Blood Work Fiasco!

Apr 25, 2019

This BLOG is also done as a podcast episode! CLICK HERE to listen!

The last few years I was getting my blood work done at my yearly OB/GYN appointment.  But they never had me fast before it, so I knew it was not 100% accurate.  My cholesterol always showed a bit high for LDL, but that is genetic for me.  My OB/GYN said I did not need to be concerned.

I’m turning 45 in August and decided it was probably time for a full physical through my general practitioner.  This meant I could have a real blood panel checked and to get my doctor’s approval before I start training for another Ironman.  I really was not worried at all, just trying to be responsible for my health.

Well, I was a little surprised when the doctor’s office called and said “we would like you to come back in and redo your blood test. The doctor was a bit concerned about some numbers”.  I quickly asked which numbers were of concern assuming it was my cholesterol.  To my surprise, they said my Serum Iron was very high and my Potassium was a bit low.  She thought maybe I was dehydrated and recommended I drink more fluids before the next test.

Still not too concerned, I figured it was dehydration from fasting.  And you should know that fasting until my appointment at 8:30 am almost killed me the first time! I don’t fast! I believe in fueling the body from the moment you wake up! Sleeping is the only time a person needs to fast. Since I could not even have coffee before the test, I really barely had anything the morning before that first test.

For the second blood test, I drank a ton of water before they stuck me with that needle again.  On my way out, I did request to see the numbers of the first blood test. I went home and reviewed all the numbers that were highlighted.  My AST Liver Enzyme was high, my Iron Serum was VERY high and my Potassium was low.  You should know that high iron in your blood for a FEMALE/ATHLETE is very rare.  Most women who exercise at my level are the complete opposite and are anemic (low iron).  My husband told me to just wait for the results of round 2 before I started to panic.  He also said “do NOT start with Dr. Google!”  Whenever you start to google these things you often read a ton of misguided information that does not come from viable sources. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and certain you are going to die. So, what do you think I did? I started googling “high iron”. 

There are not a lot of reasons for high iron in your blood except for blood transfusion or a disorder called HH (hereditary hemochromatosis).  I don’t get blood transfusions, so I then researched HH.  It can be genetic (although no one in my family seems to have it).  I read things about high iron causing liver cirrhosis, heart problems and more! By this point, of course, I’m panicking.

After waiting a couple days, the doctor called with my results. My liver enzyme was back in normal zone, potassium was normal, but that iron in my blood was even a tad higher. He suspects I might have one of the genes for HH, but not both genes that cause the full disorder. The treatment? Donate blood a couple times/year and we just monitor it. At this time, he has zero concern about it because all my liver enzymes are normal including ferritin levels. Apparently, these would be very off if I had HH.

So, the lessons to be learned?

  1. Make sure you get your blood work done yearly! Any changes that occur can be treated much faster if you know what is or is not wrong.
  2. Drink water before that blood test. Don’t go in dehydrated.
  3. Hold off on Dr. Google if you don’t want to panic  :)
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor a million questions until you feel better and understand your situation fully. (THIS WAS ME.. ASKING TONS OF QUESTIONS!)
  5. Appreciate every day of your life. Tell your family you love them! Put the cell phones down and be present with your kids. Stop worrying so much about dropping those “last 5 pounds!” Remember, life is precious. These little scares are there to remind us that life is short and you have to live it fully each and every day.

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