The Day "Live Fast Die Young" started to lose its appeal
Somehow the youthful notion of "live fast, die young!" becomes less
appealing as the days go by. Funny that, isn't it? I remember the day
well, it all started in May 1997 with a routine (or so I thought)
Doctors appointment in the morning and then the usual rounds of trying
to keep clients and staff happy. It was the day of my thirty ninth
birthday and so I was looking forward to the celebratory dinner
engagement later that evening.
I had been feeling slightly "run down",
a euphemism here for "exhausted" but had put it down to slightly busy
times in the office and so had finally relented to my wife's pleas to
"go and see the Doc and get everything checked out". Upon my return to
the office in mid afternoon, I received a message from one of my
colleagues "your doctor called and you are to call him back straight
away". "Ah, get the multivitamins ready and get ready to cut back on
the alcohol time" I thought but alas not so. "How are things Doc?"
"I'm fine but you're not. I have a hospital bed set aside (he gave me
the details of the hospital in question) and you are to get there
straight away. I will see you there shortly."
OK, a little bit harsh
and to the point I thought. "Is there any particular reason?" I asked
rather glibly. "Yes, you need a blood transfusion straight away and we
will take it from there. I'll explain more when I see you there"
Things were starting to get a little too serious for my liking. Feeling
slightly like a child who had been playing Monopoly and had just
received the "Go straight to jail. Do not pass Go and do not collect
£200 (or whatever your currency is depending on where you are reading
this article)" I put the telephone down, stared at the blank wall in
front of me and tried not to go into major panic mode. The day was
definitely not going to plan.
The next thing was to inform my wife of
exactly what had happened (to the best of my knowledge), put the
birthday celebrations on hold; cancel the restaurant reservation and
trying not to drive into anyone or anything else I headed home to pack
some "overnight things" for my short stay in hospital. "Overnight
things!" I had prepared myself for overnight business trips before but
somehow I wasn't too sure whether the hospital would appreciate me
arriving with laptop, mobile and modem et al in tow and so things were
a little different this time. The problem as it turned out had been
that I had an abnormally low haemoglobin level that had surfaced as
part of a routine Blood Test that had been carried out that morning.
The haemoglobin test is normally ordered as a part of the complete
blood count (CBC) (which is ordered for many different reasons,
including as a general health screening, further information can be
The test is also repeated in patients who have ongoing bleeding
problems or chronic anaemia's or polycythemias. Normal values in an
adult are 12 to 18 grams per decilitre (100 millilitres) of blood.
Above-normal haemoglobin levels may be the result of:
• Excess production of red blood cells in the bone marrow,
• Severe lung disease, or
Several other conditions. Below-normal haemoglobin levels may lead to
anaemia that can be the result of: • iron deficiency or deficiencies
in essential vitamins of other elements, such as B12, foliate, B6,
• inherited haemoglobin defects, such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassemias,
• Other inherited defects affecting the red blood cells,
• Cirrhosis of the liver (during which the liver becomes scarred),
• Excessive bleeding,
• Excessive destruction of red blood cells,
• Kidney disease,
• Other chronic illnesses,
• Bone marrow failure or aplastic anaemia, or
Cancers that affect the bone marrow.
In my case, my haemoglobin count
was 5.9 which as my doctor later cheerfully commented "I've never seen
someone with a blood count that low, still standing!" Just what I
wanted to hear I thought as I lay in the hospital bed strapped to a
drip getting my transfusion. "Don't worry, you'll feel so much better
with a few more pints in you and these are the sort that won't give you
a hangover in the morning either!" Somehow, though grateful for their
concern, I found it rather difficult to share their enthusiasm.
see, dear reader, the real problem in the whole proceedings had been
with my own rather stupid (it's a "guy" thing) concept in ignoring the
warning signs that had been building up over the years and signing up
for a lifetimes course in the "heal thyself" school of medicine. As a
Consultant pointed out rather bluntly at a later stage I had almost
killed myself with my own stupidity.
I had been losing rather large
amounts (at times) of blood during regular bodily functions (I won't
dwell on this too much but you get the drift) but because I had been
young and fit had managed to overcome these losses without too much in
the way of inconvenience. Also because of my extremely low blood count,
to compensate, my blood pressure (though normal at the time) had been
kept artificially low. The moral of the story so far is don't be
stupid, don't ignore the warning signs and if confronted with anything
slightly out of the norm then get it checked out and don't die of
ignorance and shame.
So having received my "Get out of jail free
card", most normal individuals with more than a half functioning brain
would have then proceeded through life with caution but sadly it
appeared that I was destined to "go for broke next time".