It has been a day. We set our alarms at 3:30am this morning to hopefully catch the election news as it was breaking. We had assumed it would be an early Clinton victory, but when we checked our phones it was too close to call in many states, with Trump leading in a few places. We slept for a few more hours and woke up to the news that Trump had all but won. Erik said that he had had a feeling but I was taken completely by surprise.
On top of this, the fairytale dusting of snow that had been falling in Stockholm over the past few days had accumulated to several inches, if not a foot, by the time morning came. Our poor pumpkin, carved just last week for Halloween, was now sitting in a snowbank. Erik told me last week that November snow in Stockholm is never more than an inch or two, and that it’s usually wet and melts in the same day. Yet here we are, having to dig ourselves out on November 9th.
Couple those two things with the heart palpitations that I started having in the afternoon, and I was pretty much convinced the world was ending today.
This week is the first week that I’ve been up to full dosages on all of my medications, and it’s been tough. I’m on three different antibiotics to target the three different forms of Lyme bacteria, and at higher dosages than are normally recommended for routine bacterial infections. The reason for this is that the antibiotics at the lower doses are only bacteriostatic, meaning they halt the growth but do not kill off existing bacteria. In order to kill the bacteria, it is necessary to increase the dosage.
Most people think of antibiotic side effects as occurring mostly in the GI tract, but I have been taking adequate precautions to make sure that I am not doing long-term harm to my gut. So thankfully I’ve had a good appetite and have been able to eat somewhat normally (excluding things like sugar, alcohol and gluten).
The main side effects that I’ve been dealing with this week are neurological. I feel pressure in my head, especially at the back, and it extends into muscle tightness around my neck and shoulders. I think it has impacted my breathing which in turn impacted my heart, bringing about the palpitations today.
The theory is that when you start the right combination of drugs that begin to kill the bacteria that have been colonizing for months and years, the die-off can be very intense. As the bacteria die, they release their toxins into the bloodstream, overwhelming the body’s ability to evacuate it all at the same time. Lyme experts say often that it has to get worse before it can get better. For a long time, the disease has been living sort of in cooperation with your body, and it has made itself quite comfortable there. As a result, there is a lot of clean up to be done.
Overall I have been managing okay, but today I got really scared. I layed down to take a nap and it felt like my heart was skipping a beat when I started to fall asleep. I was afraid if I fell asleep my heart would stop altogether. I called Erik for information on the nearest hospital and headed out the door.
Mind you, it was a blizzard outside, not exactly the best conditions to get to the hospital. Luckily for me, it’s Sweden, and efficiency is their strong suit, so I was able to get there pretty quickly. The 1k walk from the tunnelbana through unplowed sidewalks to the hospital’s doors was a bit harrowing, but with every step I took I became more convinced I would not be able to do this if I was actually having a heart attack, so that made me feel better.
When I got to the hospital I was dripping in snow melt, mascara running down my face and with a wet phone that would not send a text to Erik or my parents. However I was able to get checked in and strapped into some machines pretty quickly. They did an EKG and took my blood pressure and pulse, and drew some blood. The nurse was the same age as me, and we chatted about how to say our age in Swedish, how she likes her job and the upsetting political news of the day. Five minutes later I saw the cardiologist and he was able to assure me that everything was normal. A few minutes after that, Erik arrived, and we waited as they took blood samples. They used the blood samples to look at liver and kidney function, a concern when on long-term antibiotics, and everything there looked normal as well. They sent me home and advised that I start seeing a Swedish doctor about my lyme treatment.
On days like this it is really hard to know how to move forward. I don’t know if I am doing the right thing by trying to continue to live my life across the globe from where I grew up, while also dealing with a serious illness. I also know that I’m going to be dealing with this for a while, and I don’t want to just be sitting around at home, thinking about nothing other than the fact that I’m sick.
I skyped with my parents on the walk back from the hospital and my dad reminded me that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs on this journey. Right now, it seems like every day raises a million new questions, but I hope that as time goes by, my body’s responses will become familiar and understandable to me, and it will become just part of the routine. Until that wonderful day when I don’t have to deal with it any more!
On a brighter note, Stockholm is absolutely gorgeous today. And for those of you who were disappointed with the results of the election, Sweden has always welcomed immigrants with open arms!