That’s really all I’d gone over to ask my neighbor. Thank goodness she could tell something was wrong that couldn’t wait until morning. I had been having a lot of low blood pressure episodes, but this felt very strange, and I was a bit afraid of going to bed and not have someone check to see if I was OK in the morning. I’m an RN. I’ve lived alone for decades. I’m glad I knew my neighbor well enough to ask her to call me. But she could see something was really wrong. And that’s the last thing I knew until…
…I woke up in the Emergency Room approximately 4 hours later. Lisa worked late, and got home around 9:00 p.m. , maybe 9:30 p.m. I’d gone over there around the time she got home so I wouldn’t bug her later. I woke up in the ER and the clock said 1:30 a.m. I’d been unconscious for around four hours. The dysautonomia was one part of what was going on, I think. Many years later, I realized that a medication interaction was also involved. Anyway, the first thing I saw off to my right was the doctor counting my medications. I had a bad habit of adding the last of an old prescription into a bottle I’d recently gotten, to minimize the number of bottles around. They were medications I took routinely, so I knew I’d use them within a short period of time. The doctor wasn’t amused at my space-saving maneuver as he couldn’t determine if I’d OD’d (no) and on what (nothing). Once I woke up, he just asked me; I answered him, and he stopped counting.
The next thing I remembered was being told that they needed a urine specimen. OK, no problem, just let me up and I’ll go pee. They told me that with my blood pressure being what it was, they weren’t going to let me go anywhere. That’s the first I’d heard about my blood pressure. It had taken 4 liters of fluids to get my systolic BP to the upper 70s, and a random 80mm/Hg. It should have been at least 100 without fluids, and with roughly a gallon of saline, I should have been well into the upper normal range. It wasn’t happening. They were sending me to ICU for dopamine if my BP didn’t stay near 80. If I ‘hovered’ enough at 80, and continued to make sense, they’d hold the dopamine. That’s a resuscitative drug. I didn’t like the sound of that whole situation. But I wasn’t in any condition to argue- they’d stuck a catheter into my bladder (blowing up the balloon on my internal sphincter which HURT- one should always make sure to push the thing in before blowing up the balloon). One hose in (IV), and one hose out (Foley). I was stuck. I was also more than a bit spooked that I’d just lost consciousness at my neighbor’s apartment with no warning. I never felt like I was going ‘out’. I just wasn’t ‘there’ anymore. I think I kinda know what it feels like to die, until checking into the afterlife (for me that’s Heaven; I’m one of those born-again people).
So, off to ICU for the night. I was in a bed in a room with a camera so the nurses’ station could see every move. Lovely. Like were was I going? I kept looking to see what my blood pressure was on the monitor behind me (took some scootching around in the bed), until one of the nurses told me that if I kept watching it, she’d put a towel over the monitor. Hmmph. I just wanted to see that I was moving in the right direction. I did not want dopamine. More plain fluids were running. I probably should have been thankful for the catheter by the time my kidneys caught up with the volume of IVs pumped into me in a relatively short period of time. Even though my urine test and blood work showed no abnormal amounts/types of medications in my system, they treated my like an overdose. Guilty until proven innocent?
My regular doc came by on morning rounds, and corrected the OD diagnosis. She knew me well enough to know that ODing wasn’t something I’d be doing. At 41 years old, and not in great health, I was more interested in staying alive. I didn’t ‘do’ drugs, and had enough medications to take on a routine basis that I resisted taking prescribed medications that weren’t ‘scheduled’ meds- I didn’t like ‘as needed’ meds at all. But I didn’t know that two of my medications had been making my life hell, and were likely the cause of my blood pressure dropping to the point of unconsciousness in my neighbor’s living room. I’d taken the muscle relaxant Zanaflex for years and had no problems with it (NOT Xanax, the anxiety pill- one physician I saw – once- didn’t know the difference; she now works in the Botox/spa medicine field). I’d also taken Benadryl as needed for years for allergies. Well, the two cause really bad hypotension, at least for me. I had my list of medications and prn OTC meds on a piece of paper in my wallet, and nobody caught it. I’d been in the ER before for low BP, and all I got was a bunch of nasty attitudes from the nurses, and one doctor in particular. I figured it out later, after changing to a different muscle relaxant because of cost. All of a sudden, no more severe low blood pressure (I’d actually had mini-strokes from hypotension). I still had the dysautonomia blood pressure issues- which felt totally different.
Anyway, I got cut loose that morning. I’d been offered another night’s stay in a regular room, but wanted out of there. Had it been a weekend in the Caribbean, I might have reconsidered. The ICU nurses were actually quite nice. That ER was known for being nasty and sometimes cruel; I guess the balloon being blown up too soon could have been an accident, but who knows. I just hope they aren’t that nasty now; I go to a different ER when I need to, which has proven to save my life twice.
I owe my neighbor more than thanks. She literally saved my life. She also avoided having to have a body removed from her living room (unsightly and deteriorates quickly). I’ve lost contact with her, as she moved years ago. I know I thanked her, but I’m not sure I really ‘got’ the extent of what she did at the time. So thanks, Lisa 🙂