About three weeks ago I had an iron infusion. I'd been feeling crappy for several months -- low energy, crazy tired, easily out of breath, and eating ice like it was something made by Hershey's. I knew my iron was low. I switched to a different kind of iron supplement, but I just could not get on top of it.
I asked my family doc to test my iron levels. She said no. Why? Because she'd told me to check in with the hematologist last spring and I didn't do it. So, off to the hematologist I went. He decided I needed a rapid fill of iron and the way to get that was an infusion.
I didn't know much before going in for the infusion, just that it would take about six hours and that there would be WIFI available (I asked about that specifically).
If you find yourself in the position to be getting an iron infusion, here are some things you might want to know ahead of time:
1. Where you are going. My appointment was at 8:15am. I went to the infusion center attached to the only office I've ever seen the hematologist in. I knew there was trouble when the gal at the registration desk started tapping away at her keyboard and clicking on her mouse, scrolling through several screens before she said "Oh, we have you scheduled at our downtown location." Fortunately, she was able to call and let them know I was on my way and they were able to hold a spot for me.
2. You can bring a lunch/food with you. It didn't occur to me that in six hours I might get hungry. The nurse who checked me in did show me the snack stash. And lucky for me, my friend Beth works at the downtown location and offered to bring me lunch.
3. You should hydrate well so it will be easy to find a vein. Three sticks and two nurses later, we found a good one. Credit goes to the first nurse who called for reinforcements when she was having difficulty.
4. They are going to have you mainlining Benadryl, which will knock your "I'm going to work on my laptop through this" plans right out the window. I called to ask about WIFI because I intended to make the infusion center my office for the day. Have laptop, will travel. It was a good strategy until they hung a bag of Benadryl and sent it free falling through my veins to ward off any allergic reaction to the iron solution. I was mid-email with someone and had to tell her that I would either be signing off or sending incoherent emails. Benadryl via IV might as well be vicodin. Add a blanket and a comfy chair you have the ingredients for one awesome snooze.
5. You're going to feel incredibly humbled to be sitting there for your one-time treatment, surrounded by people whose bald heads and germ-free masks give away the not-so-secret that they've been here many times before. Infusions are infusions, whether they are iron or chemo. Most of the people in the infusion suite that day were patients getting treatment for cancer. Many had family members with them and bags packed that said they knew it was going to be a long visit. I did a lot of praying, thankful I was there for a one-time fill-up and asking for healing and peace for those around me.
6. You will wonder why you didn't do this sooner. It takes 3-4 weeks for the iron to fully take effect, but one day about a week after the infusion I realized it was almost 3pm and I hadn't eaten any ice yet that day. Ice had become a staple of my diet (craving ice is a symptom of anemia), so much that I regarded Diet Coke as merely a vehicle for crunchy frozen bits. Not craving ice meant I was drinking less Diet Coke. My need for daily naps (either under my desk during lunch or as soon as I came home from work) began to ease up as well. I'm not still 100% nap-free, but I only nap 2-3 days a week now. And I'm feeling much more human overall.
The hematologist is hopeful that this iron infusion was just a tune up. Now that my tank is full (or should be, anyway) the iron supplements should be able to keep the anemia away.