17 February 2013
so, the gas poisoning...
If you're a regular reader of this blog or a friend on Facebook, you know that I recently had natural gas poisoning. When I wrote the blog post, I was still pretty whacked out. In fact, it took several weeks before I was back to my version of normal. I still have a final blood test to go, which I've been avoiding. It's to see how my kidneys are functioning because I had to go on blood pressure medication thanks to the gas making my heart rate all kinds of kooky. I could actually feel my heart beating every minute of every day. That scary-as-hell side effect has disappeared, thankfully.
I'm writing this blog post because this could happen to anyone, without them ever picking it up. I've read some horror stories of families being exposed to slow gas leaks for years and no one believing them. Some people have ended up being referred to psychiatrists because doctors thought they were just plain crazy. I read one story of a kid who had his gallbladder removed because the gas poisoning was screwing up his body so much.
Just to clarify, I am talking about natural gas poisoning, not carbon monoxide poisoning. There is a difference, one being that there are no medical tests for natural gas poisoning, which is why it can go undiagnosed for a very long time. We may not have discovered what the cause of my health issues was had it not been for a comment from a friend who had visited when we first moved in. In fact, the first day we got the keys, I noted a strong smell of gas in the kitchen, which we put in writing on the rental condition report for the real estate agent. But with the madness that is moving house, as well as working a full time job and Andrew preparing for a three week business trip overseas, we just forgot about the gas smell and got used to it.
While Andrew was away, I started feeling very tired but put it down to moving house and working too many hours at the office. Then I fell down some stairs at home and ended up pretty battered and bruised, then I crashed the car into a pole at work, then I started dropping things, then I started forgetting things. By the time Andrew returned, I was feeling very ordinary but we still put it down to overwork and not enough sleep. A week after Andrew got back, he was sleeping up to 18 hours a day. This is a man who can function on four hours a night for several weeks in a row. He became more and more lethargic, we were a couple of zombies.
It then got to the point where I just couldn't go to work, so I finally headed to the doctor. I had many tests but the doctor remain puzzled and I was getting worse, not to mention losing my mind. I couldn't walk straight, I often had the shakes, my speech was slurred and my memory was crap. My daily exercise was a five minute walk across the street to the park, held up by Andrew. I had to sit down every few metres, it was ridiculous. My vision would blur throughout every day, I wasn't allowed to drive, I was scared to use stairs because I had vertigo. I cried. A lot.
Everyone had an opinion on what it might be but they were all wrong. My doctor explored many, many options. Then, one night on Facebook, my good friend Simone who had stayed with us the first week we moved in asked if we had investigated the gas smell. I took that idea to my doctor, who did some investigating and she insisted that we get our gas line checked that day. She was convinced I had gas poisoning. The plumber who turned up thought I was crazy, he actually said, "A gas leak wouldn't hurt you". Ah, dude, people put their heads in ovens to kill themselves, so I beg to differ.
The plumber took about twenty minutes to tell me we did not have a gas leak and I felt my heart sink because we were now back to square one. I was devastated. Then he said he would check the line from next door because it runs through our kitchen. Ten minutes later he said there were two leaks in the line. Our neighbour, who, like Andrew is often away on business, had worked from home in the two weeks leading up that point and he said he wondered why he had been feeling lethargic and generally unwell. He just wrote it off as being overworked. Again, the plumber thought we were nuts and just rolled his eyes as we spoke. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have given him a serve.
My doctor called to find out whether we did have a gas leak or not and was thrilled that we did because she was feeling very frustrated with not being able to offer us any answers up until that point.
In the days after the gas line was fixed, Andrew and I both had the shakes. Our limbs were shaking and jerking constantly. We could feel ourselves coming good, so we were able to laugh about it. A week later, I returned to work on reduced hours. It took about three weeks to feel normal again.
When I walk past a building where there is a smell of gas, I am tempted to go and knock on their door but I wonder if they'll think I'm some alarmist kook. I'm paranoid when using gas now, I check the stove several times to make sure that I've turned it off. In fact, before I go to bed every night, I make sure the stove controls are all definitely switched off. Obsessive much?
On my first visit, my doctor asked me why I didn't come to see her sooner. I said that I was able to write off my symptoms as overwork, not enough sleep, haven't had a holiday in eight years blah blah blah. I am lucky that I have a great doctor, very lucky. If I had a doctor who wasn't quite a good (which is what happened when I was trying to get my lymphoedema diagnosed) and if Simone had stayed in a hotel as she'd originally planned, I'd likely still be dealing with undiagnosed gas poisoning. I'm sure there are plenty of other people who have experienced this or are right now and it will never be diagnosed. I wish I had pushed for the gas smell to be investigated when we moved in but there's no point dwelling on it. I just want others to be aware that this is a very real problem that could happen to anyone. If you suspect a leak, get it checked. It's that simple.
written by jodie