I either have the flu or congestive heart failure. The internet isn’t sure which.

I think I’m dying.

Or, you know, not.

But mostly I think I am.

Every once in a while, I get sleepy and nauseous, and my fingernail beds turn blue. Turns out, this is a sort of vague set of symptoms that could be caused by any number of things (the blue nail beds sound scary, but it’s pretty cold outside, and that alone can do it). So I am beginning to develop a range of theories as to what, exactly, is the problem.

The first theory was carbon monoxide poisoning via my car’s heater. The car is not really all that old– five years– but it seems lately that when I turn the heat on, I wind up all tired and vomitous. Then, no matter what I do, or how long I’ve been out of the car at home… I vom. And then I’m totally fine.

Now, clearly, the interwebs are the best means of diagnosing oneself when one has any imprecise malady. It’s free and does not require haggling with insurance companies. And lest you roll your eyes, I don’t get my health information from stupid websites like Yahoo! Answers. That’s just a bunch of stupid people pinging stupid stuff at each other and they don’t really know anything. So I tend to seek out reliable sources like sites from the CDC, NIH, Mayo Clinic, etc.

They say I either have carbon monoxide poisoning or congestive heart failure or anemia or I have been poisoned with cyanide.

I’m going to go ahead and rule out the cyanide thing, as I have misplaced that capsule I was supposed to take in case the enemy captured me and tried to get information out of me.

Anemia. Could be that. My blood iron levels have always been on the low side. I’m super-pale and I don’t eat a whole lot of red meat. I’m aware enough of the situation that, if I’m scheduled to donate blood, I’ll up the ante on the multi-vitamins and iron-rich foods. Or at least, what I think are iron-rich foods, so that I can pass that little spin test they give my blood droplet. It’s so humiliating when you’re sent home because you don’t have enough iron to donate. That’s happened twice. You sit there, silently rooting for your blood droplet to fall to the bottom of the Mystery Liquid within the allotted number of seconds. And it never does, so then they have to spin it in the Spinny Thing. Sometimes that turns out okay. Sometimes not so much. And you have to do the Blood Donor Walk of Shame out the door, while people look at you like you came in to save lives and then wussed out before you did it. So I eat red meat the night before I donate, and someone once told me that raisins are good for this kind of thing, so I’ll throw back some of those, with some oatmeal. And I take my vitamin, which I usually forget.

So, thinking maybe anemia is causing this set of symptoms, I search for “iron-rich foods” and this website that looks reasonably credible recommends all sorts of things I would never in my life be able to find in a store, let alone eat. Goose or duck liver? Gross. Those alone would make me hurl. Sure, foie gras may sound fancy, but I’d sooner eat poo. Cuttlefish? Whelk? Octopus? Is Andrew Zimmern involved in this? No thanks. Amaranth? What the hell is amaranth? If I knew what spelt or quinoa were, I could eat those. But whole wheat has more iron than they do, and I eat whole wheat everything, so there.

The Nuts & Seeds category is more promising: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds (if one can avoid the obvious concerns about sprouting a watermelon in one’s belly, as we were all warned would happen when we were children at summer barbeques). Sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts, filberts. These are all completely doable.

Vegetables. Morel mushrooms. Well, nix that – I hate mushrooms. Lemon grass. That counts as a vegetable? Potatoes! Woohoo! Score one for the Irish/German heritage! I’m in! Parsley. Are you kidding? Parsley has redeeming value? A’ight. I can dig it.

On to fruits. Olives. Score. Love them. (Also, this solved the longtime mystery of What Exactly An Olive Is.) But I had Greek food last night – a lot of it – and that doesn’t seem to be helping. Tamarinds and persimmons… wait, aren’t those exotic birds? Blueberries: excellent. Everything else: completely unpronounceable. Abiyuch? What?

Alright, so anemia is something I can at least deal with.

But… there’s this other thing that’s been happening for about, oh, 14 years now, and I’m beginning to get concerned.

My heart doesn’t exactly beat right.

You’d think I would have this looked at.

Actually, I did, years ago. I was 24, and the doc didn’t hear anything funny. She sent me to a cardiology lab, and they did a super-cool echocardiogram that showed the blood flow through the chambers and vessels of my heart, and showed the valve function and stuff, and everything checked out. Okay, apparently my heart just goes wonky sometimes. But the problem is, it’s gotten worse. It’s, like, a regular irregularity. So I guess I should get that checked again.

Still, that little, tiny, insignificant symptom has caused me zero problem in life except I can feel it happen sometimes and my last boyfriend kind of freaked out one night when he heard my heart skip beats. I chose the romance of having his head on my chest and the sweetness of his concern over worrying about the actual condition. Worrying only makes heart problems worse, anyway.

But now, I’m worried. Like, I’m sitting here checking my pulse via my carotid artery. Because when I added “arrhythmia” to my list of vague symptoms, up popped congestive heart failure.

Well, screw.

The checklist asks if my feet and/or ankles swell. Well… sometimes, if I’m being a tourist somewhere and walking around a lot. Does my abdomen swell? Um… maybe? I think it’s more related to carbs… Fatigue? Come on, isn’t everybody tired? Nausea and vomiting? Yes! Randomly, out of nowhere!

So now I think I have congestive heart failure at the age of 34. Apparently the symptoms begin and develop slowly. Like, 14 years ago to this week kind of slowly. But now, here it comes like a freight train, ready to kill me in my sleep… or worse: in some embarrassing Personal Moment, in the pose of which I do not want to be discovered post-mortem. I mean, I’ll be dead, I won’t care. But I have my mother to consider.

Alright… treatment. Deep breath, aaaand click. Aside from a host of tests and medications, there’s a bunch of stuff I should avoid. Mostly alcohol and sodium.

But… but that means… no olives! And no vodka! My… my dirty martinis! *sniff*

And no cheese! No olives and no cheese and no sodium… my God, the Greek food will have me dead in an hour!

And, perhaps the cruelest of all: avoid desserts! Sodium in desserts? I bake… I know salt helps bring out sweetness… but how much could there be? Cyanide poisoning would be better!

So, I guess I have to make a doctor’s appointment. Sigh. For now though… Grecian leftovers. Olives and feta included.

It’s not a bad last meal.


4 thoughts on “I either have the flu or congestive heart failure. The internet isn’t sure which.

  1. My favorite site for medical confusion is WrongDiagnosis.com. It can proliferate your concerns exponentially! I’ve had a heart murmur for about 50 years … every time I see a cardiologist, they say, “Whoa. Let me listen to that again.” But I’ve had all the tests and it’s apparently harmless. I haven’t been reading you long enough to know when you’re serious and not, but take care of yourself. I enjoy your posts … and your comments on my blog.

    • Thanks! I was born with a heart murmur, but they can’t hear it anymore unless I tell them I had it and they listen reeeeally closely and hold their breath. I actually am serious about my heart beating funny, and yeah, I should see the doctor about that again. I’ll try to stick it out long enough to get a few more quality posts/comments in! Meanwhile, I’ll definitely check out WrongDiagnosis.com and find out what else might be wrong with me!

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