Monday, April 21, 2014

Altitude Sickness AGAIN!!!!

A while back, I wrote this

And you'd think I wouldn't be foolish enough to repeat that mistake, but I guess I naively thought after having a positive experience trekking through Utah and Wyoming last year, I had suddenly, miraculously overcome my tendency toward altitude sickness.

Fools take note: One positive experience does not make a new precedent. It can actually just be one positive experience—a fluke.

But I wanted to see my Mississippi-based friends Lauren and Spencer so badly that I conveniently assumed altitude was no longer a threat to me. After all, they would be vacationing in a cabin in the northern mountains of Georgia, a mere three-hour drive from my doorstep. How could I miss this opportunity?

We would have a blast together, I told myself, like we always do when we spitfires get together—a collective energy that only three extroverted intuitives can build off each other. I don't get altitude sickness anymore! Hooray!

Now that I'm home, I can surely say it's nothing short of a miracle that we actually had a good time, because two-thirds of us felt as though we were on death's door—one-third of that fraction being me.

No, I don't think I'd ever had altitude sickness this bad—and I was only at 2,400 ft elevation at the highest pass. We're talking much lower than Yosemite or Cuzco/Macchu Picchu. The sick and twisted new precedent here is that I had the worst altitude sickness of my life.

My first night, I developed tremors like a Parkinson's patient, a migraine, and in the middle of the night, a drawn-out dry-heaving episode in my cozy little RV at the RV park down the road from Lauren and Spencer's cabin.

I felt as though my brain was being smashed with a sledgehammer, and I couldn't move from my fetal, dry-heaving position. I really couldn't move, I was practically paralyzed. I just wanted to die. I literally, honestly wanted to die.

Fake smiles - you can't tell how sick we were

For the few days I was there, I did not acclimate. I couldn't eat; I had no appetite. The migraine didn't go away. I had air hunger like you wouldn't believe (a term Lymies use to describe the feeling like no matter how deep you breathe, you're not getting enough air). My heart rate was insanely high. I thought my heart would pop out of my chest at any moment.

My plans to visit Asheville, NC, after Georgia had to be cancelled. Luckily the whole region is close to home. But the drive home—boy oh boy, that was something. I was in the thick of my PMDD, the week-before-menstruation window in which I become a raging monster every month. 

I was driving through switchback after switchback in a big ol' heavy RV. The roads were one lane by one lane. I was the asshole driver everyone hated, because I had to slow down significantly to make each turn. Cars kept passing me. I could barely see straight. I still had tremors. 

To make matters worse, a heavy downpour swept right into my path. During the storm, I found a cozy graveyard in which to pull over and unwind. And by "unwind", I mean, have a meltdown. A full on, self-screaming match.

A migraine on top of nausea on top of full-body toxicity, and no neurotransmitter support—no dopamine, no serotonin, no endorphins, just an obscene amount of rage. It took more than five hours to drive 180 miles. In case I haven't emphasized just how sick I was, I was insanely, ridiculously sick. I think you get the point.

Back in the comforts of my home, I called my uber-intuitive reiki master and dowser friend, Amy. She indicated to me through her energetic diagnostic tests that I was having a Babesia flare—one of my coinfections that thrives in low oxygen environments (i.e. high altitude). writes on their website: "Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body tissues. The Babesia parasite attaches, penetrates and lives within the red blood cells. Because of this, these parasites produce an immune-mediated disease. This results when the dog’s immune system destroys its own red blood cells in an attempt to kill the Babesia organism. This condition is called hemolytic anemia. The resulting low numbers of red blood cells and lack of oxygen cause weakness and lethargy in dogs."

I actually had a hunch I might be having a Babesia flare before I left Knoxville to go on my trip. I'd been off my Babesia medications for a long time due to their horrible side effects and my skepticism toward the medications' ability to fully eradicate microbes from anyone's system.

As it turns out, I may have made an already-bad situation (Babesia) worse by going into altitude. And, doing it during the week before my period just made an already worse-than-bad situation even worse. (Since being home, I gave in and got back on my Babesia medications again.)

I'm scared to stop doing things. You know, actually doing things. Living. It scares me that my body is this sensitive, and seems to just increase in sensitivity with time. I'm afraid that, once I start avoiding living a normal life, I'll give up on that passion that fuels me, and my excitability will be gone. I'm scared I'll become even more of a loner than I am, resigned to the illness. I don't want to stop having adventures.

After three years and three months of managing and treating this complex labyrinth that is Lyme, I'm still trying to figure my body out. Sometimes I can't say no, while other times it comes more easily.

My sister called a couple days ago. She'll be working with Syrian refugees in Turkey for a few months, and wants to take a weekend trip to Italy to visit some of our cousins. She asked if I'd like to go to Italy with her for a few days.

My actual response was, "Are you out of your goddamn mind? Do you know how sick I am?"

See, I'm learning :)


  1. Woah! Just read your article because I'm trying to learn of any connections between altitude and my own Lyme. It's nuts how widespread it can get. I'm glad you poured all this out. I just wrote my own blog about my experience with Lyme of 3 years now:

  2. I will be going to the infectious disease Dr. On Dec 6th to see what is going on!