I am hereby declaring myself the posterchild (woman? lady? Posterlady?) of Gitelman Syndrome.
What the deuce is Gitelman Syndrome, you ask? Well friends, it’s a kidney disorder and frankly, one that need a sexier name if we are ever to make progress towards curing it, or at the very least giving it’s sufferers $250,000 for the injustice (the injustice!) of it all.
In medical jargon, Gitelman Syndrome is a rare inherited autosomal-recessive disorder affecting the distal convoluted tubles of the kidneys, resulting in hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia.
In laymans terms, I can blame my parents and a freak roll of the genetic dice for giving me kidneys with a defective part, one that wastes Magnesium and Potassium instead of keeping them. These are, in case you didn’t know, pretty important minerals, responsible for muscle development, mood, and energy levels among other things. OH, and ensuring that your heart keeps beating…yeah, THAT.
The picture at the top is what happens when either I a) don’t take my medication properly, every single day, or b) drink excessively, sweat excessively, get too stressed out, eat too much black licorice (It wastes potassium, didn’t you know dear?) and sometimes for no good reason, just because.
In my day-to-day life this condition mostly just means that I take 12-20 pills a day and usually feel really, really tired. Which really isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of things, but it can be disheartening because I find myself in an odd spot. On one hand, I don’t want to be constantly thought of as ill, or deficient in some way. On the other hand, the utter invisibility of this illness can sometimes make it hard for others, (and for me, if I’m honest) to remember that I am living with 50-75% of the energy that a normal person has, and that this simple fact affects literally every aspect of who I am, and what I am able to accomplish.
The reason I am writing this post is because this tiny defective kidney tubule has affected my life more than I initially thought it would and thus it will, occasionally affect what I write here. I also hope that, given it’s relative rarity (only 6000 people have this condition in North America) this can help one or two people who may be googling “What the fuck is Gitelman Syndrome?” and are scared and ill-informed about what is happening to their bodies, their energy levels, their memories.
I can’t even explain how unsettling it is to arrive at the ER and have to instruct the doctor what medication to give you, to see her frantically web-searching your condition, trying to understand why you can’t open your hands or coherently express yourself.
Having said all of that, I am very, very grateful that this disorder has a treatment, as many others aren’t so fortunate, and although it can be frustrating to take so many pills every day (especially the ones that have a sharp, bitter peppermint taste and especially the giant ones that start disintegrating the moment they hit my tongue, so I am swallowing -a la Alanis- a gag-inducing, jagged not-so-little pill) at least there ARE pills. And at least I am in Canada where they cost me only $60 a month, instead of the hundreds they would if I didn’t have healthcare.
And at least if I commit a crime in Texas and am given the death penalty and have a lethal injection , it won’t kill me because, guys, I get IV’s of that shit all the time and it ONLY MAKES ME STRONGER.