Saturday, June 8, 2013

Escape the Cape Non-Race Report

Usually I’ll do a race report for the races I do. Last year, I kind of disappeared and didn’t really blog about my races or training. I had a lot of distractions in my life last year. More on that later. Maybe. Moving on.

This year, I’d like to blog more about my races, training, and what’s going on with me. I’ll try. We’ll see.

So this is supposed to be a race report for the Escape theCape Triathlon. Instead it’s a Non-Race report. I’m also supposed to be doing the triathlon right at this very minute. Instead I’m writing this Non-Race report. Let me explain.

I signed up for the Escape the Cape Tri back in January. Along with an Olympic distance aqua-bike, the Chunky Dunk Duathlon and the Title 9 Triathlon. Then at the Tri-Mania Expo in March, I signed up for the Tufts 10K in October. Jesus, what is wrong with me?

Anyway, I created a training plan and started my training. Things were going well. I was swimming, biking, still trying to run, etc. Everything was falling into place. Then I got sick. Not the kind of sick that knocks you out for a week and then you’re back on track. The kind of sick that sneaks up on you, drains you of all energy, immobilizes you and ultimately lands you in the hospital for a week. Yeah, that happened.

I’m not a doctor-going, drug-taking, hospital type of person. I don’t even take anything for a headache. So this was a big deal. BIG deal.

It started on the day of the Earth Day 5K at Stonyfield. I was signed up for that 5K, but had been having joint pain the week before and couldn’t really walk comfortably, so running the 5K was out. Looking back now, it all really started back in February, but since it was slow going and snuck up on me, I didn’t see symptoms or feel anything was really wrong until I started getting joint and muscle pain in April. I went to the race with a friend and watched her race, but I felt crummy and really exhausted. When I got home, I spent the rest of the day in bed. The next day, Sunday, I was in bed all day too. On Monday, I wasn’t just tired and staying bed, I was physically unable to get up. I had joint & muscle pain, a rash, a fever, and severe dizziness when I got up. Tuesday was ridiculous. I wasn’t getting any better, and was progressively and obviously getting worse. I couldn’t move from bed, even to go to the bathroom without help. I couldn’t eat or drink because my throat was so sore and I couldn’t even sit upright without feeling like I was going to pass out.

I called my primary care physician (who I had never even met, since I don’t see doctors, and only had her name because I had to put down someone’s name on my health insurance packet) for an appointment because I knew I couldn’t even sit up in the emergency room for a wait. After almost passing out in the exam room, she called an ambulance to take me to the ER.

After 3 hours, they determined that my red blood cell count levels were dangerously low and transferred me to another hospital that specialized in hematology. Normal RBC counts are between 40 and 45 for women my age. Mine were 20 when I first went into the ER. When they tested me again after transferring me to the second hospital, they had dropped to 13. It’s probably safe to say, it’s a good thing I didn’t wait any longer.

I was in the ER for 24 hours. They pumped me full of all sorts of fun stuff and hilarious stories came from that. Apparently I was seeing things and kept talking about them. Even in my worst moments, I’m still good for a laugh. Except when they gave me Oxy. That was a disaster. Puke.

They finally moved me up to a room and started blood transfusions, more IVs – both saline and iron, and an array of meds to try and combat whatever it was that was going on with me. They tested me for everything under the sun. Thought maybe I had been bitten by a tick or, worse, had an autoimmune disease that was causing my Hemolytic Anemia.

Everything came back negative. Which was good, because I didn’t have whatever it was they thought I had, but also bad because they still didn’t know what I had. I had an entire army of Doogie Howser doctors, still in training, searching through every medical journal and website they could find to figure out what could be going on with me.

The only thing that came back positive was Epstein-Barr. But not positive as in, I had it. Positive as in I had it in the recent past. Most people have EBV in their bodies and it is most notably connected to Mono. Back in February I was really sick for about a week and had most of the same symptoms. So, I can only assume that’s where that came from. Other than that, they couldn’t find anything else. I had hematologists, rheumatologists, infectious disease doctors, auto immune doctors and interns and residents visiting me multiple times a day to hear my story and try to figure me out. They never did. I decided that I should have just taped myself telling my story of how things progressed so I could just press play when someone new came in to hear it. I probably told my story over 40 times. That’s not an exaggeration.

My blood levels finally raised enough for them to feel comfortable about me going home, and I felt okay enough. So after a week of searching, probing, and questions, they finally let me go home with a cocktail of meds to keep my RBC counts up enough. I’m finally able to wean myself off of them and get back to normal. But they still don’t know what caused the Hemolytic Anemia. I’ve always had anemia, but not as severe as this. And they are still driving themselves crazy trying to figure out what happened.

Since all of this happened from the middle of April until the middle of May, I wasn’t able to train, or even work out at all. Even taking a walk was hard for me. My first test walk on the treadmill when I was home from the hospital was at a speed of 2.0 for 20 minutes. I tried to up it to 2.5 and couldn’t do it. I’m very impatient and I get frustrated very easily when I can’t do something simple that I used to be able to do. I couldn’t even open a simple jar, package of crackers, or a gallon of milk without help. I was so weak and had no strength control at all. I hated it. I felt so helpless and as a very independent person, it was hard for me to ask for help. Even though it’s been a little over a month since I’ve been home, a friend just said to me the other day “Stop trying to lift things!” when I was helping carry a table across a room and was having difficulty. In my defense, it was a heavy table!

But onto better news, I’m doing much better. My RBC counts still aren’t what they want them to be. I’m getting blood taken every week for testing and as of this week my RBCs were at 29.4. Not the 40-45 they want them to be, but not at 13 either. I’ve come to the conclusion, that this is just my normal level. I’ve been around 29 for the past 4 weeks and I feel fine. I’ve been adding in exercising, taken a few runs and bike rides and tomorrow I’m planning on getting back into my Sunday spin & swim routine.

My next race is the Olympic distance aqua-bike at the Mass State Triathlon on July 14th, so I have a goal and a new training plan to get on with. I’ve started out slow and will continue to add to my training slowly. I definitely wasn’t ready enough for the triathlon today. As much as I wanted to do it and not race it, but just finish it, everyone was pleading with me not to do it. I am definitely stubborn enough to not listen to everyone and just do it anyway, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t ready and I really needed to skip it. But you can bet your ass I went and picked up my race packet for the “free” t-shirt and swim cap!!

Maybe next year.
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