That Time I Thought I was Dying

(Spoiler Alert: I survived.)

Let me start by painting a picture for you:

The morning of Friday, July 24th, 2009 (and by “morning” I mean 3:30am–the one time we were grateful that my dad regularly went to work so early), my dad prepare to leave for work, only to find that his work van had been stolen right out of our driveway. Luckily, it was found abandoned in some ditch 30 minutes or so away from our house around 11:00am (I guess the culprits realized how much that vehicle sucked). This may seem early in the day, but it meant 7 1/2 hours of extreme stress for both of my parents, so that evening they decided to relax and unwind while watching a funny movie. If only they knew how much worse their day was about to get…

My first surgery had been that Monday (July 20th), so my week was spent in recovery. On Friday evening, my friend Tracey came over and we planned on hanging out and watching some Grey’s Anatomy (judge away). On our way home from a trip to Sonic for drinks, I asked Tracey if my face looked different because it felt odd. She shrugged and said it looked fine, so we moved on with our lives.

About 15 minutes later, I suddenly lost the ability to speak and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I ran to the living room and tried to communicate what was happening to my parents (actually I was just asking them to pause the movie…but the rest was pretty apparent), who started panicking, obviously. By this time, the twitching had started as well. My face and head had started twitching big time–it was like I had lost control of my facial muscles and someone was pulling my head up and to the right in a jerking motion. We quickly kicked a very frightened and confused Tracey out (sorry Tracey), grabbed my meds, and headed to the after-hours clinic.

The woman at the front desk took one look at me (frizzy hair, bloodshot eyes, inability to speak, insanely twitching head, contorted spasming face) and said that I needed to go to the Emergency Room ASAP. When we got to the ER, they took me back immediately and called the doctor in. The dizziness had set in, the twitching was worse than ever, and I was slowly suffocating. At this point, I was seriously considering giving my mom the password to my phone so that she’d be able to contact my friends if/when I died…morbid.

The doctor (bless him) took one look at my meds and immediately knew what was happening. I was having an acute dystonic reaction to Prochlorperazine, a medication I had been prescribed for nausea the day before. He gave me Benadryl and fluids through an IV and the symptoms began to reduce almost immediately. He said that if we had gotten there much later, it could have caused some serious damage. Although my reaction wasn’t technically considered an allergic one, I was told to treat that drug as an allergy from then on.

Moral of the story? Know your medicines well. When you see the fine print for medications that you dismiss, thinking the worst you’ll experience is diarrhea, think again. These side effects, no matter how bizarre, actually happen to people. I learned my lesson that day, and now I obsessively read every detail of every medicine I take. The pamphlet that comes with it isn’t even enough for me either–I Google. No need to repeat one of the most terrifying instances of my life.

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