Written on a long bus journey in Canada, here is Becky’s third blog. Enjoy!
So do we remember in my last post, and the hope that I would remain healthy until and throughout my upcoming travels?
Yeah, hold that thought.
So, two weeks before we flew, I was staggering through the process of assembling the many and sundry things we would need for an eight week trip. In spite of the mental energy I had expended in thinking about it, and a frankly anal attitude towards travelling, I had somehow managed to leave lots of things until the last minute.
So when I went to the GP for a prescription for the pill I had been on for five years, I was not in the most sedate frame of mind. It wasn’t helping that, at my previous pill appointment, my blood pressure had been on the frown-and-hmm side, so the doctor had told me to lose some weight to try and bring it down. Now, technically, in the intervening six months I had lost the weight and then some – due to a colitis flare-up – but then it had returned with gusto when I was put on an appetite-increasing course of steroids to curb the flare-up. So I was all ready for a telling-off at the GP, and had my explanatory excuse all prepared.
What I had not prepared was a calm reaction to having my blood pressure taken, and discovering that it was now much, much too high. Whilst it had previously been in the ‘cut some salt out of your diet and we’ll check it in six months’ region, now it was more of a ‘come off the pill immediately, we need an ECG this afternoon and are you having chest pains’ level.
Now any woman could tell you that having your contraception dramatically altered two weeks before a holiday is a royal pain in the arse, but it has to be said that the GP made this stressful situation significantly worse. Throwing phrases like ‘risk of a stroke’ and ‘might not be able to fly’ around was pretty bloody unlikely to bring my blood pressure down. By the time I returned for an ECG that afternoon my blood pressure was actually worse, and my heart rate very fast and irregular – at which point I was told I was being admitted to hospital.
By the time I was sat down with a nurse in the ambulatory unit and asked what was wrong, I pretty much just dissolved into an incoherent, hiccuping puddle of tears. Which I think took her by surprise. It took her, another nurse, two cups of tea and the promise that they wouldn’t take my blood pressure again until I’d chilled out to calm me down. And even then, it was still too high.
I spent the rest of the afternoon beige bounced around departments and with that stupid bloody cuff half-glued to my arm, being tested for anything that might explain why a moderately fit and healthy 23 year old had the blood pressure of an anxious old lady.
Now to spin the positive side of this, I had countless blood tests, another ECG, a urine test, a chest x-ray and an eye test all totally free with hardly any waiting – and once again was carried through the shitness of it all by calm, professional and overwhelmingly kind nurses. The junior doctor who kept explaining what was happening next was helpful and clear, the consultant I saw honest and soothing. Really, from an NHS point of view the whole experience was a dream. But, like, I could still have done without it.
All of this, combined with Pete finding me – having received a helpfully panic-inducing text that I think read only ‘I’m being admitted to hospital’ – eventually brought my blood pressure down enough that I was released from hospital that evening.
But don’t think the drama ends there – oh no. Of the next nine weekdays I had doctors appointments on seven of them. My blood pressure was still consistently too high, despite being put on still more medication for it, and nobody could really figure out why. They still haven’t, really.
My personal theory (/hope) is that a combination of the pill, the stress of sorting out our trip, a naturally fretful personality and some early flare-up symptoms (which are now under control) combined to produce those horribly high numbers. And the problem was, I was getting so stressed out by the simple act of having my blood pressure taken that it shot up with every test. Ultimately, myself and a different, less anxiety-inducing GP concluded that I should probably just go on holiday, try not to stress, and deal with it when I got home. It’s not a perfect plan, but I certainly like it.
So having taken out another, still more expensive travel insurance policy and increased my tablet quota to over 1000, I am writing this two weeks into my trip. So far – and I am hesitant even to write this – so good. My blood pressure problem still isn’t solved, and I’m still going to need a variety of tests once I’m back. But that is then, this is now and – frankly – now is infinitely preferable. So I’m focusing on that.