It’s 10:30 at night on a Tuesday and I am paralyzed. Literally paralyzed. A few hours ago I was just fine, hanging out on my couch, eating dinner and watching some horrible movie on Amazon Prime. It was during that movie that I started to feel a tingling sensation in my hands. I wasn’t majorly concerned about it, I figured it would go away on its own. It didn’t. Instead, it got worse. Much much worse.
By 9:00pm my entire body was tingling and my eyes starting twitching. I tried to walk it off, but found that my legs didn’t work. The muscles felt like jello. I could barely stand.
I called my mom who lives 800 miles away in Pittsburgh, hoping to get some advice and calm down. I was on the phone with her for less than 15 minutes when all of a sudden, my mouth didn’t work anymore. I couldn’t say what I was trying to get out.
About 8 years ago my dad had suffered a major stroke, so I knew the symptoms of such a thing. In that moment, my heart started racing and I sheer, unrelenting terror set in. I was in a complete panic. I hung up the phone and called 9-1-1 and began frantically trying to throw some things into a bag.
The paramedics showed up in just a few minutes. Well actually, a fire truck showed up first and the good men of the Nashville Fire Department got me sitting down and calmed down slightly. Once inside the ambulance the paramedics took my vitals. All clear. Relief washed over me when they told me that. It wasn’t a stroke. It wasn’t a heart attack. So what the hell was going on? The main paramedic said he believed I was having a panic attack. I thought – maybe. But I didn’t completely buy it.
By the time we reached the hospital every single muscle in body was contracted to its maximum and completely beyond my control. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, and I could barely even breathe. They wheeled me in and got blood work right away. For some reason I thought it was kind of funny when the phlebotomist was about to stick me and said “Big pinch.” As if I could even feel it amidst the unbearable pain I was in.
Now we wait. I should say, now I wait. By myself. In a little room where no one seemed to pay any attention to me. As I lay there with no monitors hooked up to me and no one watching me, I thought for sure I was going to die. I honestly thought I was going to die.
And then a male nurse came in to see me. And when he spoke, if I had any control over my body at that point, I would have shit myself. “Your problem is low calcium.”
…”you have to be fucking kidding me” That was the thought that went through my head. What in the hell is that about? This is the most extreme pain I have ever been in and it’s because I have god damn low calcium?
“We’ll get you hooked up to an IV drip with calcium and you’ll be right as rain.” He said. And son of a bitch if he wasn’t right. It was only a few minutes before the calcium showed up for me but it seemed like an eternity. Even though I now knew what the problem was, I still thought for sure I would be dead before it they could help me.
Miraculously, within 5 minutes of the calcium being infused the pain began to subside. Ten minutes – all the symptoms were gone completely. Words cannot express the feeling of relief that washed over me. Sounds dramatic because, well, it was. I could finally speak and tell the nurses what was going on. I could move my hands and fingers and hold my phone in my hand. I could get oxygen into my lungs and breathe in that sterile hospital air. The horror was over.
Of course they kept me for observation over night which was fine with me. At that point I was so exhausted the pleather ER cot they had me laying in felt like a California King bed at the Ritz-Carlton. For the first time in weeks I fell into a very deep sleep.
And now you’re probably wondering just what in the hell caused this to happen? After all, your calcium levels don’t just drop out of the blue for no reason. Well, you would be correct.
Three weeks prior to this I had surgery on my intestines to fix a stricture arising from Crohn’s Disease. It had been there for over 2 years and I was in a constant battle to keep my nutrition up. Eventually, the disease got the best of me, and I had no choice but to have the stricture surgically removed.
Unfortunately, that didn’t go as planned either. My nutrition was so horrendous that the morning of the surgery, my surgeon told me my intestines were basically the consistency of wet toilet paper, and if they tried to stitch me back together, they would without question fall apart, causing me to bleed out internally and ultimately, end up six feet under. So the only choice we had was to install a temporary ileostomy until we could nurse my nutrition back up and carry out the second stage of the surgery.
For as long as I can remember, having a stoma was my absolute worst fear. But on this day, I was almost happy to accept it. I had been so unbelievably sick for so long my quality of life was so bad that even walking around shitting in a bag sounded wonderful if it meant I wouldn’t be in pain anymore.
So that’s what we did. I woke up with a little bag attached to my hip and I am still adjusting to it three weeks later. However, I can honestly say I feel like Superman compared to where I was before. Just having the ability to eat without feeling like I am being disemboweled is amazing. I’m still a little weak but getting stronger every day.
The doctors warned me that having the ostomy could easily get me dehydrated, since the large intestine is essentially disconnected. What they didn’t warn me about is the fact that during the first few weeks of having the ostomy, it would be extremely active and could quickly wash out your electrolytes. Well, that’s exactly what happened. The overactive output washed me clean out of calcium and magnesium leaving me feeling like I death. Who knew such extreme pain could come from something so basic.
So now being released from the hospital in just 24 hours, I am back to feeling great and making sure I take my supplements and drink lots of Powerade and Vitamin water (even though they don’t really have all that much in electrolytes).
Crazy day and lesson learned.