What the Heck is STRESS??

  1. Stress:  A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
  2. Stress: Your bodies way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.  When you feel threatened your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn rouse the body for emergency action.

But, if you have adrenal insufficiency, your body doesn’t produce the hormones needed to handle stress.  I have adrenal insufficiency and it is a life-threatening illness.

I could go on and on about stress, but most people only think of the normal stress that everyone experiences on a day to day basis.  The stress that aggravates you, puts you in a bad mood, makes you cross with your family or co-workers can land me in the emergency room. An injury or illness can stress out my body so quickly that I don’t see it coming.

Several years ago, my Father-In-Law was suffering from cancer and was moved to a nursing home.  We had out of town family staying at our house, and when he passed away we had all the planning and arrangements to take care of.  A very stressful time.  My family kept a close eye on me, made sure I “stress dosed” and got enough rest.  I made it through the whole thing perfectly.  Two weeks later, my cat died.  I ended up in the hospital with my worst adrenal crisis to date. Dangerously low potassium, sodium and blood pressure.

Another incident that lead to an adrenal crisis was food poisoning.  A UTI threw me in the emergency room with no warning also.

If you have adrenal insufficiency, you must always be prepared! Let people around you understand the importance of your emergency injections, and getting you to the hospital quickly for IV steroids and treatment.

You never know what can start an adrenal crisis, be aware of what your body is telling you.  Don’t ever think you can “ride it out” and get better on your own.  Go to the hospital!

ambulance2

 

 

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My First Surgery

In February of 1987 I was 34 years old and had a two month old baby at home.  As a new Mom I was sleep deprived and didn’t have a clue what to do with a newborn.  Luckily my Mom lived nearby and there were several good girlfriends that lived close that helped me out.  For several days I had been experiencing dull pain in my lower abdomen, which of course I ignored.  I hadn’t had a real period since I had the baby, so I assumed the ache was my body getting ready for a new cycle.  I woke up one morning  around four o’clock with severe pain that would come and go, just like labor pains.  Of course I didn’t wake up the Joe-Man for a few hours, hoping that the pain would just stop.  He woke up to an hysterical wife, a screaming baby, and the biggest ice storm in years.  The usual fifteen minute drive to the hospital took over an hour, we watched cars sliding off the roads into ditches as we made our way.  After lots of blood work and peeing in a cup, I was finally diagnosed with a twisted ovarian cyst.  I needed surgery right away, NOW, no kidding, no time to think about it….NOW.

Luckily, the rest of the day is a blur to me thanks to the wonderful drugs the nice nurses gave me.  In my drugged state, I was sure I could do this, no problem, I  was super-woman, I just had a baby, this won’t be bad at all.  WHOA….I was completely unprepared for the pain when I woke up.

They kept me in the hospital for nine days.  Every time I woke up, Joe was in the chair right next to my bad.  I knew another day had passed because he had on a different shirt from the last time I opened my eyes.

When I finally got home my little baby looked completely different.  Nine days away from him and I was sure he wouldn’t know me.

This was my first surgery and the beginning of my ups and downs with my health.  Soon, the hospital and the operating room became a familiar place for me.  I could think of a million other places I would rather frequent.

Coming soon:  Next chapter – Second Surgery

The Common Cold

Why do they call it that?

This is day eight for me with a cold and all the symptoms that come along with it.  I am afraid that I will blow my brains out through my nose, or even worse, cough up a lung.  I’ve been treating my symptoms with DayQuil/Nyquil but I’m still miserable. 

So what can a body with autoimmune issues do?  Just like normal people, nothing really except treat the symptoms.

With Addison’s Disease something as common as the “Common Cold” can quickly lead you into the horrible world of the ER.  Because I take steroids everyday to treat my adrenal insufficiency, my body is less able to fight off infection.  With a fever or without enough fluids a body can quickly dehydrate, which has always been a big problem for me.  With the “dehydration monsters” present you risk low potassium and low sodium, which can take me down the slippery road to an “Addisonian Crisis”.  A very unpleasant place to find yourself.

NASTY GERMS!

