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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

Thank You. Please Hold...

(photo by IVWatch)

I have a friend, who aside from being an amazing powerhouse in the music industry serving as COO for one of the largest artist management agencies, but also is beyond endearing and everyone adores her, myself included. The phrase, “please hold” has been running through my head for a few days now and it has reminded me of her as that is one of her signature lines.

“Need a drink refill? Please hold.”

“Wait you haven’t met so and so? You need to meet now as you two should know each other. Please hold”

“Be right back. Please hold.”

She has found a way to work that phrase into ordinary conversations, that now instead of associating the phrase with customer service reps, I instead associate it with her.

Earlier in the year, it was I who thought that I was putting 2022 on hold a little bit–or at the very least holding off on starting new projects or resuming social activities full-force as I was trying to address my tendencies to overwork. However, little did I expect 2022 to flip back around and instead ask me to “Please HOLD.” full stop. All CAPS. So loud 2022. So LOUD.

And so hold I’ve had to, at the very least I am grateful that my hold music has at least been a much better self-curated soundtrack than the standard muzak.

Yet, my overworking tendencies are quite frustrated by what feels like less output and a slower-pace than what I'm used to, and dare I might say thrive in. Yet, I'm thankful to still be around to even have that inner-battle currently.

I’m fairly private so I don’t discuss personal relationships, health matters, etc. very much–my sharing usually comes very after the fact or only if I feel that it’ll help others. So, I hope that by sharing this experience of mine at a time when women are battling for the right to make decisions over their own bodies helps anyone else who is going through or has gone through something similar.

I initially thought I was tired and when we last spoke, if you recall, I’d given myself a self-imposed time-out. I found that I felt like I needed to sleep more than usual and even discovered the art of napping. Yet, it felt like no matter how much sleep I got it wasn’t enough.

At my regular doctor check-ups my iron/blood count levels did show a little low, but nothing to be overly concerned about. I’ve dealt with anemia off-and-on a lot of my life, but it’s typically mild. I’ve yet to master the full ability to go vegan without completely throwing off my iron levels, yet iron is found in so much more than animal protein. More on that some other time.

So anyhow, add to the mix the “wonderful” monthly visitor that females experience and at a time when Roe v. Wade was endangered and ultimately impacted, my uterus decided it would also protest in solidarity. To not get too into it, between March and now this monthly cycle and what seems to be my inability to properly absorb iron made my iron-deficient blood-count levels drop from an 11 to a concerning 10.4 where I had to double-up on iron. March and April me was much more naive thinking with the extra iron I’d be back up to a hemoglobin count of 12 (which is a normal range for me) in no time (12.1-15 is typically normal for females), yet instead of ascending, each visit showed a decline until I was declared an emergency. I ended up at an alarming count of 6.4 – ten+ years ago I got down to a 4 and almost died, so everyone had good reason to be concerned. A 6.4 is alarming, yet we didn’t learn that was my blood count until after my doctor sent me to the emergency room thinking I was at a 7.6, which is what I was at when she received my latest lab results on a Thursday, but by the time I caved in and checked myself in on a Saturday after she chastised me enough to go into the emergency room for daily transfusions, I had dropped down 1.2 points–not a big drop, but boy did I feel it.

I felt the drop from 10 to 7. Everything was even more exhausting. My bed was the only place that I wanted to be (and is still hard to leave). I felt faint all of the time out-of-nowhere and throughout all of this, that monthly female visitor would not leave either and a big factor in the drastic blood count drops, I’m sure my body was in a state of confusion and imbalance not just from the transfusion, but also from the loss of such a high amount of blood, and other medication that my doctors had me begin in high doses, in particular birth control, to address the issues which gave me terrible menstrual cramps, pain and tenderness, bloating, weight gain. Appearance wise I was very pale and for the first time in my life I have dark circles under my eyes–something pulling constant all-nighters and lack of sleep could never do.

