Friday, November 13, 2009

Blood is Thicker Than Water

The saga continues. I went to the Infusion Center yesterday to have my vein tapped again. I have been behaving myself, so I have been hoping for a significant drop in my ferritin. In two weeks I will have my answer. If it turns out that all of my skimping and starving has been to no avail, that my ferritin count has basically remained the same as two months ago, I will jump from the Vegan life raft and rejoin the passengers and crew of the S.S. Omnivore. Chester, my specialist for the day, was not optimistic. She checked my hemoglobin: “Hmmm! This isn’t good! Your hemoglobin is at 17 (times three is 41) and you are not anemic at all. The doctor wants you to be anemic.” What! I did not know that! “Doc Holliday” never said anything about my becoming anemic! He just didn’t want me to ironic!

How does a fellow like me ever become anemic? Is it even possible for someone with hemochromatosis to become anemic? My body sucks up every third nano-gram of iron that I stuff into my pie-hole. I suppose that if I went on a starvation diet (much like the one I am on now), I might deplete my iron supply, but with a 136 ferritin count, I cannot even dream of becoming anemic. Now if my ferritin count were below 50, I might consider Chester’s observation about my hemoglobin as having some merit. For the time being, however, I am just going to assume that she has suffered a brain aneurism.

I was my usual bon vivant self, ebullient and radiating whining confidence as I walked into the parlor. “Ooooo! Zaphod! You’re back! How nice for us! Why don’t you settle down in Booth 1?”

“Because there is someone else already there?”

“Hmmmm. So there is. How about Booth 4? Is there anyone in there?”

There wasn’t, so I sat down, wondering who was going to end up in my lap. I was directly across from a lady who was receiving some sort of infusion. It did not look like blood. After sitting quietly for a minute or two, one of the other nurses flitted by and commented on the fact that the lady in Booth 1 had not been attended to for some time. She wondered out loud where “Gory” and his playmates were. I am not certain that that question was ever answered, even though I saw him an hour later as I was leaving. I wondered if I was going to be left unattended while they took my pint, allowing the bag to blow up like some sort of post-apocalyptic tick. Hmmmm! Anemia was possible under certain circumstances!

After about ten minutes, Chester showed up with her little bag of tricks and began working me over. “You know,” I said, “when I was in here 6 months ago, the nurse that administered the phlebotomy said that the needle wasn’t supposed to hurt, and that the only sting that I should experience was the Lytacane. Yet the last two times that I have had blood drawn, the whole process was painful. I felt the needles in spite of the Lytacane.”

“Well,” she replied, “it is nice that you are so susceptible to suggestion. These things always hurt; there is no escaping the pain; the holes in your arm are real. Look at the size of this needle! Does that look painless to you?” Chester has a wonderful chair-side manner. “Of course, it is possible to increase the amount of Lytacane a little so that it actually has some anesthetic effect. Would you like that? How about if I take your blood from the same arm where I put the Lytacane? Would that be an improvement, in your double-doctorate opinion?” I said that I thought that both options might be worth a try.

Chester always compliments me on my veins. Everyone compliments me on my veins. I have lovely veins. When my children were very young, they would entertain themselves by playing with the veins in the back of my hand. I found that somehow soothing; I generally fell asleep about half way through Church. My children found that amusing, particularly when I began to snore. Today, Chester had a bit of a conundrum to deal with. “Which of all these lovely veins to you want me to tap? They are all so lovely!” I suggested that my contemplating the matter did not tend to sooth me. “Well, then, I will just poke you HERE!” When I came to a few minutes later, Chester was fussing with the needle and the tubing. “Your blood seems a little thick today, Dr. Beeblebrox. Have you been overdosing on corn starch?” I had not. In fact, I had not partaken of breakfast or lunch that day. “Well,” she said, “Perhaps it would be better in the future to drink a lot of fluids before you come to give blood. This is like trying to siphon a quart of molasses from a fifty-gallon drum in the dead of winter.”

She horsed around with the needle for a while. “OH! That’s got it! No! Yes! No! No! No! Yes! Yes! WOW!” By the end of the hour, she had managed to coax out 480 milliliters, a pint, or some other indefinable amount of blood. She stopped at that point because, said she, I had “clotted out”, whatever that meant. I wondered if I was going to have an aneurism too.

I left the building and drove up to Shy’s house where Trillium was watching Lily’s siblings. I ate peanut butter cookies with my grandson, wondering if the cookies were going to thicken my blood any more than it already was. As we waited for Lily’s daddy to show up after his visit with the Mamma Dandelion, I drifted off, perhaps in anticipation that Lily would one day find the veins in my hand fascinating and amusing.


Rebecca said...

I remember the veins in your hands and I remember the snoring... :)

Hey! You have to check out my blog today. It is written in Spanish. A short poem - an assignment from class.

shydandelion said...

Post-apocalyptic tick...ha ha ha!
Your veins are rather entertaining. So are your eyelids. And I KNOW Lily will find them fascinating too. Just give her a few months so she can perfect her dragon-nail grasp.

Katscratchme said...

Ha! Ha! I mentioned the eyelids to Dad the other day.. :P
Veins are gooooood.. I play with Ben's occasionally.

Jen said...

Dad has a lot of amusing traits - veins, eyelids . . . ears . . . and a guitar to boot! Hours of entertainment in one guy!

Canadian Hemochromatosis Society said...

Greetings again from Canada,

I thought I would provide a little information for you to chew on... (not high in iron).
The goal of your de-ironing process should be to get your ferritin levels to around 50. Your hemoglobin should remain at healthy levels.
If you were a member of our Society, you would have received our Fall 2009 newsletter. Here is a excerpt from it that you may want to have in your knowledge bank about HHC...
"Believe it or not, a hemochromatosis patient can become iron deficient with their treatment. This condition is termed “iron avidity”, and occurs when a patient’s ferritin level is in the low to low-normal range (15-40 ng/mL) and the transferrin
saturation percentage is elevated (>50%). In an iron avid person, the danger is increased for all symptoms of iron deficiency including fatigue, malaise and restless legs syndrome. There is also a risk of bacterial infections, since bacteria will grow in the presence of a high transferrin saturation percentage.
Why does iron avidity happen and
how do you correct it?
Hemochromatosis is a scary
diagnosis for many people. Often,
hemochromatosis patients will
immediately start an iron-reduced diet to counteract their body’s abnormal ability to absorb four times the amount of dietary iron as a person without hemochromatosis. Iron removal via therapeutic phlebotomies then begins, often on a weekly basis, becoming less frequent until
the patient is de-ironed. During
the maintenance phase, many
hemochromatosis patients are overbled and this, in combination with a reduced-iron diet, places them in an iron avid situation.
Researchers believe that iron avidity is the condition that results from over-bleeding, where the body’s mechanisms start to send more iron to the bone marrow than is really required. A key to hemochromatosis management is to keep the iron in your body in balance – not too much,and not too little. Dr. Siegfried Erb, a
Vancouver-based gastroenterologist
who treats many hemochromatosis
patients, stated in the Fall 2007
issue of Iron Filings, “When you are stable, you should have a normalhemoglobin, TS less than 50 percent,and ferritin less than 50 ng/mL.” The optimal ferritin levels are between 25 and 50 ng/mL. Once too much iron
has been removed, it can be difficult to regain the balance."

Membership is $30 a year...

Bob Rogers
Canadian Hemochromatosis Society