Tongue In Cheek

Guess what I did yesterday?  I had a life-threatening attack of Angioedema.  My tongue swelled to the point where I couldn’t talk.  The left side of my tongue was severely effected, the right side less so.  I could still breathe through my nose, thankfully.

It came on rather suddenly, as I was sitting on my deck watching a comely young man hauling fish after fish out of the river, taking the hook out, and holding it up in the direction of the East.  He then put the fish back into the river.  Imagine the experience of the fish!

And as I was watching this curious fish ritual, I became aware that my tongue hurt.  I looked at it in the mirror and it just looked a little swollen, and thickly coated.  I use oral inhaled steroids for asthma, and thrush is always a concern.

But I know how to handle thrush, so I went for my baggie of medical grade myrrh resin that I bought at Manny’s homeopathic pharmacy on Yaffo Street in Jerusalem.  I picked a nice clear chunk and lodged it between teeth and gum, and went about my business.

But it quickly became apparent that this was not thrush.  The left side of my tongue was jammed against the roof of my mouth.  The right side was starting to swell too.

I pondered what to do.

Would you believe, one of the things I was pondering was that this was the death ordained for me on Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year where everyone’s fate is decided, who shall live and who shall die, and if you are condemned to die then there are different ways to die, and one of them is by strangling.  Maybe this was it, and I should just sit down in my recliner and let the decree take me away.

Then I thought, who will take care of Noga if I die somewhat suddenly?

I went to the medicine cupboard and got out the Benedryl, and took the proper 50 milligrams.  Then I got Noga’s Predisone (she has allergies) and took a couple of the 5 mg tablets.  I silently (since I could no longer produce understandable speech sounds) cursed that I did not have any epinephrine.  I used to keep a whole emergency formulary at home, but now I don’t even have a prescription pad, even though I still hold my license.

Should I call 911?  Well, if I definitely wanted to die, then yes.  First of all, I wouldn’t be able to talk to the dispatcher except in grunts, and she would probably think I was a prank caller and hang up on me.

Even if I managed to give her my address, the Keystone Cops that they call the EMS here would never find it.  It’s not on any map, being a mile and a half down an “unimproved” road and up a dirt driveway that looks like it goes to nowhere in particular.   Giving directions in my present state was definitely not a possibility.

Not only that, but the last several times that Dad has fallen and needed emergency medical services to put him on a backboard and take him the the skunkworks they call a hospital here, the EMS has not showed up any sooner than 30 minutes after being called, even when he was unconscious. Calling the EMS was a quick ticket to the next life.

So I hopped in my car and drove the 15 minutes to the hospital.  I remembered to say Shma Yisrael, the prayer we Jews are supposed to say before we die, and asked the Creator if s/he would please spare other people when I passed out from lack of oxygen and ran off the road.  I was pretty sure that I got a positive answer.  That made me feel better, because if I was destined to die along the road I really didn’t want to take anyone with me, although it also occurred to me that they, too, might be destined to die right now and I would simply be the agent of their death by sudden impact, which is the equivalent of the punishment of stoning.

Miraculously, I made it to the hospital, parked in the wrong lot, amazed myself by navigating the path to the Emergency Room, and walked to the Registration cubicle.  The young clerk was sitting there chatting with her friends.  I approached and put out my tongue, hoping that she would see that I was walking wounded and get me inside quick.  She gestured for me to take a seat.  I did no such thing, but made urgent guttural sounds, like some sort of primate.  This time she said, “OK, I’ve called the nurse.  She’ll be here soon.”  I felt sort of better.  At least when I passed out, someone qualified would find me.

The nurse appeared right quick, and I put out my tongue for her.  She exclaimed and whisked me away to a monitored room.  The air conditioning ate through my fleece jacket, fleece vest, and two layers of silk turtlenecks.  This thing had made me really cold.  So she holds up this thin hospital gown and says cheerfully, “Everything off, now, and put this on.”

I pantomimed freezing, hugging myself and jumping up and down a bit, to make it clear I was not about to abandon my layers of warm clothing for a barely-there schmatta.  She turned the thermostat up,  the air went off, and she brought me some warm blankets.  Monitors of all kinds were applied, and a wave of panic washed over me.  Trapped.  Tied down.  Wanna run, but probably would die, and I had decided not to die this time.

