Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I didn't even get euphoria

In my last post, I said it was 8 hours until I was getting my ass on an early plane home from this great vacation I had planned. Things had already gone awry and I was sad and ill. Then my hunch proved true; my system crashed. If I hadn't decided to stay behind, I would have been in the middle of a national park, several days from the nearest city.

The first thing to go from bad to worse wasn’t due to me being ill but a technical error.

I had begun the day with little sleep and not able to eat (like the previous 4 days of travel and stay in Darwin). I waved my new friends goodbye – the worst part of going home was not to get to know them all better. I pack my bags, I get to the shuttle, I have a good time with the drivers, I arrive at the airport.

The lady at the check-in says I have to talk to the ticket office.

She probably sees the alarm in my eyes because she assures me the booking looks fine. I move over to the ticket office, still alarmed. With all right. The Swedish company I booked with had not managed to create a ticket, and it’s the middle of the night in Sweden. No help to find. I was not allowed on that flight. [Later on I learned that there was a technical error and the travel company repaid everything.]

I booked another ticket for the same day and remained stubbornly at the tiny airport despite the twelve hours until my flight.

Then things started to get ugly. I turn more nauseous, and also weak and shivering [later I learn they're convulsions, not shivers]. At this point I haven’t been sleeping or eating much for five days. The journey home will take more than 30 hours. I’m alone.

The airport staff try to help me but I start throwing up and I feel even more woozy and weak. They get an ambulance to pick me up to make sure I'm fit to travel. I’m taken to the hospital, I wait, a bitchy nurse examines me, I wait, and then a young female doctor looks me over. She says the best thing is for me to get home (definitely true), gives me some strong painkillers and anti-nausea pills.

By the way, have you ever noticed that ambulance people treat you like a person and everyone else at a hospital treats you as a patient? It’s a big difference.

The painkillers have effect by the time I get back to the airport – the first time in ages I haven’t felt in pain. Unfortunately the tremors are still there, and so is the nausea. I hold out for some five hours, checking my luggage in, going through security check, sitting waiting and all that. The convulsions are by this time constant. It’s like the restless thing when you put your toes against the floor and you leg starts bouncing up and down – but all over my body. Finally, with the backdrop of a spectacular thunderstorm that I hardly notice, I throw up as I attempt my second dose of painkillers.

It’s interesting how many people don’t notice that someone has thrown up all over themselves and are sitting bent over, quivering. Even when they walk right over the puddle on the carpet. And when guy next to me tries to get help, they said something about if I was at the airport, I was obviously well enough to fend for myself.

Finally one of the flight attendants take notice of my pathetic little self and gets me help. I think eight people were hovering above me at one point, getting info to find my luggage and my name to end my booking and my age for another ambulance.

This time it takes much longer at the hospital. It’s in the middle of the night, so I’m sure they’re understaffed and there are a lot of people in the waiting room. But after the nurse has taken a look at me, they leave me there, on the plastic chairs. The only time they notice me is when I’ve laid down on the floor, my whole body twitching, because I felt so faint I was afraid to fall down. The nurses tell me to get up on the chairs; one isn’t allowed on the floors.

There are lot of hurt and ill people passing through the emergency room in a hospital. I felt guilty for just being there, yet I'm sure they thought the same about me. Or maybe not. Apart from the twitching I might not have looked as lethally ill as I felt.

At some point I'm given a shot of some still unknown substance. I don’t know how long it takes before they find me a bed (a gurney in the corridor). Then I lay there, twitching. It’s very unrestful to twitch uncontrollably. It’s in fact really scary.

I think a total of six hours pass before the doctor talks to me. He’s a young, Asian guy with dreadlocks gathered in a ponytail. (I'm not kidding you)

I was not an easy patient. He said I had a panic attack, I didn’t believe him. At least not until he started explaining that he had had the same (maybe he lied, but it worked) and exactly what was going on in my body with the adrenalin going amok and how my brain didn’t need to be upset for a panic attack to happen. He refused to admit me to the hospital and gives me valium, which makes no difference. Another pill, stronger, takes effect and stops the convulsions. By this time I’m so heartily tired of hospitals and people not listening that I just obey when he says he doesn’t want me to stay in the hospital. I accept the sleeping pills and find the hostel where I had stayed earlier.

