had the mother of all panic attacks, but we didn’t know that’s what it was or what triggered it.
My husband was working in Florida while our three sons and I stayed in Indiana. We were waiting for the school year to end before moving the whole family south. He’d been staying in hotels, but we decided an apartment made more sense. I filled up our mini-van with household necessities, took the kids to my sister’s for the week because our boys went to the same school as hers, then headed out. All was well for the first several hundred miles – until I hit the bypass in Knoxville, TN. I was in the middle of 4 lanes of heavy traffic.
I didn’t know what was happening to me, but my vision started closing in and my fingers started drawing up. I couldn’t open my hands. I flipped on my turn single and only God knows how the semi driver in the right lane beside me knew to put on his brakes, but he did so I could cut in front of him to get to the berm. I know I turned on the flashers, but I don’t remember doing it. I dialed 911 on my phone with my knuckle and was crying hysterically because I couldn’t tell the operator exactly where I was. Miracle of miracles, a policeman pulled up behind me! I buzzed down the window and showed him my hands. Neither one of us had ever seen anything like it. The longer he talked to me, though, the more I was able to uncurl my fingers and my vision began to clear. He wanted to call an ambulance, but I just wanted to get to Florida and my husband. He led me off the interstate to a gas station and stayed with me for about a 1/2 hour, until I felt perfectly normal again. I wish I had had the presence of mind to get his name. He was a true hero to me when I need one that day.
I continued on 75-S and it did it again. I hurried off the interstate at the first exit that came up. I sat at another gas station, scared to death, trying to figure out what on earth was going on. Was my exhaust leaking into the van? I couldn’t smell any fumes. Was I hungry? I hadn’t eaten much. And I hadn’t slept at all the night before. (I’ve always been very afraid of being all alone at night. Everyone in my little hometown always knew when I was home alone – every light in the house was on from top to bottom. *,* )
I ran into the station and grabbed a banana and granola bar. I choked them down; nothing sounded good to me and I was a bundle of nerves by that point. The weird feeling left and I headed down the road again. Oh. My. Gosh. This pattern continued on until I hit Dalton, GA. I lost it there. I called my husband, mom, and sister. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back. I cried and cried because I didn’t know what to do. Mom was ready to get on a plane to fly to Atlanta, drive up to Dalton and take me home. But I didn’t want that. I decided to get a hotel room, cried myself to sleep at 6 p.m. and slept through to 8 a.m. I woke up to everyone in north GA freaking out over an inch of snow. I had to laugh at that! After 39 years in Indiana, you become an expert at driving over, around, and through snowdrift mountains.
I was ready to get on the road, feeling somewhat refreshed, but then it happened again. I went to the front reception desk and had them call an ambulance. The paramedics took my bp and said it was too high. I don’t recall now what it was, but the only thing they could do for me was take me to a hospital. I didn’t want to go so I sucked it up, got in my van and continued on, doing the same pulling over at every exit thing. And here’s a piece of sage advice, if a drive through Atlanta is on your itinerary, don’t take the bypass if you think you might need to find an exit with a gas station. If there was one, I missed it. I did catch an exit with a supermarket, ran in and bought a 4-pack of mixed fruit. I forgot to buy a package of plastic spoons. :-\
I finally made it to my husband in Florida. I was okay. But I wasn’t okay. We were on our way to pick up his check and I thought I was going to die. He ran me to the nearest 24-hour clinic; they thought I was about to have a stroke and told him to immediately take me next door to one of the local major hospitals. The emergency room doctor thought I was on the verge of a stroke, too. They put me through a whole gamut of tests, but couldn’t find anything wrong with my heart or the blood vessels in my brain. The only indication that something was seriously wrong was my blood pressure was 198/118. They gave me aspirin. They wouldn’t give me a prescription for the high bp because they wouldn’t be able to monitor it once I was discharged. This was on a Friday night. The ER doc called my Indiana doc. She wouldn’t call in a prescription for me without seeing me. They sent me away without anything to keep me from possibly having a stroke.
The next morning, I picked up the complimentary Yellow Pages phone book in the new apartment. I called all the 24-hour clinics that were actually open on a Saturday looking for a doctor who would give me a prescription. I had to beg and one finally agreed. He put me on a pretty heavy beta-blocker which made me feel like a slug, but at least it kept me from having a stroke.
Now my next problem: every time I envisioned that 900 mile drive home I was scared to death. Mom flew down, we picked her up from the airport, and she “drove” me home. Actually, I did the majority of the driving, but I was okay because my momma was with me.