Stress, Swelling Of The Tongue, Benazepril, Angioedema And A Hospital Stay! Or How I Survived Again!
Can Your Tongue Really Swell That Much?
We all have stress in our lives, but it doesn't always cause your tongue to get so big that your mouth cannot hold it in! It doesn't always cause angioedema, severe difficulty breathing and a trip to the hospital provided by the paramedics. But stress can be a killer! We hear it all the time and we all try to figure out better ways to handle stress. Apparently, I have not found those better ways. I was also unaware that stress can trigger an immediate change in your immune system, which can then trigger allergies to medications that you have taken on a daily basis for several years. Stress does not just cause heart attacks or high blood pressure.
A few days ago, I was dealing with some very troubling family issues. I had what is commonly called a meltdown. I knew that I was making myself sick and that is the thing about stress. We know what stresses us and we know that we need to control our reactions to stressors, but being human, sometimes we are just unable to do the things that we are supposed to do.
I talked to my best friend who is great when helping me put things into perspective, but by that time, it was already too late. I ate a tiny bit of dinner so that I could take my nightly meds, including benazepril for my blood pressure. Within an hour, I was suffering the most severe abdominal pain I have ever experienced. My chest was hurting so bad that I thought I might be having a heart attack. I spent a miserable night and at 6 the next morning, my son came in and suggested that we go to the emergency room. I said no, that we would wait until 8 and then I would get in to see my own doctor and bypass the 3 to 4 hour wait in the emergency room.
But as fate would have it, 8 AM brought the word emergency to a higher level. I had dozed off and when I woke up at 8, my tongue was swollen so much that it would not fit into my mouth. I was having trouble breathing and couldn't get words out. I tried to scream for my son, but nothing. I managed to stumble to his room, wake him up and when he saw me he grabbed his cell and dialed 911. The paramedics arrived in what seemed like seconds and before I knew it, my meds were thrown into a ziploc bag and I was in the ambulance, being given benadryl. An IV was in my arm, they were pumping something else into the bag and they were in constant contact with the emergency room. When we arrived at the hospital, there was no wait. I have no idea what I looked like, but it must have been a terrifying sight! I almost wished that I was unconscious, because then I would not have seen the looks of horror on every face that saw mine. Apparently, it was not only my tongue that had quadrupled in size.
The questions were non-stop. The answers were nothing more than yes or no, evidenced only by a nod of my head. My meds were pulled out of the baggie and when the ER doc pulled the benazepril (Lotensin) out of the bag, he started talking to my son. Yes, I have taken benazepril for years and yes, I have experienced stress recently. The next thing I knew, a cardiologist was in the room. They were going to give me a transfusion of plasma. I motioned for my son to give me my wallet and gave them my card which identified very rare anti-bodies in my blood. I know that 35 years ago when the antibodies were found (caused by a transfusion I received after the birth of my first child), there were only 3,000 people in the country that had the same anti-bodies.
Benazepril (Lotensin) Can Be A Lifesaver And Then Become A Nasty Little Drug!
I was taken to telemetry and monitored constantly. By the time the cardiologist had spoken to my son, the look of fear on his face was gone. He was making fun of my appearance, but would not give me a mirror. I am sure I would have cried. He called my best friend and said he was very happy that the gift of speech had been taken away from me and that I looked like a monster, no make-up necessary. He was also checking out and flirting with the nurses every step of the way. What is it about men and nurses?
I finally knew that I wasn't going to die. My son's sick sense of humor had returned, but every time I tried to laugh, I choked. I had angioedema, which is a swelling beneath the skin. It can be caused by many things, usually when the immune systems detects a foreign substance in the body called an allergen. In this case, the doctors believe that the extreme stress caused my immune system to change and the benazepril, or any other ACE inhibitor, that I have taken for many years, are now to be on the list of drugs that I am not allowed to take. Ever!
Benazepril and other ACE inhibitors can suddenly cause angioedema. Usually, if there is going to be a problem, it happens within the first week or two of taking ACE inhibitors. In other rarer cases, and doctors are not sure why, angioedema can suddenly appear after years of taking the drug. The swelling is almost always seen on the mouth or around the eyes. When the tongue and the throat are involved, it becomes more serious, because breathing can become compromised. Doctors are currently considering stress to be a factor. I was told that they now believe that stress can immediately cause a change in the immune system, thus creating the perfect storm.
ACE Inhibitors Are An Effective Tool To Fight Heart Disease!
ACE inhibitors are a valuable weapon in the fight against heart disease. According to Medicine.net:
"ACE inhibitors are used for controlling blood pressure, treating heart failure, preventing strokes, and preventing kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. They also improve survival after heart attacks. In studies, individuals with hypertension, heart failure, or prior heart attacks who were treated with an ACE inhibitor lived longer than patients who did not take an ACE inhibitor. Because they prevent early death resulting from hypertension, heart failure or heart attacks, ACE inhibitors are one of the most important group of drugs. Some individuals with hypertension do not respond sufficiently to ACE inhibitors alone. In these cases, other drugs are used in combination with ACE inhibitors."
If and when your doctor prescribes them for you, don't be afraid of taking them. They really are effective, and not everyone who experiences stress will develop angioedema.
A Cat Has Nine Lives; I Have At Least That Many!
How many times have I cheated death? At least as many times as the normal cat. My kids say I am too mean to die, but lately I am not so sure. The older I get, the harder it is for me to land on my feet. I think it all started with needing rabies shots when I was eight years old. My mother got a beautiful little kitty from the local animal shelter. We named her Buttons. She was the cutest little thing, until she started foaming at the mouth. She bit my three year old brother, bit my father and scratched me on the knee. Amazingly, the only one in the family that didn't need the shots was my mother. The doctors at the time said we had to start the series immediately. Fourteen shots in the stomach, in the shape of a clock. One every day for two weeks. The kitten had to be sent away for testing and the results did not come back for six weeks, due to the fact that she was a kitten. Sure enough, the results came back positive. The cat did have rabies and I believe that even though that kitty ended up not having nine lives, that ability to survive strange things was bequeathed to me by that kitten.
One of my more recent death defying experiences was the discovery and removal of two ten pound tumors. The doctors were actually surprised that I lived through the surgery. They were sure that I was not going to make it, but just like a bad penny...
At this point, I don't want to count how many times I have landed on my feet. I am afraid that maybe I am nearing my limit. I am back at home. As soon as the swelling went down and I could once again speak, I was ready to go home. It took a full 24 hours and a great staff of doctors and nurses. They were wonderful to me and none of them teased me about how I looked! That job was handled quite efficiently and thoroughly by my son.
I have learned that stress can be a killer and that I must learn to handle it better. I always thought I did okay on that front, but now I know differently. I am going to try from now on to be less of a panic attack waiting to happen. I am going to try...
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