An aide came in and sat down at the computer and asked me a question.  “Uuuh!”  I answered.  This reiterated several times before she got the clue that I could not talk.

A pair of nurses appeared, carrying the tools of the Intravenous Line trade.  Panic attack.  I have a disease that has destroyed my veins, making them very fragile.  They often bleed for no reason at all.  Last time I was hospitalized I went through seven IVs in one day.

But they got it on the first try, even though one of them had to hold the vein down to keep it from rolling.  I’ve done that.  Works pretty well.

The doctor brisked through the door, asking questions as she came.  Must be busy, I thought.  She’s in hyperdrive.

I tried to talk and that told her what she wanted to know.  She asked me a series of intelligent questions to which one could nod or shake one’s head.  She rose in my esteem.

Medicines went into the IV.  A respiratory therapist came and gave me a breathing treatment to prevent spasms of the bronchial tubes.

The doctor popped in from time to time, and when the medicines started working and I could speak after a fashion, we of course started exchanging war stories.  Doctors are incorrigible when it comes to war stories.  I am certain that if there were two physicians and one of them was on their death bed, the two of them would be talking about this or that horrendous case, and trying to one-up each other, just for the fun of it.

Little by little my tongue went down, but the left side was being a bit stubborn.

The doctor came in and announced that they were going to admit me for overnight observation.

I secretly thought that was a good idea, but there were several factors that argued against it.  One was that my little Noga was home all by herself and would not have enough water or food to keep her in good shape.  Another is that I take exotic medicines that hospitals usually don’t have, and I must have them.  Third, although I am something of a heretic and no good at all at certain things, I am still an observant Jew and I cannot eat anything from that hospital.  The joy of being hospitalized in Israel is that the hospital food is kosher and served in accordance with Jewish law.

But this hospital is Baptist, and Baptists love their pork.  Three times a day, pork.  It’s amazing.  But I wouldn’t even be able to eat green beans here, because they are seasoned with pork fat, and the mashed potatoes are served with utensils that have also served pork.  In summary, the place is non-Kosher and I would not be able to eat anything there.

So we negotiated that I would stay 6 hours in the ER for observation.  That was all right with me.

It was a very boring 6 hours, since I had no reading material, and the medicines they gave me made me too wired to sleep.  So I amused myself by trying to count the slats in a Venetian blind that covered a window in the room.

Seven o’clock arrived and so did “change of shift.”  I was impressed how smoothly the nurses navigated the change.  Usually change of shift means you don’t have a nurse while they are in “Report,” and you could lie there and die in the meantime.  I soon discovered that the reason the change happened so swiftly is that they had pretty much dispensed with Report, because my new nurse didn’t know anything about me.  That was too bad because she had no idea how desperate my case was when I came in, and said I “didn’t look so bad.”  I thanked her.

Likewise the doctor, whom I happen to know both from my old doctoring days, and because she has taken care of my dad during his last two hospitalizations.  She was very hassled, and rightly so, since she had to run from room to room taking histories and doing physicals.  And I came to understand that there were many cases more serious than mine.  I should say so; it is an Emergency Room.

She of course had not seen my tongue in its supersized phase, but the first doctor had briefed her on my case, and suddenly the 6 hour observation turned into an 8 hour observation, and she said she would not let me go even then if my tongue had not returned entirely to normal dimensions.

She roared out of the room, and I really hoped she was using the waterless hand cleanser units that lined the walls in the ER, because she sure did not stop to wash her hands before exiting my room.  I am a stickler about washing hands, especially in places where sick people come on purpose.

At that moment I realized I have a Tikun Klalli booklet in my wallet.  I always have a Tikun Klalli on me.  The Tikun Klalli is a set of 10 Psalms selected by Rebbi Nachman of Breslev, and is said to be the Universal Cure.  So I got it out and settled down to read the introduction, which I had never read before.  I didn’t actually read the Tikun itself, because once you start it you shouldn’t stop, and there was a big risk of interruption, of course, where I was.

The time flew past as I crawled through the easy yet esoteric Hebrew of the Introduction.  Often the Introduction of Kabbalistic books is the key to understanding the book itself.  So it was gratifying to be using my time in a productive way.  And my tongue went entirely back to normal, except for a huge blood blister on the bottom of my tongue where it had been stuck on my teeth.

