Saturday, October 23, 2010


Back during the Fall of 2001, I had not even heard of Addison's Disease. I wouldn't have known what it meant. But, after being extremely ill for months, I had deteriorated to the point of regularly being admitted to the hospital where I would be seen as a typical Texas patient with "dehydration." After receiving IV fluids, I would indeed feel much better. But, I soon learned that after my discharge from the hospital, I'd quickly become extremely ill again. Round and round we'd go.

Meanwhile, I was becoming incredibly, increasingly weak, to the point of not being able to sit up to even take a few bites of food. My body was no longer cooperating. And I constantly had a V8 by my bedside which seemed to slightly help, for a while.

During another go-round, I had been direct-admitted into St. Luke's Hospital in Houston's Medical Center with extreme weakness, "dehydration," and other generalizations in my chart. After several days of testing, my family -- husband, sister, mother, father - we all waited in my hospital room for the Dr's final report. He walked in without answers, so it seemed logical for him to say the next best thing; he concluded that I was a workaholic woman with a high-stress life. No duh dimwit. Problem was...that WASN'T the problem!! My motto had always been, "I work best under-pressure." Stressful situations did not necessarily stress me out. A business situation that had others sweating bullets found me calm and able to make quick decisions. But, at 33 years of age, something in my body was malfunctioning terribly, I could FEEL it and was now getting flat-out angry that all of my "brilliant" doctors could not find an answer. My physical weakness had become serious. I needed assistance to walk to and from the bathroom; my family was outraged because they knew better. But, I was discharged.

Approximately one week later, I was lying in bed, as usual since I could not walk, sit and could barely talk and my husband walked over to my side of the bed. I remember trying to focus on him standing over me, but my eyelids would not stay open. I was not sleepy; this was a blanket of strange unwanted sedation that affected my body from head to toe. He sat next to me and tried to talk with me. He even shook me, tried to rouse me. I could not talk. I began having trouble breathing. He is a first-responder and he had been forced to watch me go downhill because all of the top-notch doctors and hospitals could not find an answer. His frustration was immense. He clearly understood the value of vital-statistics and he had also grown tired of the doctor's excuses for my hay-wire vitals. His fingers kept searching for a pulse, it was too weak for him to feel. I was slipping off into some fuzzy land where I could hear everyone around me, but I could no longer respond. When I did try to say something, it came out mumbled and garbled to those around me, but I thought it was clear. Unknown to us at the time, this was an Addisonian Crisis. I was to the point nearly dying.

My husband dials 911; they show up and the highest blood pressure reading they can get is 60 over 40. My husband refuses to let the paramedics take me back downtown, so I head to an acute-care hospital in the Clear Lake area with him following the ambulance at high speeds. I do not have any memory of their multiple attempts to insert an IV, but my vessels had such low pressure that they were collapsing. Overall, I believe I had around thirteen IV sites for this particular admission, if that gives any indication to the condition of my vessels. I vaguely remember the pediatric-team coming in and discussing trying the vessels in the back of my knees, then I was out again. They were also taking my blood pressure in my legs because it often wouldn't even register when they tried to take it on my arms. Back on IV fluids, it took more time to come around. Basically, I had been slipping into a comatose state, typical for an Addisonian Crisis that is untreated.

In this hospital, FINALLY, I have a doctor who actually incorporates today's high-tech diagnostic methods with plain, old-fashioned good doctoring. He regularly came to personally check on my vitals. He could see that there was a serious issue. He first administered a Table Tilt test which was extremely conclusive, very remarkable. In this test, you are strapped onto a table and all kinds of connections to your body are made to read vitals during the test. You begin by lying down, they take a reading. Then, they put you at an angle, but not completely upright and they take more vital readings. Then, they mechanically adjust the table until you are in a standing position and again take vitals. Put it this way, once they got me in a standing position, my vitals became so serious that I could have coded at that moment. They could not even chance a repeat reading. My blood pressure dramatically dipped to the point of not being able to sustain my body while my pulse sky-rocketed because the heart was confused and furiously trying to pump blood...not a pleasant scenario. As this is happening, my brain was not getting enough oxygenated blood, among other things happening, and I'd go unconscious. This test was done late in the afternoon and gave some suggestion to the problem, but the doctors thought it could be arterial in nature. They would soon have another clue.

That night, in the hospital, around midnight, I was still on the cardiac floor hooked to the telemetry monitors and I full-out coded. I must say, this sensation was not unsual, therefore, I must have had the same thing happen multiple times at home when I woke gasping for air. God only knows how I survived this long. Needless to say, I was drifting in and out of this world during the code. In one sweet code-blue moment, I was talking on the phone to my brother. Now that I think about it, I can giggle at the thought of a hospital team working on me while I am coding, yet I am having a pleasant phone conversation with my brother, at midnight. I'm sure I don't have to tell all of you - that didn't actually happen - only in my Code-Blue moment of lift-off did that happen.

Very early the next morning, the cardiologist stood at the foot of my bed and was in deep thought. Little did I know, he'd been with me all through the night - there for the Code Blue. He stood there and rubbed his chin while thinking; we didn't talk. He suddenly jolted out of his thought process and starting issuing rushed orders to the nurse. They took an A.M. Cortisol test and later conducted the ACTH-stimulation test and THERE WAS THE ANSWER! Addison's Disease. The puzzle pieces fit.

A few pills later and perhaps IV steroids, I had been too sick to really know all that I was being given, I just remember the new pills...I was finally able to stand firm on my feet, but had not walked a significant distance in such a long time that my muscles were weak. But, the medicine had been like a light switch for my body. Just when I had started to lose hope, things turned around. The hospital ordered physical therapy treatments. The PT therapist came in and put a special belt around me that had a loop in the back for the PT therapist to hold onto, he put a walker in front of me to hold onto and we went for a stroll. I was still weak, but with his strong steady hand helping to hold me into place, I was able to really WALK again! Out into the hall we went, then once around the nurses' station and he wanted me to go back to my room - I didn't want to go back. I said, "One more time!" through tears and we again went around the nurses station while they all clapped. I had gotten close to the nurses and they all knew about my code, some had helped save my life, so this was quite a moment. To me, it was a beautiful moment shared with beautiful people. This medical team was incredible - I had my life back. The therapist even indulged me with a third time around before insisting, without compromising further, that we go back to my room. After all, it had only been about 24 hours since I had coded. But, life was looking brighter again.

And my perspective about this world was indeed forever changed after that Code Blue night.

My view yesterday, Oct. 22, 2010, while visiting a local hospital for newspaper article research.
A nearby Air Base prepares for the weekend air-show. I am blessed because that
Fighter Jet symbolized how I felt after my diagnosis!!

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