Kyle Maxwell

Just me.

Archive for the tag “health”

Anaphylaxis

Last fall, on the advice of my doctor, I started immunotherapy for my allergies (primarily environmental, like grass). They were as severe as any the clinic had ever seen. The therapy basically involves my wife giving me a small injection in each arm every other day, with the dosages increasing every month or two. This also includes a clinic visit every time the dosage increases.

Up until this week, the therapy has gone really well. I went through the north Texas spring season without too much difficulty and the summer has been particularly clear. The only side effects were small localized reactions at the injection site on one of my arms that I could usually control with a very small dosage of Children’s Benadryl. Even if I didn’t take that medicine, I could still tolerate the reaction, which you could probably compare to a particularly uncomfortable mosquito bite.

Then this past Monday, I returned from a trip to Las Vegas for DEF CON. That night, my wife gave me my set of injections just before bed time, per our usual practice. As I went to lay down, I felt really warm, which didn’t strike me as unusual: it’s the start of August in Texas and I’m generally a bit hot-natured anyway. Turning on a bedside fan didn’t provide much relief, but when I went to get a drink of water from the bathroom, I noticed I looked a little flushed and had bloodshot eyes. But within a few moments of taking the Benadryl, my situation had deteriorated rapidly and I had significant trouble breathing.

They’d warned me about this. I’d literally trained for this.

I grabbed my epinephrine autoinjector (“EpiPen”) from the bathroom, sat down, and prepared for what I thought would be a painful injection (but still preferable to not breathing). I jabbed my right thigh and, other than the tiniest pinch ever and a small drop of blood trickling down my leg, didn’t actually feel too much. Immediately following, I dialed 911 and requested paramedics and an ambulance. By the time they arrived (probably <5 minutes, though I didn’t actually measure), my breathing had become far more labored and I couldn’t swallow at all.

They administered oxygen and checked my vitals, and though the first team (in the fire engine) didn’t understand what I was trying to explain about the immunotherapy injections, the second team (in the ambulance) definitely knew what was up. So an ambulance transported me to the emergency room, for the first (and hopefully last!) time in my life.

I felt a lot better in the ambulance, but that didn’t mean everything was okay. The shot is really designed to give temporary relief so you can survive long enough to get to a real treatment center. Once I arrived, they immediately gave me a breathing treatment (albuterol) plus a much stronger shot of Benadryl, a steroid, and Pepcid (which apparently has an antihistamine effect as well).

albuterol

Ignore the mohawk – that was just for a charity fundraiser and I hadn’t had a chance to get it removed yet

We’re fortunate enough to live near our extended families, so I had one sister-in-law watch my children (who slept through the entire event, yay!) and another follow the ambulance to bring us home later. My mom and sister also came up to the hospital for a while. They sent me home in the wee hours. The next day, the doctor explained that we’d have to temporarily reduce the dosage for a while and ramp up slowly, but also that I’ll have to have all my injections done in the office for about a month for observation. If I have another anaphylactic reaction, I won’t need to go to the ER because they have all the appropriate treatments on hand. But that would also mean the end of my immunotherapy, as after two adverse reactions it would be deemed unsafe for me.

I had lots of love and support from my friends online and locally as well, so many thanks to all of you who sent thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and whatever assorted bits of good karma you could spare. It really did mean a lot to me.

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StressĀ attack?

Monday afternoon, I had a bit of a stressful day. In fact, at one point, I got so agitated that I practically fell back into my chair and couldn’t breathe (hyperventilation? I dunno). My colleagues were a little worried about me. I caught my breath and went home.

Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t feel very well at work. I left around 5pm and, on the way home, started having chest pains and dizziness. In fact, I considered pulling over and calling 911, but decided that would be an overreaction and got home. But I pulled into the driveway, honked a few times until my wife came out of the front door, and asked her to help me inside, where I immediately lay down on the couch to rest.

After a bit, she and my sister-in-law (a nurse) decided to take me to the ER, where they ran an EKG, blood work, chest X-ray, etc., all of which came up clean.

Wednesday, I had a stress test, which didn’t show anything particularly worrying although I lasted nowhere nearly as long as they would have liked.

I think my core issue here is stress. My job puts a lot of pressure on me by its nature, and I need to deal with it better physically and mentally. That obviously needs to include exercise and for me to continue to improve my eating habits. Those have gotten significantly better but I wouldn’t yet call them good.

Not sure yet what this will mean.

Continuing health improvements

As an update to last month, I wanted to note that at this point I have lost fifteen (15!) pounds. I exercise regularly and have changed what I eat. My cholesterol is down to 182 (HDL 38, LDL 123), and my triglycerides are at 105.

I’m feeling better, wearing clothes I haven’t been able to wear in a while, and seeing myself differently. The death of a dear family friend at the age of 49 from a heart attack on New Year’s Eve has affected me in a number of ways, and this includes cementing my motivation to counteract the effect of my sedentary job by exercising regularly.

Weight loss kicked off

It started when I had my life insurance medical exam in November and came in eight pounds heavier than I expected (which was already heavier than I need).

Then, a few weeks ago, the 47-year-old father of a friend had a heart attack and ended up having a double bypass this week.

I need to lose weight, to get healthy. I don’t really care about looking good, but rather feeling good. I want to be around for my grandchildren someday, to set a good example for my kids so that they learn healthy habits, to feel like I should feel. So I joined a gym this week and started eating better several weeks ago. I’ve lost four pounds already; my short-term goal is 24 (to get back to 200 pounds), then to get down to 175. I probably should lose more from there but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Caffeine usage edging back up

Against my doctor’s wishes and my own better judgment, my caffeine usage is edging back up. It started before this job, but commuting earlier in the morning has had an effect on me. So where I was down to one or two cups a day, now I’m regularly drinking three or four. While this is still a lot lower than before, it’s more than I should be drinking. Caffeine has a significant impact on stress levels and such, but fundamentally I just like to drink it. The afternoon pickmeup is also really helpful and sometimes even semi-necessary.

So now I need to come up with some strategies to deal with this. Thoughts are appreciated.

This post written on my mobile in Starbucks.

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