The doctor flew in, looked at my tongue, asked me how I felt, and announced that she would indeed let me go, and only had to do the requisite paperwork.  I would have jumped up and down if I wasn’t attached to so many monitoring gadgets.  It was now after one o’clock in the morning.  I was sorely feeling the absence of my evening meds.

So what had provoked this gruesome tongue-swelling?  The consensus was that my blood pressure med was the culprit.  Seems that any blood pressure med ending in -pril, such as Captopril, Ramapril (which is what I was taking) and others, have a small but present chance of causing angioedema.

At last I was released and drove home.  Noga turned herself inside out with joy.  I was pretty happy myself.

But.  I was filled with apprehension: what if it came back?  I made a plan.  If it came back, that meant that I was destined to die.  I would somehow get plenty of my sleep meds down, so I might be able to pass out pretty quick and not feel the minute or two of choking before lack of oxygen shut down the brainwaves.  I took a large syringe full of insulin (my dad’s) and prepared it to inject, just in case I couldn’t get the sleepers down.  I found a manilla folder and wrote a note explaining what had happened, saying goodbye to all, how to find my will, what to do with Noga.  And between every line I wrote DO NOT RESUSCITATE.  I took a black marker and wrote it on my chest.  It’s still there: DNR.  That’s what I want.

I filled three large bowls with water for Noga in case it took a long time to find me.  I put her bag of food on the floor where she could get it.

Then I went to bed, choking down all my usual pills plus an extra clonazepam to ensure sleep.

And as you can see, I also woke up.

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  1. Very happy you woke up 🙂 What an ordeal! Take care of yourself, Laura.

    • Thanks, Sara. My shrink just called and we formulated a second treatment plan that would not include steroid psychosis. The man is a genius. I am very thankful for him.

        • I’m trying, but I just broke a tooth!

          • LOL Or did you really? Hope not…I know all about those. And since I have no dental insurance they are all still sitting there in my mouth today 😦 Makes for an interesting landscape to run my tongue over, though LOL

            • Yeah, really. Half a tooth. I see a root canal and crown in my future. Good thing my dentist takes installments. He also takes art for payments, but I’m not an artist. Maybe banjo lessons???

              • OMG! I wish we had a dentist who took art for payment! Of course, he’d have to actually like what I create, I guess, but to have that opportunity!
                And, maybe you can offer him recordings of your banjo playing?

  2. very glad you woke, this wasnt quite your time. but what an odd and infrequent side effect to occur. kind of like my rta due to lithium. am glad you are fine again, look forward to more posts 🙂

    • Thanks dear……… this point I really am not sure it was due to the Ramapril, although that is most likely……but I doubt I will be eating any more tunafish……… 😦

  3. An amusing story. My interpretation is that the whole thing happened because you identified too much with those hooked fish the guy was pulling out of the water, and then throwing in again. And had you asked me, I would have told you to read the tikun and ignore the medicines and hospital. But we all need culture. And having a hospital emergency is culture too. Made a nice story in any case… Wishing you a very nice and kosher pesach.

    • Amusing to YOU, perhaps. Facing death by chanikah is not very funny. Perhaps I did internalize the fishes’ terror at suffocating, but in any case the trap broke and I was liberated. It’s possible that you might have the level of emunah to grunt tikunim while suffocating, but there is no greater survival urge than to breathe. You have to really want to die to do something like hang yourself, which is what was happening, in essence, and we are forbidden to harm ourselves. HKBH has a great big tool box, and in it are Tehillim and tikunim, and also epinephrine and Decadron. In life-and-death circumstances, I pull out all the stops and use them all. But if you prefer to fly on a wing and a prayer, bevakasha.

  4. Laura , you are one courageous woman. There is somuch i can relate with you. The main thing if I die what will happen to Noga, usually people associate this feeling with their kids but i applied that to my dog too. I am sure you will get better. The Pslams healed you faster, I am sure of that. Incase you can spare some time do share some Kabbalah practises and prayers for different situations.
    Love and light

    • Hi Ashu, thank you so much for your good energy. I do have some posts on Jewish mysticism/Kabbalah scattered around on my blog, most of them posted in the past 6 months. I think I have them tagged…..I’ll have to look and make sure they’re searchable. I do plan to post some more, and if you’re interested in specific prayers for protection and healing that will be a good topic for future posts! There are some we are allowed to share freely. How about sharing some of your own prayers? I learned wonderful mantram when I was a patient and student in an Ayurvedic Hospital in Tamil Nadu. I use those along with my Hebrew prayers. I fully believe that we are the same people.

