Back in October of last year I began to experience ankle oedema and, at first, elevating my legs seemed to resolve the problem. By the beginning of November I was experiencing very swollen feet, ankles, legs and knees – affectionately nicknamed my ‘sausage legs’. I spoke to my doctor and he advised me that this was due to poor circulation and that elevating my legs and exercising them would help resolve it. I tried this, to the best of my ability, but it was difficult given my poor mobility.
I scheduled another appointment with my doctor in December. By this time I could no longer lift my legs and they were excruciatingly painful – to the point where I couldn’t bear to have anything touching them. My toes kept turning white and my feet, a horrible shade of blue. My blood test results had shown that I was experiencing considerable systemic inflammation, but nothing that could explain the extreme swelling. It was agreed that I could try medication, with caution, to reduce the fluid retention but that I would need regular blood tests because the medication could have some nasty side effects.
I had to cancel my follow up blood tests due to feeling too fatigued to attend them. I didn’t think anything of it, if I’m honest, because fatigue isn’t anything new to me. I have Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – all of which can, and do, cause me to experience extreme fatigue.
I spent most of Christmas and the New Year sleeping – I was constantly tired and, despite fighting to stay awake, generally found that I couldn’t. My legs were vastly improved and I felt a lot better physically – I just couldn’t stay awake.
My blood tests were rescheduled for January but, yet again, I needed to cancel them because by this time I was hardly leaving my bed. I just assumed I was having a CFS or Fibro relapse. More tests were scheduled for a week later and although I didn’t feel well enough to attend, my partner insisted on taking me to them.
Later, at 3am I awoke to the sound of someone hammering loudly on my front door. I noticed I had several missed calls on my mobile ‘phone, ranging from 11pm through to 3am. Assuming that it was the cats knocking stuff over in the living room, I groggily made my way downstairs to investigate. By the time I’d got downstairs, and reached the hallway, the hammering resumed – and it was my front door. Needless to say, I was terrified. Fortunately my partner was staying over that night and he answered the door to find a very harassed looking out-of-hours doctor on my doorstep.
In short, my blood tests had shown that my potassium levels were life threateningly low and the emergency medical service had been trying to get hold of me to tell me I needed to get to A&E immediately!
So, at 4am I had to wake up my son, drop him off at his sister’s, and make my way to the local hospital where I went on to spend several hours hooked up to various machines in the resuscitation room. The medication I’d been prescribed for oedema had massively depleted my potassium levels and I didn’t have sufficient left for my heart to function properly. The exhaustion and palpitations I’d been experiencing had been down to my heart beating irregularly.
Fortunately the treatment I received worked effectively and I haven’t been left with any permanent heart damage. It was frightening to discover afterwards that I would have died had I continued the medication and not had my potassium levels treated – my heart would have gradually continue to fail or I would have experienced an infarction.
Shortly afterwards I caught the flu – which took me over a month to recover from. I went on to develop a chest infection, tonsillitis, laryngitis and then a cold. It’s only as we approach the end of March that I’m beginning to feel a lot more like my broken but regular self.
It does feel like I’ve lost the past five months – I’ve barely left the house during that time and I’m still at a point where getting out of bed is achievement. Yet, I also feel incredibly lucky to have come through this. Two of my friends weren’t quite so lucky and died back in October – one from sepsis and the other from organ failure.
Red lipstick makes everything better!
Please do me a favour: try to live in the moment, not let the hurdles get you down or hold you back; appreciate all the positives you have in your life, however small, and make the absolute most of every second!