My life changed drastically in 1982. I was diagnosed with celiac disease after months of severe abdominal pain and uncontrollable diarrhea. I lost thirty pounds in 3 months, but had some to lose thanks to baby weight. I was nursing my son several times a day and woke up one night with all the muscles in my hands drawn up, my arms curled up against my chest. I couldn't straighten my hands or arms out.
When I saw the doctor the next day, he sent me to the hospital. I was told my calcium levels were a little low and they put me on a calcium, magnesium, and potassium IV. Immediately, I felt like my arms were on fire. It started with my fingertips and worked its way up my arms on both sides, though the IV was only in my left arm. The doctor came in later to check on me and said they wanted to keep me on the IV for 24 hours just to be safe.
The next day the doctor came in and said that I should get my affairs in order because I might not leave the hospital. He said my calcium, potassium and magnesium levels were so low that I should have died. He said my heart should have stopped; that he didn't know how I walked into his office under my own power. He said he didn't tell me that earlier because he was afraid the shock of hearing that would send me into cardiac arrest. My son was three months old. I was numb. The doctor told me that if I had gotten on that plane, I probably would have died before I got to Texas. Unless he could find out what was causing the severe deficiencies, he did not see me having a long life and possibly never leaving the hospital. I was on the IV all week and did finally leave after 7 or 8 days, but had to take massive amounts of supplements for months.
The next 6 months were a continuous process of testing and taking supplements. I was eating a quart of yogurt a day as well as taking supplements to keep my calcium levels up because I refused to wean my son. I was tested for everything from cancer to thyroid to anything else the doctor could think of. I feel blessed that he didn't stop until he had an answer.
As a last ditch effort, he put me on a dairy free, gluten free diet and I responded immediately. In three weeks, my digestion was almost normal again. He had me start eating a couple of ounces of yogurt with each meal. No reaction (not true now). He then had me eat one saltine cracker with each meal. The reaction was immediate and extreme!
The doctor decided not to do a biopsy. He said he didn’t see the need since I had reacted so violently to the introduction of wheat/gluten into my diet. Since then, other immediate family members have been tested and were positive for the celiac disease gene markers and antibodies and we also have family members that have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I have no doubt I would have died long ago were it not for that doctor. A diagnosis of celiac disease was really rare in those days.
I’ve been gluten free ever since and in 2016, finally went dairy free as well due to recurring problems that had started just in the last few years. I stay scrupulously gluten free and dairy free now. People ask me if it is hard and do I ever get tempted to cheat. I feel like I was given a second chance at life and no, I am never tempted to cheat and it is not hard. I get to be with my kids and grandkids, grow old with my husband and I’m healthy otherwise. That is worth far more to me. I’m not hooked up to tubes or popping a bazillion pills a day. I have a normal life other than my diet. I have some bone thinning and allergies with mild asthma, but that is it and I’m in my 60’s now. I feel lucky!
I have to say my priorities changed some while lying in that hospital bed. I felt like I’d been given a second chance and better not blow it. I work very hard to keep my life balanced and to make the most of that second chance. I believe that a holistic and balanced approach to life is a must when living with an autoimmune disease and now I share that way of life here on this blog.