If you would have talked to us three weeks ago, our biggest concern would have been whether Penny invited her whole class to her birthday party or just a few friends. But here we are!
In the middle of April 2021, Nate noticed his body wasn't working like it used to. He was much more tired than normal, he couldn't recover as well from his workouts and his heart rate seemed to always be elevated. We chopped it up to his new gluten-free diet and figured he just needed to go see a nutritionist. The week of May 3, his symptoms seemed to be getting worse and on May 6, Nate called Becky to tell her he was coming home from work early.
At that moment, I knew something more significant had to be happening (the guy NEVER misses work!). Nate visited his primary care doctor on Friday, May 8 and there was definite concerned. Nate's heart rate was so high when he walked into the office that they did an immediate EKG. They sent some blood off to the labs and we waited for results. That night, Nate's symptoms got worse and we decided to head to the Emergency Room. Blood was taken in the ER (they come back much faster than a typical lab!) and his hemoglobin count was 6.0 (normal range is 13-17). Translation: the guy was walking around with less than half of the amount of blood needed to function as a human being (what a stud). They admitted him with the diagnosis of severe anemia but we needed to figure out why his counts were so low. After two days in the hospital, Nate's blood counts dipped to 4.5 and they finally gave him some blood (I refer to these bags of blood as beet juice...so I don't throw up). After 7 days in the hospital, 3 blood transfusions, 2 pretty heavy duty infusions of steroids (IVIG), and a lot card games, Nate was released on Friday, May 14 with a follow up appointment with the hematology oncologist.
At this point in the game, Nate was diagnosed with Auto Immune Hemalytic Anemia (AIHA)- his white blood cells were destroying his red blood cells. Think Pacman. The plan was to start him on a drug that would be administered through an IV once a week for 4 weeks. This drug is a chemotherapy drug and shall be affectionately known as "a bag of poison". He will also stay on prednisone (a pretty high dose of steroid that Nate had been on since entering the hospital) and if his blood levels stayed consistent, he'd eventually start to wean off prednisone (which apparently takes FOR-E-VER). We left the appointment on Monday ready for a long road but hopeful. Thursday, May 20, we went in to have the first IV of drugs. It is standard to take blood before they begin, and the results came back that his hemoglobin counts had continued to lower and his white blood cell counts were VERY high. Not a great way to start a Thursday! They continued with the IV infusion and Nate didn't have any reactions which was great news!
The next day, we walked into the doctor's office knowing it wouldn't be an easy conversation. Nate decided to make it extra interesting and almost passed out while they were digging around for a vein to pull blood from (turns out when you have a deficit of blood, veins are harder to find). After some apple juice and cookies, the doctor talked about how Nate's numbers didn't look like someone who just had AIHA. The doctors needed to take some more samples to try and pinpoint what the true cause of the anemia is.
To keep it simple, we are now looking at a number of possible diagnoses. Because of his high white blood count, blood cancer is now a possibility (they had mentioned it in the hospital but we were hoping it was AIHA). Apparently there's a type of leukemia that appears most commonly in kids but the next group it shows up in is men in their 30's. On Monday, May 24, Nate will do a bone marrow biopsy. We are scheduled to meet with the doctors on Friday, May 28 to go over results and figure out the path to treatment.