I knew it was a long time since I last posted, but seeing the date on that last post… wow. It really has been a long time!
I wanted to write up a quick post (or not so quick) to explain my absence in a bit more length. I think it’s important to do so because, well, maybe one of you feels the way I felt and maybe I can help you. No, this will never turn into a “health” blog, ever. I just wanted to give a little background on what happened to me.
I had been feeling really lousy in September 2014. I went through a two-week period of nausea/vomiting and lethargy. Being that I am stubborn I did not seek medical attention and assumed it was some kind of flu/stomach bug/virus/etc. October was better, I was applying for some side jobs and second jobs (graphic design being my first). I was still very tired, though, and couldn’t even get up the energy to make
everything anything I wanted to make or post more on the blog. Halloween was great, albeit quiet since Jay worked and I was still feeling meh.
By November, I was feeling tired ALL the time. That feeling progressed into feeling exhausted all the time. I was also getting hot flashes, or rather, I couldn’t tolerate the heat in the house or in stores. I was constantly lowering the heat and Jay would come home and freeze (it’s NY, in late November). I had just started a new job and tried to write everything off as holiday or new job stress. Around the middle of November, my legs started to feel weak. I couldn’t go up and down the stairs as fast as usual, they ached and my calf muscles felt tight. Almost as if I couldn’t stretch out fully. This, too, got worse. Add to that everyone telling me I was losing weight- which I didn’t see. My dad (ex-NYC EMS) told me I was a classic case of hyperthyroidism. This didn’t seem urgent to me, so again I just dealt with it.
When December rolled around, I was pretty much acting as if I was a 90-year old woman. Jay insisted I go to the doctor, but I had just switched and my new doctor couldn’t see me until February. So off to urgent care I went. And at urgent care, they gave me an EKG and wouldn’t touch me. They told me to go immediately to the hospital. My heart rate was 160.
And so to the hospital I went, unfortunately.
I was admitted on December 17th and kept for two days. I had an IV, was pumped full of fluids because I was dehydrated, magnesium because I was deficient, beta-blockers to lower my heart rate, and in total I had about 9 vials of blood taken. My left hand blew up twice its size from the IV in my arm. I was on two different heart monitors. When the tests came back, it was true: I was hyperthyroid.
The endrocrinologist came in to see me and told us that I was very close to having a thyroid storm. A thyroid storm is:
a rare but severe and potentially life-threatening complication of hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland). It is characterized by a high fever (often above 40°C/104°F), fast and often irregular heart beat, vomiting, diarrhea and agitation. Heart failure may occur, and myocardial infarction is encountered. Death may occur despite treatment.Most episodes occur either in those with known hyperthyroidism whose treatment has been stopped or become ineffective, or in those with untreated mild hyperthyroidism who have developed an intercurrent illness (such as an infection).
Thyroid storm requires prompt treatment and hospitalization. Often, admission to the intensive care unit is needed. Inorganic iodide (ideally potassium iodide and not Lugol’s iodine) and antithyroid drugs (methimazole or propylthiouracil) are used to reduce the release of thyroid hormone from the gland, and beta blockers to reduce the effect of circulating thyroid hormone on end organs. In high fever, temperature control is achieved with paracetamol/acetaminophen, and frequently fluid replacement, mechanical ventilation and corticosteroids. Any suspected underlying cause is also addressed.
So basically they explained that it was good that I came in (unwillingly). I could have went totally into this storm and died had I waited, and yes, they told me that a few months before a patient did come in in the middle of a thyroid storm and went into cardiac arrest. That put it into perspective for me. Also, as shitty as being in there was, they definitely helped to save me.
At any rate, after being sent home with Atenolol to control my crazy heart rate, I made an appointment to have radioactive iodine treatment. My thyroid was 4-5 times larger than it ought to be, and I had Graves’ disease (thankfully not with that weird eye bulging thing, though) and what felt like nodules, so they recommended this course of treatment. I looked into it and I decided that yes, I wanted this over with, and that no thyroid was better than the shitty one I had.
What happened to me is this: for a week prior, I was on a low-iodine diet. It sucks, yes. You can’t eat out at restaurants, you can’t have potato chips unless they’re unsalted, no more than 6 ounces of fresh meat per day, no iced tea unless it was homemade, nothing with red dye #3, no cheese (none!!!!) and no dairy at all, etc. and NO FISH! Ugh. Not even a shrimp. So on New Year’s Eve, all I could eat were salt free snacks and food made with non-iodized salt. Which wasn’t horrible, since that’s all I use for cooking anyway, but the snacks and processed food-checking was annoying. Not to mention the no cheese thing. NO CHEESE. It was like torture! Thank god champagne (and wine, and beer, and liquor…) was okay! Anyway, on Monday, January 5th, I went to Nuclear Medicine at North Shore LIJ Manhasset (which is where I was in admitted to back in December) and I got a pill with a very small dose of radioactive iodine. I went home, and went back the next day for scans. After the scans they explained to me that instead of absorbing the normal amount (around 32%) I absorbed 85%. That’s not unusual.
He said I definitely had Graves’ and that there were two courses of action. I immediately said I wanted the radioactive iodine and I wanted it immediately (the diet REALLY sucked). He called and made sure I could come in the next day, and I did. That day I had the final pill. The actual dose: 10 micro curies.
The diet basically makes the thyroid starved for iodine, so it absorbs all or most of the dose in the pill. And the radioactivity kills the thyroid, either making it hypoactive or killing part of it and making it function normally. Ta da! Magic.
For five days I had to isolate myself. I had to use my own utensils, my own dishes, my own glasses. Couldn’t drink out of a plastic bottle or can. my napkins/tissues/etc had to be torn into tiny pieces and flushed (by me). I had to flush the toilet three times. Wash my hands every hour. Shower twice a day. I slept alone for over 2 weeks. My clothes/laundry had to be bagged and kept separate. After that I could be with people but keep 6 feet away. But I had to sit on sheets and not make contact with the couch/chair/car, etc. Then after January 19th, I was finally allowed to go back to normal life. Today I can officially be in the company of pregnant women and babies! Too bad I don’t know any. So yeah, its back to normal. Except until I’m off the heart pill, I have to drink decaf. Meh.
So my first checkup is on February 4th, to see how the radioactive iodine worked. Once it’s straightened out, I should feel better. Which means I can get back to blogging! I’m hoping to do that sooner rather than later, and I’ve already began compiling awesome new recipes.
Thanks to everyone who wished me well and stuck around during this crappy time. I love my readers!