      Love and light right back to you and all the world,

      Liebe (my real name)

  5. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  April 7, 2014

    Glad everything worked out, but what a scary situation!

  6. Scary story! Glad it all worked out.

  7. So glad that everything worked out in the end. I keep wondering what the reason behind it all was since I feel there is always a lesson for us in anything that happens.
    Glad Noga is fine… DNR seems the right solution to many things.
    Lovely to hear from you again…. I seem to be missing many pople lately.
    Susan x

    • Thanks, Susan. Yes, there is a reason behind all things. Maybe that was a taste of my death sentence from Above, and now I don’t have to do it For Real. I certainly hope so. It can happen that way.

      As far as DNR–I would love to have it tatooed on my chest, but our religion forbids tatoos. So I wrote it in indelible marker!

      You can always find me right here, or at my public email dinaleah at hotmail dot com. Love to hear from you ❤

  8. What a story…….sorry you had to go through all that and hope there are better days ahead for you.

  9. It sounds like it was a harrowing experience, and one that had you envisioning all sorts of possible outcomes. I’ve done the “extra water bowls and plenty of food available, just in case” routine with my dogs. As much of a hermit as I am, if something happened to me, it could be days (and maybe even weeks) before someone would sound the alarm. Glad to know that when morning rolled around (or maybe afternoon, what with you getting to bed so late) that you were doing okay, and that you were able to share your experience on your blog. Not a very fun way to spend the day, though, and certainly a distinctly uncomfortable experience. No fun at all.

    On a side note, when I read Shimon’s comment, I didn’t take it to be inflammatory. I don’t have enough knowledge of Jewish culture to have an understanding of the culture surrounding the reading of the Tikun Klalli, and in fact, had never heard of it before your mention, but I’ve come to know Shimon over the past long while, and know him to be someone who has a unique way of offering an alternate view on many situations. I’m sorry to see that you found offense at his comment, as it is my guess that he found his way to your blog through mine. The Shimon that I’ve come to know is a generous and compassionate person, and would never intentionally use words to cause someone harm.

    When reading your account of what happened, part of me was giggling at the various ways you managed to convey the information in a way that made it humorous, even while acknowledging the seriousness of the situation. Again, I’m just glad to know that you ended up feeling better the next day. No more fish watching for you! 🙂

    • Thanks for giving me another perspective on Shimon, whom I have indeed read and enjoyed on your blog. In fact, his truly “tongue in cheek” response would have been funny if I had not just that moment been looking the Grim Reaper in the face. I hope that we will make it up and get to know one another better (are you here, Shimon?). No fish watching, indeed! I believe I will go and get allergy testing before I eat fish of any kind, since the last thing I ate before the explosion was tuna!

      • I was really hesitant to say anything at all about the Shimon comment, but it made me sad that it was a sticky point, since I know you both to be good people. I understand both sides of that equation; the death knocking on my door is distinctly uncomfortable, and the sometimes looking at our troubles through the lens of humor helps bring us back to living in the present moment – both equally true and honest perspectives.

        After that very un-fun experience, I doubt you will ever see a can of tuna without remembering this experience, even if it turns out it wasn’t the tuna after all. Sure hope you are able to identify the source of the problem. Hard to know what to avoid, when you can’t be certain how it began.

      • I hope this won’t offend you.But after the suffering of the Jewish people in Europe over hundreds of years when presumably they prayed for help, it neats me that someone would think you could be healed by prayer alone.It might calm you down possibly but whatever G-d is he does not act like a big kind parent.I have a Jewish friend who became am atheist.
        Then again, you wanted to live so you did the sensible thing.Other older people might be happy to pray and die.We don’t know how we’d react but that swelling is a well known phenomenon.Frightening.

        • Of course I’m not offended! It’s interesting to read over the comments here and see how different my world view is today than it was when I wrote the post. Thanks for helping me to revisit it!

          No, I personally do not want to wait around and die from suffocation. There are much quicker, less traumatic ways to die! Conversely, one could just go on living, which is what I have done so far. Thanks for commenting!

