For those health care practitioners out there, you are probably screaming at me to run to the ER because I obviously have some internal bleeding. After some routine blood work as part of my physical, my doctor called me frantic, saying that he had been trying to reach me all weekend and feared that there was something seriously wrong with me because I was not answering the phone. Truth is, like most people, I don’t answer the phone if I don’t know the number. He then proceeded to tell me my hemoglobin level was 6.2, way below the normal range of 12-14 and I needed to go the the emergency room immediately. Here’s the thing…. I felt fine. I worked out that morning (when the admitting nurse heard this she called me a bad ass). I was A-ok. Totally normal. And I was at work so I was not about to take a sick day if I didn’t have to.
Against doctor’s orders, I went to the Emergency room after work. More blood work, waiting, more waiting. At least I had a book and a full telephone battery. The doctor came in with even more terrifying news. “You are being admitted. You need a blood transfusion.” Hold please… At this point, the only thing wrong with me is a spike in my blood pressure because I now have an IV in my arm and have to tell my parents that I am in the hospital. Long story short, I signed myself out. No blood transfusion and still a 6.2 hemoglobin count. I did stay home from work the next day.
So what was the final verdict?? I have Thalassemia. A genetic blood disorder which causes chronic Anemia. I just don’t make enough hemoglobin. And here I thought I was normal.To put things in perspective, I trained for and ran half marathons, a full marathon and completed several intense cardio programs at a hemoglobin level were normal people would pass out or have a gun shot wound. The human body is an amazing thing. My body adapted to be able to train and workout at intense levels, when by all Doctor’s accounts and tests, I should not be able to walk, let alone run. And for full disclosure, I never knew why I couldn’t do high impact exercises. Yes folks, I am a modifier. If I were to go all out, I probably would have a heart attack. And I did come close the first time I Cardio Fix from the 21 Day fix. I had to stop because I felt dizzy and short of breath. Lessons: know your limits and it is perfectly fine to modify!! Don’t try to kill yourself because you think you have to go balls to the wall to prove that you can workout at Shaun T’s level.
After a follow up trip to the hematologist, I am now on prescription iron (yeah I know). But I have counteracted all side effects by increasing my water intake and I becoming vegan. My standard meal is corn, kale, mushrooms, chard, and lentils. Fiber is my friend. I try to stay away from soy thanks the Frankie the fibroid. I do have some meat, but it is maybe once a month. And I will be having steak when I go to Disney World in May. I went back to the hematologist last week for a check up and I happy to say that my levels are now a whopping 9!!!! I made 4 pints of blood in 6 weeks. Booyah! I go back in 4 months and hopefully will be able to kick the iron pills to the curb.
I embrace my abnormally low hemoglobin levels because Thalassemia is just one trait that make me…. me. It’s a part of who I am and I wouldn’t want it any other way.