The neighborhood block party included a Bloodmobile, and I donate blood when I get the chance. This time, though, they turned me away because my iron was low.
I mentioned it to my doctor a month or so later as I detailed my constant “female” bleeding. I was a little young to be perimenopausal, but my doctor felt sure that a hormonal imbalance was the cause of my bleeding. I mentioned my experience with the bloodmobile to her, and she ordered tests. It seemed funny that I needed to give even more blood to find out if I was bleeding too much, but I did the tests and in short order I was back at the doctor’s office. She frowned at the results and then noted that I was pale and wan. I was badly anemic and I needed to see a specialist, a hematologist, immediately.
The hematologist explained that anemia doesn’t happen in a vacuum. He was deeply concerned and ordered another set of tests; he considered giving me a transfusion but wanted the results of this second set of tests first. (These showed that the anemia hadn’t worsened, so he didn’t order the transfusion.) He was concerned about leukemia but quickly eliminated this as a cause. He recommended yet another specialist to visit-a gastroenterologist-to determine if I was bleeding internally. Meanwhile, I started on iron supplements and realized that it was time to take better care of myself.
Ugh! A colonoscopy and endoscopy took another toll on me. I wasn’t feeling well. My anemia had gradually sapped me of energy and now, with the stress of doing the colonoscopy prep, I felt really lousy. However, the tests showed no sign of gastro-intestinal bleeding. That was good news.
I continued taking my iron supplements and saw my gynecologist. She felt that my continuous, months-long vaginal bleeding had caused the anemia. Her recommendation was a particular type of IUD which released mild hormones to prevent the bleeding. I agreed to try it, and the results were outstanding. I stopped bleeding.
I kept up the iron supplements and felt thankful that I hadn’t needed a transfusion. A follow-up visit to the hematologist about a month after the bleeding stopped showed that I was on the mend.
If you have anemia, don’t ignore it. Seek the cause and be willing to work proactively with your physicians to find and rectify the problem. During your recovery, be gentle on yourself. Rest as you need to, trim back your commitments, eat well and drink healthy fluids.
I’m back to donating blood regularly now, and the iron level is always normal. I’m grateful for that polite refusal to allow me to donate which led to my diagnosis.