For the first time in some five odd days, I sleep. I get six hours. The following two days are tainted with the odd side effects of dizziness, sleepiness (odd, eh?) and general hungoverness. The euphoria, one of the uncommon side effects, didn't show up. And the pills affected the libido negatively. What's with these drugs that are no fun? No fair at all.

The first night (technically it's almost noon) is the only time the pills make me sleep, but those six hours are enough to get me through the 40 hour journey through Melbourne, Hong Kong and London.

I arrive in Sweden much earlier than I was supposed and much later than I would have liked. But I am home, and there isn’t a better place in the world.


  1. Phew. As they say, pleasure is the absence of pain, or in your case, ill health. Hope you make a fast recovery.

    PS I especially liked: By the way, have you ever noticed that ambulance people treat you like a person and everyone else at a hospital treats you as a patient?

  2. Thank you for your wellwishes and for stopping by!

    I've been in contact with all kinds of different medical people and being treated as a person was a very striking difference.

  3. "Ordeal" doesn't begin to describe what you went through : ( Sorry your trip was miserable. Glad you're home safe and sound!

  4. Det låter som en väldigt hemsk upplevelse. :/ Vilken tur att du är hemma nu, och så välbehållen som det går. Ta hand om dig och ta det försiktigt!

  5. Hey Malin, I followed you from your comment on Meredith Barnes site (I just replied on there to the question you asked me and Kate) and I have to say that your description of symptoms is very close to what I've experienced in high-stress (but maybe fun like you say) situations like travel, family coming to stay, etc. I've come to call them "adrenal crashes" or "adrenal shock" (because the doctors haven't been much help in labeling them) because it's similar to going into shock from a traumatic injury.

    I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and some autoimmune conditions, but I've recently begun to wonder if these episodes are related to my thyroid as well as adrenals (all part of the endocrine system). What made me wonder is because I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year (not at all suggesting that's what you have, keep reading!) and before the radiation treatment I was forced to go hypothyroid by stopping my thyroid meds. As my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) dropped, I had several of these episodes: extreme nausea and vertigo, my legs and arms "shivering" and "jumping" uncontrollably, anxiety (but who wouldn't feel anxious when we don't know why this is happening), and one symptom you didn't mention (aphasia: saying the wrong word or mispronouncing a word). All of these symptoms returned to normal/went away after a few days of having my thyroid meds back in my system.

    Just wanted to mention it as one piece of the puzzle; I also had fewer of these episodes after I started seeing a holistic practitioner who put me on supplements for adrenal fatigue and the autoimmune conditions. One word of warning: if you're having an episode, do not let them give you a drug called Phenergan (promethazine)--they gave that to me once when I went in mid-episode, and it made me so much worse.

    Hope you feel better, and learning to live with stuff like this is about learning to listen to your body and recognize some limits. That doesn't mean you give up, it means you find a way that allows you to still enjoy the things you love on your terms. Best of luck!

  6. Duh, didn't even name the autoimmune that's related to thyroid--it's called Hashimoto's Disease. The tests are fairly simple, but what's weird is that HD can cause your thyroid to "sputter", so you can actually have symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

  7. Hi Angelica! And wow! Huge thanks for this comment - I've long suspected thyroid problems because of my symptoms but the only doctor who checked it showed my TSH levels to be within normal levels. I know TSH tests don't always show the 'right thing' but I've had a few run-ins with doctors being less than cordial and I've just given up. After this ordeal I will need to put aside enough energy to deal with the care circus again and having your explanation will certainly help. I don't know if I have aphasia or just talk too fast/sloppily. I often find/say the wrong words when speaking but I also do that in writing so not sure. Anyway, I'll be sure to look into this again and thank you so much for taking the time to help me out.

  8. Just found my way back here to see if you saw my comment; glad it may have helped. I would have e-mailed that saga but I couldn't find your email.

    Yes, TSH is not necessarily the best reflection of your thyroid health--it's just the one they've been using for the last 50 years. It's kind of scary that as I've talked with more thyroid cancer patients, I would estimate that over 90% of them showed normal TSH levels in spite of the staging of their thyroid cancer.
    I think that's why the holistic practitioner turned out to be so helpful to me, because she goes pretty much by clinical symptoms.

    Here's a link to the ThyCa forum I'm on that has some info on Hashimoto's; it's a public forum so you should be able to read it without joining: http://www.inspire.com/groups/thyca-thyroid-cancer-survivors-association/discussion/hashimoto-info-please/

    Hope you track down the causes of your issues!