So….I went and did it again. I scared the wits out of myself one more time. The paramedics just left a couple of hours ago. A couple of real nice young guys, they were.
I think it started when I was at the drug store shopping for some niacin. Have you heard of niacin? It’s a B vitamin. The nice pharmacist noticed me browsing the vitamin display and asked if he could help.
“I’m looking for some niacin and trying to decide which one I should purchase.”
“What do you want it for?” he asked.
“I read an article that said it was good for people who have rheumatoid arthritis and experience cold fingers and toes,” I answered.
“Oh, I’ve never heard that. Usually it’s recommended for people who have high cholesterol. What dosage did the article recommend?”
“250 mg,” I replied.
“Well, it only comes in 500 mg tablets or caplets. We have the non-flush and the regular. I don’t think you want the non-flush one. I think you want the flush,” he said.
I went to the cash register and paid for the 500 mg flush niacin.
At home, I opened the bottle, took out a caplet and cut it in half. I swallowed 250 mg with a glass of water. Within ten minutes I could feel a prickly heat rising from my chest. The prickly heat consumed my neck, face, arms and legs. I felt like I was on fire and that my skin was expanding. My heart pounded. My neck throbbed. Itchiness followed. Even my eyeballs felt all prickly.
“Oh my gosh, what have I done,” I thought to myself. I called the doctor’s office to report the symptoms.
The receptionist said, “You’re having an allergic reaction. Do you have someone to take you to the hospital?”
“No,” I replied. “Should I call an ambulance?”
“Yes, you need to be seen by a doctor at the hospital.”
I called the emergency number to request an ambulance. I answered some questions from the dispatcher. The symptoms continued with such intensity. Pins and needles fiery heat. Beet red colored skin. Itchy arms and legs. I looked like I stayed out in the sun way, way too long.
“Crap! Can somebody just pleeeease take this away right now?” I thought.
I phoned a couple of friends to ask, if I went to the hospital, they would pick me up after the doctor checked me out. Then I called the nice pharmacist at the drug store where I purchased the niacin. As I talked about my symptoms to the pharmacist, the paramedics arrived. By this time, my body was shaking uncontrollably.
One of the paramedics says, “You’re not having an allergic reaction, you are having a very intense niacin flush.”
He went on to explain that niacin expands the blood vessels and detoxifies the cells. He said he uses it also but, he purchases the non-flush kind. He took a seat at the kitchen table and said they’d stay with me for a bit until the symptoms reduced in their intensity. Then he asked some questions about the sixteen bottles of prescription medication and nutritional supplements that the table is home to. The other paramedic checked my blood pressure.
“So…looks like you take a lot of supplements and medications,” he commented as he lifted each one and read the label.
“Yes, I’m always trying things to see if it will help with the rheumatoid disease,” I replied.
I remembered the time that I had taken an array of herbal supplements along with an over-the-counter enzyme to counteract inflammation and a prescription medication for excess stomach acid all at the same time. I ended up in the bathroom feeling like I was going to die and not knowing whether I should stand or sit (you get the picture, right?). I felt so weak and dizzy unable to drive myself to the hospital so I called an ambulance. My face looked the color of a white piece of paper.
The intake nurse took a look at each bottle I pulled out of my bag shaking her head and said, “You are toxic! You sit outside my door where I can keep an eye on you until a doctor can see you.” There I sat, slumped in the chair. I knew I had two failed marriages, but I didn’t think I was toxic.
That time it turned out that I had a bad interaction from my attempt to make myself well.
Another time, I took the recommended dose of a product for rheumatoid symptoms that I had purchased at a health food store. It happened that that morning I drove a friend to a retreat centre in the city. On my way home, I began feeling light-headed and ill. I was about one and one half hours from home and I was alone. Using my cell phone, I called the emergency number. It’s okay, it was only three numbers. The emergency operator asked where I was located. I replied, “I’m driving on the highway. I’m just coming up to exit such and such.”
“You’re feeling lighted headed and ill and you are driving on the highway?” the operator chirped.
Weakly, I replied, “It just came over me all of sudden. I’m looking for a place to pull off now.”
“We can’t dispatch an ambulance until you are stopped.” I stopped. They dispatched.
The paramedics, one male and one female, arrived. The male one took my particulars and asked about the symptoms. He advised that a trip to the hospital would rule out anything serious. I was feeling very un-like-myself so I agreed. The nice paramedic took me into the hospital and waited until the intake nurse checked me in. He gave me his phone number and said I could call him if I needed a ride back to my car when I was finished at the hospital. I didn’t know paramedics provided a shuttle service as well.
After a few hours, I felt better. The doctor thought I either had a reaction to the supplement or it was a panic attack. Hmmmm. I called a cab, picked up my car and drove the rest of the way home.
So….today another encounter with the paramedics happened while trying to make myself well. I think I’ve learned from this episode that I don’t want the flush.