I have a well practiced elevator speech when it comes to explaining my Adrenal Insufficiency:
My adrenal glands are dead but I’ve been living with this for over a decade. I am normally very good about keeping on top of symptoms. However, at times, I still require assistance.
I try to take a very pro-active approach for managing my stress load. I was able to get through engineering college (with honors, while working) and although I am diseased, I request that you do not look down on me or judge me as disabled.
But if I suddenly get extremely irrational or emotional, it is not me. It is low cortisol.
Here is my emergency injection of Solu-Cortef. Here are instructions for how to use it. Here is where I keep it. May you never ever have to use it. It’s scary. However, if the situation arises, please do not hesitate to inject me. It truly is a matter of life or death. Frankly, I’d prefer to remain Clearly Alive.
In September of 2014, I had an extremely emotionally taxing doctor’s appointment.
The day after my appointment, I woke up with a migraine. I tried to take more medicine, but I did not take nearly enough to cover my cortisol need. I knew I did not feel well, I just did not realize how bad it was.
I made it into work, but just barely. I went to fill up my water bottle in the break room area. I must have looked beyond awful. An unknown coworker took one look at my face and asked if I was feeling ok.
I told him no, I was not. I was horribly dizzy. He wanted to know where my cubicle was located, but I could not tell him. I could show him, but I could not verbally give him instructions. He escorted me back to my cube to make sure I arrived safely.
I attempted to sit down in my chair, but it was too high. I decided to lay on the floor, not really able to move and unsure of what to do. I probably laid there for around forty-five minutes until the coworker who sat across from me came into work and noticed me.
“Are you ok?!!! No, no, no, no, please don’t be embarrassed that I caught you laying here on the floor. But seriously. Are you ok?
“I, uh, I think so. But I will let you know if the situation escalates.”
“Do you need me to watch you, or, uh, can I run and go get coffee?”
“You can go get coffee.”
His reaction to my situation caused a brief moment of mental clarity for me. I realized what I was doing was extremely stupid. I was clearly low on cortisol. I was battling a migraine, shaking, lethargic, incredibly dizzy, and did not want to leave the floor. My situation was also not improving. I had taken a little updose of my medicine, but it was not enough to cover my cortisol need. I took more.
Twenty minutes later, after the medicine kicked in, I was feeling well enough to be able to sit up. However, I still did not feel well enough to move or remain in a public place. I knew I needed to go home, but there was absolutely no way I could drive. I started to ask around to see who might be available. I finally worked up the courage to step into the cube of the coworker that sat right next to me. I was still fairly new to this team and had barely spoken to him. But he appeared to be my only option.
“Hi. I, uh, have a very strange request. I do not feel well right now. I’m too dizzy to drive. Can you drive me home? Like… now?”
My coworker dropped everything he was doing to take me home right then and there.
My husband at the time was working mere minutes from where we were living. He came home, checked on me, and determined I needed a 50 mg solu-cortef injection. My olive thief also refused to leave my side. After a three hour nap, lots of gatorade, and a tad bit more hydrocortisone, I felt alive again.
The next day, I returned to work. Several coworkers asked me about the incident, which opened up doors for me to explain more about my Adrenal Insufficiency. I had already posted items in my cubicle explaining an Adrenal Crisis, but many had just glossed over the information. However, my sudden disappearance caused several to revisit the material and read it in depth.
My coworker who first discovered me unable to move from the floor apologized to me.
“Oh my god! I did not take you seriously enough yesterday! I am so sorry!”
I told him he actually reacted perfectly. He drew attention to the fact that I was NOT doing well which caused me to think, “Hmmm… I probably need more medicine.” That extra dose of HC gave me enough strength to enable me to get to the safest environment possible.
Do you have a practiced plan of action for your Adrenal Insufficiency? If your disease flares, do you know what to do? Discuss this plan with those you trust so that when the situation arises, it’s a routine rather than a crisis.
My plan of action can be summed up in these simple steps:
- Increase medicine.
- Get to a safe environment, preferably one with low noise and little light.
- Make sure trusted people know my location so that I can continue to be monitored.
- Wake up Clearly Alive.
Let’s all strive to remain Clearly Alive.