  10. Hi, Liebe is a nice name :-)) but somehow I have formed an association with Laura and Noga hehehe. I will certainly write a post on healing mantras and though I am not good technically, I will try to post audios too for proper pronunciation. They work wonders. I will search your blogs and let you know what I find.

    Love and light,

  11. hi, I live in India. You came to Tamilnadu a state in southern part of the country, i stay in the heart of India, a state called Madhya Pradesh and a city called Indore. :-))))

    • Lovely, I will look at the map and see where you are! God willing when my task here is finished I will return to India to study with my Guru and visit my friends.

  12. Btw i read some of your posts, i have no words to comment so just did not say anything there. Hope you are better now and I pray that you leave behind all your past demons and find true love and peace.

    Take care

    • Thank you Ashu. Through writing I become at peace with my karmic rectifications. I understand where these came from, and that my trials are very important in fixing some blemishes in the balance of energies in this world. That said, of course the unpleasantness of the process is distressing to me, and my ability to keep my equanimity through all of it is limited, but this also is my karmic burden and I must bear it as well as I can. My Guru got me a consultation with an excellent Jyotish astrologer who helped me understand the trajectory of my current incarnation, and that has been a comfort even though this life is destined to be hard. Other people have it much harder though, and I am grateful that mine is not that bad really, and I do have a support system, although it is geographically remote. Thank you indeed for your kindness and support!

      Om Shalom,

  13. Glad you’re alright!

    Stay safe!

  14. Laura, I have been away, and have just now returned to read this! What a terrifying experience. B”H, you survived. I can imagine Noga’s joy at seeing you again – she surely knew the situation was serious.

    • Thanks–yeah, Noga knew something bad was going on. I never leave her alone at night–or rather, I never leave ME alone at night. I’m hoping that if this was my gezera from RH, then maybe I was forgiven after a good taste of it (ugh!) and am off that particular hook now. Glad you’re back, nice to see you! Moadim l’simcha!

  15. Only you would have a story like this. So no more Ramapril?

    • No, no, no! And it took me two weeks to get a f/u appt with my family doc, and the night before it I had a full-blown manic attack complete with hallucinations, so I had to call and cancel. Still haven’t followed up to get a new BP med. Bad patient. Baaaaad patient.

      • Its hard when one is on so many drugs to not want a vacation from some of them, especially when they have side effects. Your blood pressure will survive until you get the chance to make another appointment. Ye-ow that manic attack sounds serious! At least you knew what was going on with you. Im sure the stress at home isn’t helping your mood regulation.

        • Sheet yeah. But ti tell you the truth, it’s gone into a bizarre stage to where I feel like I’m in somebody else’s dream. I’ve practiced serving myself for a change, on and off, and successfully created a few boundaries that I’ve mostly stuck to. Interestingly, I am definitely more on the hypomanic side of things, which is a blessing right now. Depression for a few hours, a few days…I can survive that. So far, anyway. As you know, with bipolar you just never know.

          • Love hypomanic, wish I could be that way all the time…sans impulsiveness. The stuff I get done! Ive been in the lie in my bed for hours depressed and hopeless phase for a while now and its getting old. Trying to generate gratitude when I am low but hard to pull it off.

            • Oh Sweetie, I am so sorry to hear that. May the clouds lift and the sun shine through, soon soon. I could live on hypomanic drive forever. Wishing you some productive energy soon!

              • Slivers shine through now and then….esp when I have a glass of hard cider…LOL!

            • Ugh, so sorry you’re in the dumps. I hope by the time you read this you’ll be feeling better….it’s always such a crapshoot, I hate knowing that sooner or later the crash will come. If I already replied to this comment, forgive me…I’m on my iPad and it doesn’t show comment strings. The sentiment is the same though…healing thoughts and prayers in your direction.

  16. I hope you find a way to get back on high blood pressure meds soon. As you know, just stopping them can also be deadly. Are you checking your BP?

    • Thanks for caring! Your comment just lowered my BP ten points 🙂 Yup, I have an appointment next week…jeez…takes 2 weeks to get in to see my primary care doc. So frustrating. In Israel (my home) I can usually get in the next day, and if my primary is booked up I can go to the health fund’s general clinic the same day, just walk in. Oh well.


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