Just A Sniffle, For A Change

My dog and I are currently laying in our room, curtains shut, fan on full blast (more on him than me, he has thick, dark fur and is so warm all he can do is spread himself out on his side on the floor, panting in front of the artificial breeze). My 13 year old brother is somewhere downstairs, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers, playing video games and eating ice cream. The parents are at work, in places which have poor ventilation and no air conditioning (our dad goes out in the snow wearing shorts, this should tell you how much he overheats. He is not going to like today). My body is also significantly outraged by the sudden heatwave we seem to be experiencing lately. The only thing that doesn’t seem to mind the excessive heat is Bob Jr. (my insulin pump). Bob Jr. is not phased at all. In fact, he seems to be the only thing functioning normally in this house at the moment, although my inability to function, as it turns out, is not just because of the heat and my usual health hiccups.

According to the little machine I have been given, which, when provided with a blood sample, measures my haemoglobin (protein in red blood cells which contains iron, is the site to which oxygen binds to be transported, and gives red blood cells their colour) and haematocrit (percentage of  a blood sample which consists of red blood cells) among other stuff, such as glucose levels… I am anaemic. My bone marrow isn’t kicking out enough little red guys. This isn’t anything that bothers me (being so unwell on a daily basis sort of makes you stupidly blasé about all health things that don’t possess the ability to kill you within the next few hours or days, I have discovered), but it does mean that my blood is less effective at carrying oxygen (which explains my somehow-even-more-ridiculous-than-usual fatigue lately, the fact that minimal exertion makes me even more out of breath than usual, and my sleeping ALL THE TIME after I’ve temporarily fixed the medical emergency that makes this an understandable behaviour).

To contextualise things, here is a helpful little thing explaining normal levels (which are typically lower in women than in men anyway)

Normal Hb (haemoglobin) in women = 12.1 – 15.1 g/dL

Hb threshold (lowest acceptable amount) = 12.0 g/dL

Normal HCT (haematocrit) in women = 40%

And now when I tell you that my Hb is stuck at around 10.2 g/dL and that my HCT has at no point read higher than 31%… It means a little more, right? It’s nothing to worry about, nowhere near low enough to require a blood transfusion, but low enough that I have started to notice it…

As if my body wasn’t being enough of a poop already, this teeny tiny health (in comparison to recent health events it is nowhere near enough to be referred to as a hiccup… so I shall call it a health…) sniffle now needs to be dealt with. Hello iron tablets! Simple. My blood shall soon become a little better at carrying oxygen, and being red, and doing its job! I didn’t even have to go and bother a doctor to get hold of any tablets – after one of a few bouts of sepsis (I think it was the most recent one, actually) my Hb was really, really low… Like, I needed a transfusion but the doctors screwed up… And it took a long time on iron tablets before my body got a grip and decided to chuck out just about acceptable levels of red blood cells (at which point the iron tablets were shoved into a cupboard, where I found them yesterday, out of date but usable… I’m now thinking I potentially should have kept taking them… You live – just about – and learn, I guess).

When your body is already fatigued (due to health hiccups and the current RIDICULOUS HEAT) and inefficient at producing energy because it can’t really metabolise glucose, adding a little health sniffle whose main symptoms are fatigue, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, passing out/ feeling like you’re going to pass out, and eventually paleness (things I experience – among other symptoms – every day anyway), it is a) easy to miss the symptoms of the described health sniffle (anaemia), and b) really not helpful to become anaemic. Like… Super irritating. I have been looking at Hb readings around 10.0 for days, but it was only when I ran the figures past my mum (who is a midwife) and she was all “That’s pretty low for someone your age.” that I pulled myself out of my denial, had a quick look in one of my medical textbooks, and suddenly realised it explained everything. Good one body, good one. (Thankfully pretty easily fixed).

In other dull news; after almost a year of service, my CGM (continuous glucose monitor) scanner, Ralph, has died. Or rather, he was killed by the washing machine, which loved him a lot more than he loved it. After everything I’ve been through with that machine, it was broken by getting caught up in a blanket that I put in the washing. After discovering his watery fate, I left Ralph sat in a bowl of rice for two days, and then charged him for a day, after which point he came back to life… But he isn’t what he used to be. There’s condensation behind the (completely non-functional) touch screen, which renders the whole thing pretty much useless. I needed some new CGM sensors anyway, as it will be time to remove the one currently stuck in/(&) on my arm in a few days… So we bought a “starter kit” which has a new scanner and two sensors in it (worked out so much cheaper than buying everything separately). It’s odd to be buying a starter kit now, seeing as I was one of the first people to get this particular CGM as soon as it was released, and for months after I got mine they were unavailable unless you were on a waiting list (I now sample products for the company prior to their release).

I was however sent a new and very fancy blood glucose meter in the post, which arrived yesterday and confused us all. Turns out that when I gave my name and address to the company who were about to release this new machine, they actually decided to send me one, which as saved me and the NHS a chunk of money… So every cloud, I guess. The one downside is that, until I get my new CGM scanner, I will have to rely solely upon this machine and the one which measures Hb etc. both of which require a finger prick instead of a painless scan. This is a bit of a faff, and makes me super frustrated at myself for putting Ralph through the wash (he produces a nice little graph and everything), but if that’s the only thing anywhere near to bothering me at the moment then I really am incredibly lucky…

Let me just correct that sentence: I really am incredibly lucky.

(Especially when compared to Ralph and his encounter with the washing machine of death – that thing has killed the mobile phones of various family members, it should not be allowed in the utility room any more. A good CGM scanner died today. RIP Ralph).

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