A Visit With A Vampire

A blood draw changed my life. Again.

Let me explain.

I had been getting sick a lot. Sure, I had been getting sick my entire life – constant ear infections, twice-annual sinus infections, a bout with pneumonia here and there. But this time was different. Instead of going through months without getting sick, I was only getting a few weeks. Over a five month period, I had gotten five ear infections – six, if you count the one that didn’t respond to a course of amoxicillin. Not to mention two cases of pneumonia. But it was a perpetual itching resembling hives that eventually got me into an allergist’s office.

If only it had been as simple as allergies.

Had a long discussion with the allergist about my symptoms, the itching, the constant sinus infections, the chronic ear infections that the ENT specialist I had seen the day before was attributed to allergies. Went through a standard skin allergy test, which showed I wasn’t allergic to anything – not even common grasses and plants usually attributed to nasal allergies.

Well then why the hell am I always stuffy and getting infected?

Due to my already having an autoimmune disorder, he decided that a full antibody and autoantibody panel needed to be done. So I left with a slip of paper listing the many tests he wanted done, and the next day I packed up my little munchkin to go over to the hospital’s satellite lab to get the fluids sucked out of me. At this point, only two thoughts were going through my head, all revolved around how as a child my mother used to call the phlebotomist “the vampire” and how I had progressed from needing numbing cream put on my arm prior to seeing her for my bi-annual hemoglobin A1c test.

Baby Imp started crying when the needle came out, as if to say “don’t hurt my mama!” Good thing that as a diabetic, I’ve been around needles for most of my life.

The next day dawned as usual, I groggily pulled myself out of bed to the sound of a screaming infant wanting her morning bottle, and I went about my normal morning routine of feeding the baby, making myself breakfast, and contemplating going into town for some more Claritin. While I was in the process of eating my sausage and strawberries, a phone call came in. The voicemail told me I needed to call the allergist’s office “as soon as possible.”

Now, I’ve had a lot of blood sucked out of my arms over the years, and it is not at all uncommon for me to find voicemails from doctors after having blood work done asking me to simply call them back at my earliest convenience. But this voicemail was different: as soon as possible. So, I called them back, and was told that they would like me to come in (again, “as soon as possible”) to go over the results of my lab work.

Come in to go over lab work? Well, that’s a new one.

So, once again, I packed up Baby Imp and we went into town to visit with the allergist. I got pulled into a room, my blood pressure was taken again, and before the nurse had even left, the allergist walked in.

And told me that I had no antibodies. At all.

My words? “Well, that explains a lot…”

Good thing I’m working on a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, because the next 15 or so minutes of my life were filled with words like “hypogammaglobulinemia,” “agammaglobulinemia” and “immunoglobulin.” He asked me if I knew what an immunoglobulin was, I told him yes. His response: “well, you have none.”

“Oooh, that’s not good…”

So, I left once again, this time with orders for another quantitative immunoglobulin, as well as a T&C quantitative analysis and something called “lymph proliferation to Ags,” that I was unable to find on labtestsonline.org. A Google search for just “ags” turned up the homepage for the American Geriatrics Society.

Come on folks, I’m not even 30 yet!

I was also given photocopied literature on common variable immune deficiency and X-linked agammaglobulinemia, as well as a 30-day prescription for some kind of sulfonamide antibiotic and strict instructions to call the office if I start feeling sick or running a fever, or call the hospital to have him paged if the office was closed.

I still haven’t heard back yet on the results. Apparently my last round of blood work was shipped off to the Mayo Clinic to test the quality of what little antibodies I have left. I’m not sure what mayonnaise has to do with healthcare, I’m sure someone can explain it to me later. Either way, right now I’m playing a waiting game.

And doing a lot of Googling.

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