Get those annual checkups, kids

April 15, 2024

It had been... a while since I'd gotten a checkup. Mostly because I'm really bad at remembering to call and make an appointment at the same time that the doctor's office is open. Then in March that bit me in the ass.

Since January, my friends would occasionally notice that I was breathing hard even though I wasn't exerting myself. And yes, I'm in terrible shape, but I'd been walking two miles a day for more than a year at that point. It's not like I'd gone full Jabba. So I filed it away as something to mention the next time I went to the doctor.

Then March rolled around. I noticed while I was out for my walk that I was kind of having half an asthma attack -- my diaphragm was sore like I'd been struggling to breathe all day, but I could take a deep breath and there was no constriction in my chest. And my family history being what it is, I checked my pulse to make sure I wasn't having a heart attack. Good news: heart seemed to be working like it should.

So I gave it a couple days to see if it went away on its own.

It didn't.

On a Thursday night I wandered into the urgent care near the house and told them what was going on the best I could, since I didn't really understand it myself. And a middle-aged guy walking in saying there's weird shit going on in his chest kicked folks into action. They got me into a room, took a blood sample, hooked me up to an EKG, and listened to my breathing.

EKG was good.

Breathing was good.

Blood work came back: Glucose level was 350 mg/dL. Normal is between 90 and 120.

Yep. Turns out I've got the beetus. Not exactly a shocker; I've got family history for that too, and my diet wasn't exactly low-carb for several years. (I'd been cutting back to try to lose weight, but apparently it was too little too late.)

At that point the doctor at the urgent care said that they're pretty sure that's the only problem -- when your blood sugar gets too high your blood becomes acidic and your lungs try to breathe it out, which would explain the symptoms -- but since it was weird shit happening in my chest I should go to the ER for tests they can't do there like X-rays and more in-depth blood work.

Off to Fair Oaks Hospital I went. Similar start there: Blood draw, EKG, check my breathing. After that they sent hooked me up to a saline IV and sent me over for a chest X-ray. Waited a few more minutes and they decided they wanted a CT scan too, so I got rolled into a different room for that. When they rolled me back to the room after that they gave me an albuterol breather just in case it was asthma.

It wasn't asthma, but since the breathing mask is hooked up to an oxygen tank my SpO2 went up from 96% to 99%. So there was that at least. And the other blood tests came back generally OK. There was one thing they check for that's a sign of the heart being under stress, which I had, but by itself it's apparently not a big deal. And in this case it was. So, still no heart attack. Go, me.

At that point they were done with me, so I got sent home with a prescription for metformin and instructions to follow up with my primary care provider. Which meant I really needed to get one, since they only wrote me a 15-day supply of the diabetes medication.

Turns out that in the last dozen or so years things have gotten to the point that you can (almost) make a doctor's appointment online. So I did that, and got in to see an NP to go over things. She sent me to the lab to get more normal, checkup-type bloodwork done. And a urine sample, which actually became a bit of a problem since I was on the metformin for a week at that point: My body wasn't trying to dilute the sugar in my bloodstream, so I wasn't drinking a bunch of water and peeing all the time. (As I type this up I'm still amazed at how much I'm not peeing nowadays. Sounds weird to say, but it's true.)

That lab work came back with more info: My blood sugar, even after fasting for 10 hours, was still abnormally high. My A1C was also through the roof. And in a surprise to precisely nobody, my cholesterol was about 260. Combine that with my blood pressure being pre-hypertensive (about 120/85 on average with spikes to 140/90) and I may not have been too far off from joining the large munber of my family members whose hearts have tried to kill them.

And now, a month after everything started? I'm on twice the dose of metformin that I started on, I'm on generic Crestor for my cholesterol, I'm still on a PPI for the reflux, I'm jabbing myself in the finger twice a day, and I'm on Trulicity to help my body control blood sugar by making my stomach empty out slower, which as an added bonus will help me lose weight.

I've got an appointment with a cardiologist in May, both because of the high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure, and because diabetes increases my risk of heart disease. A week after that I've got an appointment with an ophthalmologist, because the beetus can also screw up your eyes. Jokes on them, my eyes have been crap since the eighth grade.

So yeah, that's how things have been going with me. If I'd been better about getting checked out every year I'd probably still be diabetic and have high cholesterol, but it would have been something I could have worked on sooner and lessened the effects. And if my lot in life is to be a cautionary tale to others, so be it: Learn from my mistakes and make sure you're making that yearly appointment with your doctor. At the very least you'll save yourself from paying for an ER trip.

March 5, 2024May 17, 2024