I went 50 years without spending a day in a hospital. Then along came 2006. I had a stent placed in my heart and other minor surgery. I felt great while teaching, writing and traveling. Three months ago I passed out at a restaurant but thought it was the lack of food and the fact that I had consumed two glasses of wine. I was fine after 10 minutes and promptly forgot about the incident. As it turned out that was God warning me and I didn’t listen. As time passed I had problems walking and was out of breath and tired all the time. Again, I figured it was lack of exercise, so I increased my stretching and yoga instruction to once a week at my apartment. I added acupuncture, message therapy and bio-cleansing to my home schedule and resumed riding my stationary bicycle. I had no difficulties during any of these sessions. But my problems were getting progressively worse. I could not walk ½ a block without resting.
One week before my 72nd birthday I could not get from my room to the kitchen and called my doctor. I took a stress test and it turned out not to be a heart problem. My doctor noticed my pallor was a pasty white despite the fact that the rest of my body was sunburned. Also, my eyes had no red cells of any type. He took a blood test and promised the results after the weekend. I was scheduled to spend two days sitting by a pool and relaxing. Saturday morning he called and told me to go right to the emergency ward, which I did. He came back from his summer house and along with two other doctors informed me I had less than three pints of blood in my system. “The human body contains approximately 5 liters (5.3 quarts) of blood making up 7 to 8 % of a person’s body weight. Approximately 2.75 to 3 liters of blood is plasma, the liquid portion of the blood.” I had been losing blood for months and never knew it. They gave me three pints of blood and began checking all possible sources of blood loss including a sonogram and a test for bleeding ulcers. So far they have not found the source.
I was officially declared anemic which means “without blood”. Anemia results in a reduced ability of blood to transfer oxygen to the tissues. “Since all human cells depend on oxygen for survival, varying forms of anemia can have a wide range of clinical consequences. Anemia goes undetected in many people, and symptoms can be vague. Most commonly people with anemia report a feeling of weakness or fatigue, general malaise and sometimes poor concentration. People with more severe anemia often report shortness of breath on exertion. Very severe anemia prompts the body to compensate by increasing cardiac output, leading to palpitations and sweatiness, and to heart failure. Pallor is often a useful diagnostic sign in moderate or severe anemia.”
I am an intuitive person who knows his body. Why I didn’t call my doctor sooner is still a mystery to me. They could have discovered my problem weeks earlier. The doctors told me I probably would have had a brain hemorrhage and died without ever knowing why. Even smart people do stupid things. Know your body and call your doctor if things don’t seem right. It could save your life.