So, my advice to anyone visited by the common cold this winter is to

  • Rest, rest, rest
  • Drink Plenty of fluids
  • Try to eat something
  • Watch for a fever
  • Take whatever OTC “symptom killer” that you think might help (I like  Nyquil, it helps me sleep)
  • Wash your hands often to prevent spreading germs
  • See your doctor if needed

and

If you have adrenal insuffiency increase your steroid dose as recommemded by your physician.

My doctor has advised me what to do when I am sick, and you must check with your own physician to get a recommendation for you.

Remember we are all different! 

I have secondary adrenal insufficiency, and individuals that are primary or with other adrenal issues MUST talk to their doctor about their own treatment.  I am not a Doctor.

 

You’ve Got What?

 

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This is a repost from a closed blog.

 

Starting in 1985, I had one medical problem after another.  Two babies, an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, 9 surgeries for gallbladder, cysts, hysterectomy and a bowel resection…but nothing could have prepared me for what happened to me in 2001.

 

I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed.  I was exhausted, weak, I couldn’t eat, I was confused all the time, and all I did was sleep.   I had debilitating fatigue, muscle weakness, cramping,  low potassium, and nausea.  The doctors kept attributing all my problems to my Crohns.  But I knew it was something else.

 

After several ER visits due to extreme weakness, I was finally admitted to the hospital by my Gastroenterologist.   You know those doctors that tell you they ran every test in the book and didn’t find anything?  Well this guy DID run EVERY test in the book, and he solved the big mystery

 

ADRENAL INSUFFICIENCY.

 I had never heard of it.  Adrenal insufficiency?  What does that mean?  Where are your adrenal glands and what the heck do they do?  What does the pituitary gland have to do with all of this?  What is cortisol? ACTH? DHEA?

 

And the biggest question “why didn’t someone figure out sooner what the hell was wrong with me?”

 

 

 I saw my Sister’s  endocrinologist, I went to the University of Chicago Hospital, and I took a trip to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  None of these doctors could make me well.  I was told to take my meds and I should feel better.  How many of us have heard that line?   

 

 Because my endocrine system is shot ( pituitary, adrenals, thyroid and ovaries) I am a hot mess. 

The most important hormone the adrenals release is cortisol. Cortisol is the “flight or fight” hormone, it helps you handle stress.  Major stress, such as injury or illness, dehydration, low potassium levels, vomiting, fever or an infection can throw you into an Addisonian crisis, which requires immediate medical attention. 

 I have had many trips to the ER in an ambulance and too many hospital stays to remember.  When a person goes in crisis, IV steroids must to given to keep the patient from going into shock. This can all happen very fast. I keep a supply of steroid injections on hand so if needed, I can give myself a shot before I head to the hospital.  Because I take steroids everyday, infection or illness can be easily masked.  Just as people take steroids to help with inflammation from allergies, asthma or rashes, my steroids can hide a problem until you are very sick or in pain.  In 2005 I had a severe diverticulitis attack without even knowing what was going on.  The steroids kept the inflammation at bay and the infection hidden so I didn’t have pain. One morning I woke up in terrible pain and I ended up in the ER.  An MRI showed a mass in my colon and I needed emergency surgery to remove and repair the damage. 

 

There are so many side effects for a person on daily steroid therapy.  It  can damage bones, the lining of the stomach, weaken  your immune system, can cause cataracts, depression and insomnia.  Even GOOD stress can land me in the ER. 

 

   It doesn’t have to be something bad to affect your stress level, and with no cortisol, an Addisonian is in big trouble. Many times my family noticed I was in trouble and got me to the ER. Confusion is one of the first symptoms for me, and then I just get stupid.  I don’t even realize what’s happening to me. 

I have to wear a medic alert bracelet, and I keep a list of all my meds in my wallet, as does each of my family members.  

 

My life has been forever altered by this disease.  Days, weeks, months and years have been robbed from me because of my inability to function.  From one day to the next I never know how I am going to feel.  Sadly, I have more bad days than good.  My family has been there for me always, and for that I am thankful.