"It's like when you make a cake. You have all the ingredients except the eggs. You know they're on the way from the store, but you can't finish the cake until you finally get enough eggs..."
This was Dr. Richard, my hematologist who's been bleeding me for the past month or so. He was trying to describe to me why I should avoid iron, and to make sure I don't have too much iron in any of the vitamin supplements I'm taking.
"See, the body needs iron to make red blood cells just as a baker needs eggs. So, one of the things we're doing while thinning your blood is eliminating extra iron that the body needs to make more blood. Even if there's something in there saying, 'Make more blood,' it can't because without iron -- the eggs -- it can't."
"However," he continued, "your blood levels are almost at normal again. They're slightly elevated, but what I want to do is to get them to normal so we can establish an equilibrium. Then we'll see where we go from there. Have you been hydrating a lot like I told you?"
"Yes," I said, pointing to the water bottle next to me.
"No caffeine has entered my body. I even stopped drinking my beloved Mountain Dew Red."
"And try to avoid red meat and spinach -- anything that has iron."
"I hardly ever eat red meat, but I do love my spinach -- my favorite item on the Indian food buffet."
He continued, "everything is moving in the right direction. We'll phlebotomize you one more time today and then check again next week. Hopefully, this will be the last time for awhile."
Well, that was good news, anyway. This week I was ready to be a submissive patient. And all week I've exercised, watched my diet and drank lots of water.
My arm, bruised and full of holes, is doing its best to hold out under all this sticking and poking and draining. Luckily, I have good prominent veins, even if they are scarred. People looking at me probably think I'm a drug addict of some kind.
In the infusion center, they had these new chairs and I couldn't figure out how to get the foot rest to raise up. The lady across from me, a cancer patient undergoing chemo -- I could tell from the hat on her head and the hideous white liquid in her infusion bag -- couldn't figure it out either but she spoke almost no English and was shy about asking for help.
I got the nurse to show me how to do it and then I helped the lady across from me. We were kind of crowded in this little room so that when our feet were raised, the nurses couldn't pass by easily. But we didn't care. You can't sit there for three hours and not raise your feet. It's too hard on the back, especially because you can't move around very much with all this hooked into your arm.
After a couple of hours, I realized I had dozed off. A new, younger lady was being hooked up. But we both had opposite problems. She was having iron infused into her blood.
I told her they were draining me to get rid of the iron and they were infusing her to give her more. I told her I would offer some of my iron, but that she did NOT want my blood.
The phlebotomy today really took a lot out of me. I felt weak all day long, sleeping almost all afternoon. I went down to my regular Kulak's Woodshed Monday night open mic, but asked to go on early so I could bug out early. I just wasn't up to being there all night.
Happily, though, when I got home, it was time for the new season of "Heroes," my absolute favorite show on TV. Well, I also love Mad Men and a couple of others. But my superhero comic geekdom rules all.