The last week has been such an up and down roller coaster for me, it’s been insanity. Just a few days ago I posted about my Dr’s visit, and what they had discovered. I have since made an appointment, and my blood work also came back. I was quite surprised at the results, as I have never heard of the cause of my back/kidney pain. Hyponatremia induced edema. A sodium deficiency that is causing full body swelling.
That’s right, I am low in salt. Let’s define this:
Hyponatremia (American English) or hyponatraemia (British English) is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium ion concentration in the serum is lower than normal. Sodium is the dominant extracellular cation (positive ion) and cannot freely cross from the interstitial space through the cell membrane, into the cell. Its homeostasis (stability of concentration) inside the cell is vital to the normal function of any cell. Normal serum sodium levels are between 135 and 145 mEq/L. Hyponatremia is defined as a serum level of less than 135 mEq/L and is considered severe when the serum level is below 125 mEq/L.
Many conditions including congestive heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia can have an associated hyponatremia. It can also be caused by overhydration from drinking too much water (polydipsia).
In the vast majority of cases, hyponatremia occurs as a result of excess body water diluting the serum sodium (salt level in the blood). Lack of sodium (salt) is very rarely the cause of hyponatremia, although it can promote hyponatremia indirectly. In particular, sodium loss can lead to a state of volume depletion (loss of blood volume in the body), with volume depletion serving as a signal for the release of ADH (anti-diuretic hormone). As a result of ADH-stimulated water retention (too much water in the body), blood sodium becomes diluted and hyponatremia results.
My sister asked the one question that was to come spilling out of everyone’s mouths (in various ways, of course); “How, as an American, can you be low in sodium?” Exactly. How can I be low in sodium. I eat a lot of salty foods, which I thought was bad for me, and I was planning on cutting back. In fact, when I told my Dr (and showed him) the swelling, he suggested I cut back on my salt intake, possibly almost completely, as during the summer that is what causes edema. In most cases. Come Monday morning when the labs came back, he was signing a totally different tune, and cancelled all my diuretic prescriptions he had recommended just days before. What does this mean for dear me? Well, it means I am to decrease my water intake, and up my salt intake. Ok… Well, the last few days I have found it to be easier said than done.
I am a big fan of salty foods, but when you have to limit your water intake AND up your salt intake, it can get quite frustrating. Have you ever eaten a bunch of corn chips, and then had that odd feeling in your mouth afterward? Almost a burning sensation as you can feel the salt drying up your saliva. Yeah.. I need to drink less than 34 oz of water a day, and have as much salt intake as possible. My levels are at 135, which is just at the peak of danger, however all of my other stats are on the low end as well. This puts me at risk to drop very quickly, which is acute hyponatremia. Let’s take a look at what that does!
In chronic hyponatremia, in which the blood sodium levels drop gradually over time, symptoms are typically less severe than with acute hyponatremia (a sudden drop in blood sodium level). Symptoms can be very nonspecific and can include:
confusion or altered mental state,
decreased consciousness which can proceed to coma and death.
Other possible symptoms include:
muscle spasms or cramps,
weakness, and tiredness.
Nausea and vomiting may accompany any of the symptoms.
Hmmmm… So, we may not know that my sodium levels have dropped dangerously low until I have a seizure, go into a coma, and die? Sweet.
Now, I know I am being dramatic, but let’s look at the bigger picture here. I am 28 years old. I have 4 children, the oldest is 13 and the youngest is 3. I take care of 3 of them myself, and they all have different dead beat dads. I have been sick for over 2 years now. In and out of Dr’s offices. Back and forth from symptom to symptom. Treatment after treatment, after treatment. I am not trying to throw a pity party, as I am perfectly aware that there are others who have it MUCH worse, but here is where I hit a wall. I am alone. The only thing connecting my children to each other is me. What if something happens to me, and they get separated? Who is going to take care of them if I end up in the hospital? Who is going to be their guardian if I die? Why are these things that I have to worry about at only 28 years old?!?!
I am pretty open about my condition, and some people may even find me talking about my illness as obnoxious, but I do so because it makes me feel less alone. I am already alone at the end of the day, and I like to feel like I am less alone in my struggles. I acknowledge my swelling. I discuss my treatments. I go over what should be done if I start to experience a dangerous symptom. Luckily I work with people who have health education (one is still in school for it, and he is AWESOME to talk to about this stuff), and/or spouses with similar conditions. Most of them understand, and are very supportive. They don’t treat me any different, but don’t harass me when I am obviously having a low day. But at the end of the day.. when I go home and I curl up exhausted on my couch.. I am alone.
Now, I am aware that I had Jeff for two years. I am aware that he did plenty for me, and he was as supportive as he knew how to be. It would be nice to have his arms wrapped around me. To have him go to the pharmacy and pick up my pain meds when I can barely move. All of that would be nice.. but it wasn’t right. Neither of us were satisfied with what we had, and we were both unhappy on different levels. I miss my friend dearly, but I have come to realize I do not miss my “boyfriend”. The emotional turmoil that was being with Jeff was so very draining, that I still believe it actually made me sicker. Though I am going through some rough times, and continue to have more and more symptoms, I know that if I was still in a relationship with Jeff it would be much harder. That being said… I miss him. I miss talking to him every day. I miss the jokes. I miss my friend. I miss his laugh, his smile, and his odd humor. I miss the fake dirty looks, and the harmless threats. I miss watching our shows together, and then gushing over them later. I miss my friend, and there is nothing I can do to get him back. At least not right now.
I can hope and pray that the wounds will heal for both of us, and one day we can be friends again. I am not even sure if that is a possibility, as we have both been so awful to each other. I do know that right now.. it is just not time. But that doesn’t change the fact that I miss him.
Today after work I went to the pharmacy to fill a few more prescriptions. More and more drugs for my body. More and more money to keep myself functioning. When I add up the amount of money I am spending on my health, all the while still feeling so horrible (though IMMENSELY better than I did before), I can’t help but feel so sad. What have I done to deserve this? What did I do to my body that caused it to turn on itself so harshly, and continue to break down? I know I haven’t been to best to myself, but I see people who are preconditioned for horrible diseases, live terrible lives, and are healthier than anyone else I know. I can barely walk to and from the mailbox without aches and pains. I can’t run and play with my kids in the park. I can’t go bike riding. I can’t climb trees… so many things that I am missing out on because of this illness.
The amount of loneliness and sorrow that comes along with a chronic illness is overwhelming. I had no idea it was like this, and my heart aches for those out there who suffer as I do, and more. The looks I get from people. The acne looking blisters. The bruises that have no explanation. My grayish skin tone. Black circles around my eyes. Bloating up three sizes bigger than all of my best pants. I barely fit into my fat jeans, and even those hurt my swollen, achy thighs. These are only the visible symptoms. The pain and pressure that comes along with all of this is indescribable. I have never felt so alone in my entire life, and I don’t even know how I am going to handle this long term. As I stated before, I have not been this emotionally free in a long time, and there are PLENTY of good things going on in my life right now. That still doesn’t change the ache I have in my heart, the sorrow, and the pain of being alone. Of feeling like I will always be alone because of my illness, my past decisions, and my future. As I sit on the edge of my bed, whole bod aching, sobbing from the exhaustion, I can’t help but ask the universe for something. PLEASE… PLEASE… please..
Don’t make me do this alone.