Thursday, August 17, 2006

friends and allergies

When my friend KC called me at work today, she was laughing and thanked me for “sharing” my iodine allergy. We’ve joked for years that we “share brain cells” or “share” other such nonsense. Sometimes it’s scarily true! But… thirty minutes later, she was in the ER with breathing troubles and all the accompanying allergic reaction issues.

Now, everyone who knows me knows that I’m allergic to practically the entire world of medicine. Including an apparently inherited atypical iodine allergy from my birth father. We can eat shellfish, (that’s the atypical part), but cannot tolerate other forms of iodine. Mostly this involves the types of contrast dyes used in surgery or CT scans.

After my first allergic reaction to an iodine dye, they told me that a second allergic reaction is usually fatal… so try to avoid the use of these dyes.

A few years ago, I had to have a CT scan at the University of Washington. I told them I was allergic to iodine dyes/IV contrast. So they had me take a set formula of medicines to preclude an allergic reaction… or to minimize the symptoms if I had one.

I followed all the instructions, took all the pre-medications, went for the CT scan… and had a monster reaction. It was horrible. Even scared the medical-type people there at the hospital… enough that they told me to NEVER allow another use of iodine dye/IV contrast because it truly would kill me.

As a result, I wear a Medic Alert bracelet that advises of the problem. Just in case I’m in a car wreck and can’t speak for myself… they don’t need to kill me trying to figure out what all might be wrong with me!

But KC hasn’t had any allergies and has always been healthy. At least until the last few years when she got a diagnosis…

KC has Graves Disease. She did a course of some medication that was supposed to put her in remission… and it did, for about 18 months. She and her husband spent time examining all the appropriate treatment options, the most likely being using radioactive iodine to completely irradiate the thyroid or removing the thyroid completely. They decided that the best course of treatment for her would be to remove the thyroid. Surgery is scheduled for Monday.

In preparation for this surgery, the doctor wanted to “calm” her thyroid. So he prescribed a course of some iodine based medication. Which she duly took as prescribed.

When we were at her house for dinner on Sunday night, she was describing how awful this medication was. How she put it in just a small amount of water to have the least amount of medicine to take. How horrible it tasted and all the things she ate to try to get that nasty taste out of her mouth… and that nothing worked. We were laughing about it and agreeing that it was a good thing that she only had to take that medicine for a week.

Sunday night was one of those great nights with friends. The kind where everyone laughs until they almost pee their pants and no one wants the evening to end.

Tuesday, KC emailed me at work to check in and tell me she was tired. We made funny comments to one another by email as we had time through yesterday. This morning she was laughing when she called.

Told me how red and blotchy she was… how itchy she was… how swollen her face was… how she now had a better appreciation for what my allergies meant in real terms...

… but she was going in to work because she might as well be there as home feeling this bad. Besides, too many people in her office are gone this week so someone needed to be there.

She wasn’t laughing 30 minutes later when she called me back to tell me she was in the ER. Neither was I.

Apparently the swelling got a bit out of hand and her breathing became troubled. She was given medications for breathing, for swelling and for itching. She’s still at the hospital tonight. They admitted her overnight for observation since they don’t want to give her certain medications that might mess up the scheduled surgery on Monday.

I know she’s going to be okay. I’ve known that since she said she was in the ER because I knew they would take good care of her.

But I spent some time today thinking about what it would be like without her… if something had gone wrong. I can’t even begin to describe how that thought took all the air out of the room, how awful that thought felt.

Then I spent time praying that I would not have to face that. We’ve been friends for 20 years and it’s not nearly enough.

I spent the day thinking about my friend, praying for her health and being glad that I am one who says, “I love you” to my friends and family.

… may there be mercy as she recovers and for her surgery on Monday.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Oh sweetheart... I know you are terribly worried about KC, but remember that lovely post about "Hope"?? Well, she will be fine!

I loved what you said about KC: "We’ve been friends for 20 years and it’s not nearly enough." I feel the same way about my friend Connie, we've been friends for twenty years too and I truly never really appreciated that gift of friendship until I moved 5,000 miles away from her!

I hate that you are suffering; I really hate that KC is facing this scary allergic reaction, but I do believe that in our darkest moments, we're given a ray of light, which illuminates that rare gift we have in our friends...

I know you've always appreciated KC, but now you know why you do! ;-)