I joked a few times that men should, as a rite of passage, have to experience the pain that menstrual cramps can bring to women. We can do so much virtually, I suggest we start with our Supreme Court justices.

Needles have never scared me, but I also don’t ever really watch when my blood is drawn. A transfusion is a little different as it’s not as easy to ignore. The iron transfusions had to be dripped extra slowly and initial dosage broken up over three consecutive days as it was pure iron, not diluted. I soon learned why every single rn or dr administering it had to double-check that they didn’t need to dilute it. In this pure form, it stings–even burns as it’s going into your veins even in the slow painstaking manner in which I was given it. That I was able to tolerate, although the second dose was incredibly painful.

Yet, what terrified me most was having to sleep with the IV still inserted into my veins, since the transfusions were happening over the course of multiple days, the medical staff thought that best so that I wouldn’t have to put up with them having to reattaching it to my veins each time. To say the least, memorable as the experience has been it’s not in my top ten fave memories of all-time. Yet, I am thankful for all of the swift medical attention and how nice all of the medical staff was and has been.

The next step was a tissue scrape and hysteroscopy to assess the issues with my menstrual cycle and heavier-than-average bleeding. A procedure that I’m also still recovering from, as sitting for too long is still uncomfortable, and sometimes laying down is all that helps.

As a “free gift with procedure” I also got a bonus unexpected transfusion right before it.

Prior to the procedure, I’d discussed the various treatment options as I would rather not experience anything like this again in my life if preventable. We discussed trying other types of birth control to see if that would address the abnormal menstrual cycle. Of course if anything else like Fibroids, or cancer (my mother is a cervical cancer survivor) we discussed those treatments, or even the possibility of removing the uterus altogether–Menopause, I don’t know her…and really I guess I wouldn’t whenever it comes time to experience that if that more extreme option had been necessary.

Having to contemplate those options likely gave me some lucid dreams as a baby even appeared in my dreams to which I remember saying alarmed maybe in my head or perhaps out loud, whose baby is that? It was a cute baby/toddler, but that mystery remains.

Thankfully, everything checked out ok post-procedure so the more drastic approaches weren’t needed, at least not now. Yet, the focus on regulating that monthly cycle, increasing the iron levels as quickly as possible, and addressing the imbalance that these treatments have caused.

To date my blood count, thanks to all of the transfusions and heavy iron intake both via food and supplements my hemoglobin count has gotten back up to a 9.4 (although I have another draw today, so we’ll see if it holds), but my red blood count is still only at a 3.7.

Again, I am very thankful to have decent health coverage and proactive doctors (I can’t fully praise our American healthcare, as I know many Americans have less than adequate coverage). Financially, I know that it’s not feasible for all residents of this country to seek the treatment they truly need given the cost factor as between co-pays and hospital fees I quickly racked up a $5k-$6k and growing bill. Not quite the spacation I’d much rather spend that sum on, but forced R&R was part of the RX nonetheless. It's also made me delay plans to travel and new project launches, but glad to still have the opportunity to even consider those as options for sometime in the "nearish" future.

As a final word–I know that I’ve written about this before, but before you pass judgment on others remember that you never know what they might be going through. Very few people know what I’ve been going through, but also so many others are going through their own battles and journeys that are more challenging than my own ordeal, so remember to lead with empathy and compassion first.

It’s still going to take me a little bit to recover and while this has taken up a lot of my mental bandwidth, but I’m being diligent with both doctor’s appointments, labwork, and medication, as well as incorporating even more iron-rich food into my diet so I know that I will be back to myself or some update of myself after all of these learnings delivered in short order. If only we were like computers where we could install updates while we sleep and that’d be enough to keep us healthy and free from malware. We’re not quite there yet. Not yet.

So for anyone waiting for me to be back in full-Siria mode (hopefully workaholic mode remains disabled) thank you for your patience. Please hold. I’ll be with you momentarily, in the meantime, enjoy my hold music and please take remember to practice self-care.


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