When you spend over a year in the hospital, you start to get used to the routines. I always knew when there was a shift change. I always knew when there was a new rotation of doctors. Finally, I was able to read and fully understand my blood work. This was both a good and bad thing.
Low hemoglobin and Crohn's
Many people who have Crohn’s have low hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a measurement of how much oxygen in your blood is reaching your brain. Because we bleed a lot, much, our hemoglobin numbers are lower. I remember feeling very sluggish in the hospital. They did blood work and it came out that I was anemic. Anemic means that I was actively bleeding somewhere. Because my intestines (large), was so ulcerated, there was actually blood coming out when I went to the bathroom. My hemoglobin at one point was 4. I was told that normal ranges from 9-11. I had to get a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is when the doctors take blood and literally run an IV of it into my body. After a few bags, I felt so refreshed. Blood transfusions are short-lived, but it’s a great fix until the doctors figure out how to stop the bleed.
Albumin levels and nutrient absorption
Another number that was always low in the hospital was my albumin levels. Albumin is how many nutrients your body absorbs. Normal albumin levels are around 4.0. My levels were about .4. Many doctors never saw or heard numbers like that before. I remember that I had doctors from other states and even countries coming to study me. I was a science experiment.
Because my levels of albumin were so low, I was not able to absorb nutrients from my food. They had to give me TPN. Remember from my earlier posts that TPN is known as Total Parental Nutrition. Doctors make a mix of nutrients and feed it to you through IV. Doctors create a PICC line in your arm. Because there were no nutrients in my body, my hair became very thin and started to fall out. My nails on my hands and feet were not bright, and shiny. My skin looked dull and I started to look like an eighty-year-old man.
These blood work numbers didn’t give me a good outlook for the future. For a while, I was obsessed with the blood work numbers. I would mentally keep track from day to day. I remember asking the doctors every single day. It got so bad that I would get panic attacks just from the blood work. Soon, doctors had to make up numbers and levels to keep me calm. The long stay in the hospital drove me nuts.
Blood work changes often
Numbers in your blood work change every minute. One or two points in the up or down trend is not a big deal, and don’t read into it. If there is a big change in the number, you will feel it and notify a doctor. Let the doctors do their job. Crohn’s patients are the smartest patients, we know our body the best. This my friends is the truth!
What type of IBD have you been diagnosed with?