For those who don’t know me personally – and even for some of you that do – this past Saturday was “The Big Day” for me. I had been waiting for almost 2 years for a concert date to come – my opera debut with orchestra. It wasn’t fully staged, but still a huge deal for me, and I had been preparing my heart out for the entire year-to-date.
To put my week into a nutshell, our entire rehearsal period was condensed into a week – we had 6 rehearsals packed into 5 days, and one solitary performance on the sixth day. This can be stressful at the best of times. As well as the gig, I was still trying to teach a few lessons, and be Wife/Mom. Trying, and barely succeeding.
For the details, read on:
During the week, I was plagued with headache, shortness of breath (climbing the stairs was a trial, and I had to stand at the top and catch my breath every time), elevated pulse with pounding heart (seriously – I thought my heart was trying to jump out of my chest at the first opportunity), and severe fatigue… and that thing that I hate to talk about, but will for this, bleeding like there’s no tomorrow. (Girls, imagine your worst week, now double it. For some of you lucky ones, triple it. We throw around the word ‘hemorrhage’ in a joking manner sometimes, but it’s not too far wrong here). I didn’t want to complain – it’s embarrassing, for one thing, and I didn’t want the ‘boys’ to know – but I did let my friend and cast mate (and dressing roommate) know – just in case I had to disappear for a few moments to ‘make adjustments’. And I wanted to be as professional as possible. Which worked out very nicely – we had a great performance – not perfect, but pretty terrific, nonetheless – and I felt really good about my personal performance (what I remember of it).
Which then leads me into Sunday… Let me first say, I have such a loving husband. I laid down to take a nap after church, and finally told him how bad I felt, that I was worried, but didn’t know if I should be. I still felt awful, although better than I had on Thurs/Fri. I had pushed through all my symptoms all week, thinking it was just stress and nerves, but I was tired of pushing through and sucking it up. He insisted that I go get checked out. Drove me to the ER, stayed with me, talked for me when I was tearing up, and was a Rock of Gibraltar – never letting on how worried he was so that I would remain calm too.
I will admit that I felt a little hypochondrial telling the nurses that my chest hurt – not pain but pressure, which was the only way I could describe the pounding – even though I was relatively sure this was not a heart attack. I felt silly telling them that I was ‘tired.’ And like a whiner when I said yes, I’ve been on my period for over a week now, it’s been really heavy – and yes, I know this is ‘normal for women my age’ – yes! and No – I am not a complainer, and No, this is not normal for me – I hear what you are saying, but just because a heart rate of 80 falls in the parameters of normal, and you’re happy enough with it, I know this is not right. This is not normal for me.
I am glad that even though my initial EKG was fine, they still asked me questions and they still ran tests. They checked my lungs – while I was worried about the pounding heart, they were worried about the shortness of breath. And of course, they did blood work. Somehow I always forget that when you go to the hospital, they want to poke you with needles. At least the IV was easy, and they used it to take my blood. It didn’t take them long to come back with a diagnosis after that. EXTREME anemia. One’s hemoglobin levels are supposed to be anywhere from 12-15 g/dL (grams per decilitre – something I didn’t know until I looked it all up). This is how your oxygen gets to your cells, and it keeps your body healthy. If your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, the heart and lungs end up with orders to work harder to make up the difference, hence the pounding and gasping. I know you can see where this is going… My initial bloodwork showed that my level was a whopping 7.2. And this was after I had started feeling better (still awful, but better)! So guess what I got? An invitation to stay overnight (like they were going to let me leave!), and a transfusion of 2 units of blood – and a couple bags of saline thrown into the deal. (Also, for the record – Saline makes me feel funny, blood makes me feel good.)
They released me Monday, even though my hemoglobin level had only boosted up to an 8.6. With orders to rest, take iron supplements, eat iron-rich foods, and REST!!! Which is fine with me – My own bed is more comfy, and I’m not hooked up to the blasted IV and heart monitor, so moving around is a breeze. This morning I woke up feeling better than I had in weeks. (yesterday wasn’t so good, but that’s okay). I was so proud of myself when I got to the top of the stairs and kept going this morning. That’s the first time I hadn’t stopped to take a deep breath in perhaps 2 weeks. Of course, after the third trip, I had to lie down. I guess I’m a slow learner, and I had let the earlier success go to my head. I meant to take a nap anyway…
What were my “Lessons Learned?”
- Do NOT ignore your body or your gut. After a certain point, pushing through is potentially dangerous. The what ifs of last week have kept me from sleep, although I am trying to let go of them.
- I am WONDER WOMAN! I performed (granted, a supporting role) for hundreds of people, on literally half a tank of blood, with none of them, nor even the production team, the wiser. If I can do this, I can do anything, and performance should never scare me again – how bad can it possibly be after this? GACK – I must find wood on which to knock!!!!
- I am stupider than I care to admit – See Item Number One. But I am tougher than I look, and tougher than even I give myself credit for, so try not to underestimate this pretty face. 😉
- (this is for my Sweet Michael) – Sometimes you just have to do what your husband tells you to do, because he’s right. Even though husbands get a bad rap in our society, I have the smartest, sweetest one in the world, and he is only thinking of my good.
- and finally – most importantly – God obviously has some very important task in store for me, because I must have had several Guardian Angels working overtime. I am looking forward to seeing what His Plan is.