In the 5 weeks since our family doctor realized that the amount of thyroid replacement medicine Jimmie was prescribed had become toxic to him, Jimmie has improved some. Learning that his heart had not been damaged was fantastic news! Getting his blood pressure back into normal range and fluctuation was also a huge relief! But overall the improvement in how he feels has been like an incredibly slow roller-coaster. One day his exhaustion, shortness of breath and dizziness recedes enough that he is sure recovery has arrived. The next day they hit him again with a vengeance. So we were not surprised at all last week when Jimmie's newest blood panels showed that the current level of thyroid med is STILL toxic. The dosage was reduced again - still high but not as high. This slow backdown on the drug has seemed very strange to me since it is a drug-overdose that is making him sick, but the fear that a cancer cell could be lurking somewhere in his body was the reason given.
However, we were very surprised by another level in Jimmie's recent bloodwork. 5 weeks ago the doctor told Jimmie that he was slightly anemic - not enough to get concerned about, just something that would need checking when everything else got corrected. I read up about anemia online and learned that it was likely responsible for all of his symptoms. I also learned that it is always caused by something else and the short list of causes included hyperthyroidism - so the overdose of med was probably responsible for the shortage of hemoglobin as well. But last week the anemia had gotten worse - definitely not what we expected - and suddently our family doctor was very concerned. Now he is on a quest to be sure that Jimmie isn't loosing blood internally, so Jimmie will be having 2 different procedures on Tuesday to check for that. The doctor agreed that the medicine is probably still the culprit, but he doesn't want to assume that and possibly miss another, more urgent cause.
Our doctor was also very concerned about Jimmie's planned campaign trip to Africa for the month of August. Departure on August 1st is just 4 weeks away and, as the doctor pointed out, Jimmie's condition isn't stable yet. Flying off to remote areas of Zambia and Ghana where medical facilities are either substandard or nonexistent would not be a good move. He also told us that if the anemia gets worse again Jimmie will be needing blood transfusions and with 40% of the African population HIV positive, that is NOT the place to get one of those. Jimmie pointed out that he does have MedJet insurance that would fly him to a better hospital if needed - probably South Africa - but I'm afraid our doctor was not impressed with that as an option. Neither was I. And really, neither was Jimmie, but it is hard for a missionary to give up a planned mission trip. His heart has been in missions since our first campaign to Ghana in 1983, and working in Africa has been one of his greatest joys for just as long. Still, Jimmie understood the wisdom of getting his body healed before heading there again. At his doctor's recommendation Jimmie is reluctantly cancelling his campaign to Africa for 2011.
Disappointed but not undone, Jimmie is already talking about 2012.