My ER Close Call, and Why it Never Should Have Gotten so Bad

By Kristen Hart, Living Able and Abilities Expo Ambassador

Alittle more than three years ago, on September 16, 2014, I felt fine. I went to bed with plans the next day expecting things to go smoothly. Little did I know that I would end up in the hospital for five days. I want to tell this story in the hopes that it will not only educate others, but that it could potentially get them help faster than I got it.

Every single one of us with a disability, and probably without one, has "typical" things the doctors check you for when you go to the emergency room or the doctor's office. As those with Spina Bifida know, we oftentimes have urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney issues. Thankfully it was not a common thing for me to get a UTI so bad that I was sick or in the hospital. My mom discovered the trick of making me drink a full glass of cranberry juice each morning before school and the years I did that, I never got one.  Then I did what most people do. I grew up and was in control of myself. Now let's get back to my story. 

Taking travel risks

Emergency Room Protocols Would Have Sent Me Home Sick

The next morning I woke up with almost 102 fever and very sick. After a full day of basically living in a bathtub throwing up my temp was up to almost 104! This scared me so I drove myself to the emergency room. (As an aside, I do not recommend driving yourself with that high a fever!) They did the normal test for UTI, hydration etc. They put me on IV fluids and anti-nausea medicine. They told me to hang out for an hour to see if I would stop throwing up. Honestly, I only felt good throwing up so I kept making myself do it (also something I don't recommend). Little did I know, THIS would be the catalyst that finally got me some real help!

Now before this night I thought I was the epitome of health. A little overweight perhaps, but I was wheeling 12 miles several times a week for exercise so I knew some of it was muscle. The thing is that over a period of 10-12 years, I had been to the emergency room at least 3 or 4 times for some crazy symptoms where I just knew something wasn't right. The same thing always happened. They'd do a urine culture and hydrate me with IV fluids. It didn't matter what my symptoms were. Heck, once I had chest pains, they did do an EKG but then did those other things and said it must be a strain and to go rest!

Bloodwork Reveals Hidden Deficiencies Unrelated to Spina Bifida

But this time since I "couldn't stop throwing up" (I sure wasn't going to tell them I was making myself!).  The doctor said, "Well, since we can't get you to stop throwing up we are going to admit you."  I was a bit startled but it saved my life. When they admit you, they do different tests than what they do in the emergency room. They checked me in at 6:30 am and before I knew it, I was being woken up by the lovely phlebotomist to take my blood. I am pretty sure they send them in early in the morning so that you are so out of it you have no energy to fight the needle. I HATED having my blood taken. It always took a bunch of tries. The nice gentleman finally got a good stick and took the sample away.

A few hours later, the doctor came in and looked at the computer at my results and all he said was, "WOW!" That's never a good thing to hear from a doctor staring at a computer so my interest was instantly peaked. 

Let's get this out of the way. Yes, I did have a bad kidney infection. (TMI warning.) In fact, it took a solid eight hours of IV fluids being pumped through me for me to even pee!  I was THAT dehydrated. And when I did it was literally brown. If you do any research, that means your kidneys are shutting down!!  This was NOT the case the day before! I was going every few hours like normal. My urine was always somewhat darker because back then I was drinking waaaaay too much soda and I knew it. But telling a soda addict to stop is like telling a smoker to stop. You have to be ready and do it for yourself. But the dehydration from drinking too much soda and no water was a small part of my problem.

The blood results showed that I was also magnesium, potassium and vitamin D deficient. Once I got home I looked up some of the symptoms of some of these deficiencies and realized I had been having a lot of these symptoms for YEARS! Also, being on a fixed income, I was not eating enough and crappy food when I did. I am completely convinced that had I known to get a yearly physical, these deficiencies would've been found years ago before they got this bad. Even my own doctor that I had gone to for nearly 10 years never suggested one. I am assuming that they did these tests when I was in the hospital as a kid but once I got out on my own and hadn't been really sick for years, I didn't even think to ask them to check my blood during my emergency room visits throughout the years. 

My telling you I had these deficiencies probably doesn't mean much to you. But when you hear they can cause symptoms like vertigo, fatigue, depression, mood swings, irregular heartbeat, psychosis, delirium, confusion or hallucinations and much more, you can understand the necessity of getting that checked out. 

Like I said, it's been three years now and I feel so much better. The crazy thing was I was so used to how I was feeling that I thought I felt fine then. I am still on vitamin D supplements but everything is fine with my magnesium and potassium from the life changes I realized I needed to make. I remember suffering—and it really was suffering—from depression for years, especially in the winter. This went away after my vitamin deficiencies were brought back to normal!

I actually was scared by what happened and knew my soda habit wasn't helping me so I got off that and lost 15 pounds in three months still eating whatever junk I wanted. I also no longer dread getting my blood taken because I always hydrated since I got off my soda kick! I also think the deficiencies messed with my metabolism which didn't help my weight. Though my weight loss journey has had a setback from a shoulder injury, it is a work in progress. Life is so good now!

The Moral of the Story: Get Regular Check-ups Along with Blood Tests

If you do not get anything else out of this whole story, I would like you to simply hear me say to get a yearly physical that requires a blood test and make doctors check your blood when you are sick. I may have Spina Bifida and there may be things that are common for those with SB, but that does not make me or YOU immune from anything else someone else could get. I believe with my whole heart this happens to so many more! If you haven't recently, get that blood test today!

If video is more your thing here is a video I did going into more depth on my Youtube channel Living Able:


About the Author:

Kristen Hart, creator of the YouTube channel Living Able, is 33-years-old and living with Spina Bifida in Virginia Beach, VA. You can also follow her on Facebook.


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