6 months later

Last year, on September 8th, I got up early for work with plans of going to the gym, even though the night before, I'd had an unsettling experience in which my entire body suddenly went numb and tingly, which lasted for about 30 minutes. But I woke up the next day feelin' fine so I got dressed, took out my trash, and jogged back up the stairs to my apartment, and as soon as I got inside, collapsed on the floor and the entire left side of my body went numb. I thought I was having a heart attack because I felt an unpleasant sort of squeezing sensation in my torso and I could not get up. I have no idea how long I was on the floor, but I remember thinking if only I could reach my phone which was on the counter, a few feet away. I didn’t think to ask Siri to call 911, but I’m sure she would have just given me the wikipedia entry for 9/11. (You like that sick burn, Apple??)

As soon as I was able to move, probably a couple minutes later, I realized I didn't even know what I was supposed to do, so naturally, I called my friend Jessica. She didn't answer, which is probably for the best, because while she is my best friend, and a very smart lady, she lives in Ohio and is not an ambulance. I then remembered that I have a brother who is a doctor (also in Ohio) but he was able to give me some medical doctor advice and told me where my nearest ER was.

I called my boyfriend Matt and asked him if he could drive me “somewhere.” I didn't specify where for some reason, but he agreed. I remember looking at the digital clock on my stove as I waited for him, and I could read the minutes, but not the hour which was pretty concerning. My vision wasn't blurry, but I just couldn't see things on the left side, if that makes sense. For the entire ride to the hospital, I was feeling stupid for going because other than 50% of my body being asleep, I felt pretty ok. I could walk on my own and I wasn't bleeding, so it all felt very dramatic, going to an ER. Fortunately, I overcame this feeling of foolishness and we went inside.

In the ER, they took most of the blood that was in my body, and discovered that I was VERY anemic. Like, I was so anemic they were impressed that I was able to walk, let alone go to the gym. They found my blood test results to be so unbelievable that they immediately took more blood to repeat the test to make sure it wasn't a mistake. That made me feel proud, because for most of my life, I’ve been frustrated with my inability to do physical activity that most people, people who seem to be in worse shape than I am, have no problem doing. Like riding a bike, or hiking, or jogging, or walking up a slight hill. I thought I had asthma, because breathing was very hard for me, but asthma inhalers never helped. I assumed I just didn't push myself hard enough, but it turns out severe anemia makes breathing (and most things) difficult. The ER doctor was glad that we found this out, and now we had a blood mystery to solve, but he said it would explain my falling down and the tingly feeling. In addition to my hemoglobin being supes low, my platelets were very high, but we didn't know why. They ordered an MRI, "just to be safe."

Very shortly after I returned from the MRI, the doctor came back in and said they had read the results and there were several areas of stroke in my brain. That was not what I was expecting to hear. At this point it became evident that I would not be leaving the hospital today which made me very upset because it was a sunny Friday and I was hoping to get out of there and catch a happy hour. Instead they admitted me to the neurology unit and a couple days, a blood transfusion, CT scan, brain MRI, and 2 iron infusions later, they finally let me go home, with a prescription for Plavix and iron supplements, and no answers as to why my blood was so bad.

A week later the doctor called to tell me that I had celiac disease which my friends and family were relieved to hear, because it was an explanation and of the possible explanations it was one of the better ones, but I was truly devastated to hear because my 2 favorite things in life are eating gluten and not being a pain in the ass in restaurants.

I would like to say that 6 months later, I am feeling much better and appreciating the precious gift that is life, but to be honest, I am just sad and even more tired than when I was almost dead. I know I'm very lucky compared to so many people, but I really miss the old low-maintenance, pizza-eating Jeanne who could take birth control and watch food/travel shows on Netflix without crying or travel internationally without a laminated card that says "If I eat gluten I will die," in 18 languages. The one nice thing is that I no longer get winded after running up a flight of stairs. In fact, I recently ran for 2 miles without stopping which beats my previous record by 1.9 miles. But to be honest, I definitely enjoy eating bread more than I enjoy breathing. I hope that in another 6 months I will not be feeling so sorry for myself, but for now I will keep mourning and blaming everything on strokes. Is that how you spell mourning? I don't know, I had a stroke, ok?

Very grossed out by the whole bag of blood thing.

Very grossed out by the whole bag of blood thing.