Friday, August 8, 2014

The IV at the Airport

I may appear fearless with regards to Adrenal Insufficiency, but I'm not. There are two scenarios that absolutely terrify me:
  1. Beginning to crash towards an Adrenal Crisis in a place where no one knows me or understands Adrenal Insufficiency
  2. Beginning to crash towards an Adrenal Crisis while flying in an airplane.
My first fear actualized on April 19th, 2013. My second fear actualized on June 17th, 2014.

We were returning to Malaysia after attending a friend's wedding. Although the wedding was in Pohang, we flew in and out of Incheon Airport. The day before our flight, we ended up doing a five hour bus ride, two hours on the subway, a brief stop in Seoul for dinner with a friend, another hour plus on a train to get to Incheon airport, and finally about forty-five minutes to figure out how to get picked up by our hotel. We did not go to bed until after 1:00AM, and we had to be awake by 7:00AM to catch our international flight.

On the bus from Pohang to Seoul.
I give that information to set the stage. Traveling is stressful on the body.

Oh Malaysia Airlines.
The next day, we had our six hour flight from Seoul on Malaysia Airlines. They advertise a "Gluten Free" meal yet they have absolutely no concept of what that actually means. On our flight to Korea, their definition of "Gluten Free" was a vegetarian sandwich on a buttered croissant with the "GF" sticker. Apparently stickers magically make bread not have gluten. I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

The meal served this time looked more gluten free, but it was questionable seafood. I went against my better judgement and ate it because I was hungry. About an hour after the meal, I began to get a really bad migraine. I did not realize the full severity of my pain until I went to use the restroom. I began to shake and have trouble controlling my breathing.

I was absolutely terrified.

I made it back to my seat and swallowed 20 mg of Cortef. We still had over two hours left and we were flying over open water. I felt so nauseated, which was only exacerbated by the turbulent flight. I knew I could not vomit but I was wary of taking a Zofran. Those knock me out and I still had to make it through customs. My husband urged me to take the Zofran promising me that he would get me home alive.

My husband then informed a flight attendant that we would need a wheelchair waiting for us at the gate. At first, she told him no because we had not reserved one in Seoul. He sternly told her that she better have one waiting for me because this was a medical emergency.

The words "medical emergency" coupled with a girl shaking, crying, and unable to open her eyes definitely gets the attention of all the cabin crew. They swarmed us. I stayed curled up in a ball as I became more and more claustrophobic. My husband sternly stated, "What she needs now is space." They instantly scattered, but not before handing my husband my "gluten free" snack. He took a picture of it to show me later.

Wheat. But the "GF" sticker makes it all ok, yes?
No. Absolutely not.
I could barely walk off the plane to get to the wheelchair. The escort took us to the 24 hour sick bay. The entire ride was a blur. My world was going dark. I remember my husband asking me if I needed my emergency shot. I could not answer him. I did not know what to do. My body was shutting down.

My daily health journal, my used emergency shot, my purse, and my bag of emergency medicine.
Once I was on the tiny hospital bed, my husband injected the solu-cortef into my thigh. I finally stopped shaking, but my migraine returned with a vengeance. My husband kept asking the nurse if she had saline fluids but she said no. My husband knew I was badly dehydrated. He left to hunt down an electrolyte drink.

I did not fit on the bed. I was too tall.
While he was gone, I heard a new voice in the room that sounded very "doctor" like. I faintly called out to get the doctor's attention. I weakly asked him if he could start IV fluids explaining that I have Primary Adrenal Insufficiency and my husband had already given me 100 mg of solu-cortef. He said he could, but it would cost me RM160 because this was a private clinic. $50USD for IV fluids? DONE!


No fancy machines or beeping equipment. Just a plastic bottle and a tube.
My husband returned as the doctor was prepping my wrist for the IV. I had to be in terrible shape because the doctor mentioned how bad the veins in my arms were. Normally I am told that I have great veins for IV's.

The doctor got the IV first prick. I am always incredibly grateful when they do that.
The doctor was pleased when he saw the color return to my face. I was free to go via wheelchair escort. That second wheelchair ride involved several elevators, loud noises, and a tram to customs right as the zofran was wearing off. I ended up vomiting in a trash can next to the Malaysia Airlines baggage reclaim desk. My bad, y'all.

This was the very first time in my life that I have vomited with extra steroids and fluids already in my system. It was so odd. It did not hurt and I actually felt better afterwards. I was still weak and exhausted, but my body had finally rid itself of the nasty Malaysia Airlines food. Yet our commute wasn't over. We still had over an hour taxi ride back to our home in Kuala Lumpur. Once back at our extended stay hotel, I instantly went to sleep.

I have always been terrified of having my Adrenal Insufficiency flair up on a long flight. It finally happened. And I survived. This in no way lessons my love of traveling. However, it does intensify my extreme distrust of airplane food. From now on, I will only eat fruit on flights.

The snack from our most recent flight to Thailand.
This was the fruit only meal, but labeled as "GF."
I honestly believe they put the "GF" sticker on whatever random box they feel like.
I am also incredibly grateful for my husband. His presence and action in the situation allowed this to only encompass one of my terrifying scenarios, and not both.

9 comments:

  1. You are SO brave! It gives me courage and inspires me to push myself. I'm sorry this happened, but so happy you're okay and have a wonderful husband to help out! Miss you!

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    1. Looking forward to coming back and seeing you again! :)

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  2. I am taking my first airline trip since I was dignosed with AI in 2001....and I am going alone. I am very nervous but it is only a two hour flight. I plan on being over prepared.....steroids, shot, fluids, and maybe even a Xanax. I'm glad you made it home safely after this nightmare! $50.00 for IV fluids??? I would have paid it too!
    mo

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    1. Pro tip: Bring an empty water bottle through security. Once you get to the other side, fill it up either at a water fountain or a restaurant. And only drink bottled water on airplanes.

      Also, I like to get to airports ridiculously early to eliminate some stress. I hate going through airport security. I hate crowds. And I hate not knowing how long things will take. So if I get there way early, I don't have to worry about time :)

      I'm sure your flight will be fine! But yes, I agree with you to be over prepared. It's much better than the alternative.

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  3. Yay Christopher! I'm glad he was able to help you so well.

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  4. And airline food it doesn't have gluten in it, it's sure to taste like cardboard!! Seriously, what's wrong with a chicken and rice meal? Cheap and easy, y'all! And there's the added bonus that it's actually gluten free and doesn't make us sick! Imagine that!

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  5. This terrifies me! They tripled my daily dose of cortisol today at the doctors office. :/ I'm so sorry you had to go through that!

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  6. This is scary. Good thing your husband was with you. I'm taking my first flight from the east coast to the west (six hours) since being diagnosed with secondary adrenal insufficiency. I'm a bit nervous about it. I too worry about not having enough time.

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