Interview 10 – Michael Coulombe

On Monday, March 19, 2018 my life changed. In reality though it really changed on January 11, two months prior when, on that beautifully warm day in Los Angeles, I passed out while driving on the 134 freeway.

Thankfully I was stuck in traffic. If not, I could have crashed or hit another car. I was on the phone with my business partner Taylor J. Martin. I believe the incident happened shortly after that.

But let me begin at the beginning. I worked out that morning – the morning of January 11, 2018. Finally decided that I wanted to do more cardio than I normally do. I usually focus more on weight lifting. For some reason, that morning, I didn’t. I felt good, left the gym with a spring in my step. Came home, made a pot of coffee, had a light breakfast and went to my room to get some work done. A couple of hours later, grabbed a very light lunch and got in my car to run some errands.  It was a warm day – unusually warm for that time of year. I had the windows rolled up since I was on the phone.  I hung up. That was all I remembered.

Well actually, that is not entirely accurate. I do remember seeing all black. In my mind I thought I was sleeping, like rolling over in bed and realizing it wasn’t time to wake yet. Except in the back of mine I couldn’t remember going to bed. It felt a bit…odd. So I opened my eyes – and realized I was sitting in my car – in traffic! Wait! Why am I in my car? Where am I going? And why do I feel so tired and lethargic? I did notice I was stopped, which was good, since I could barely move. I was trying to focus. Oh my God, am I having a stroke? That was my first thought.

Finally my senses starting to kick in. I was gaining clarity. I needed to call someone to make sure I could speak – or function – or do anything, really. Traffic started to move a bit. I could see sirens in the distance from the accident that had caused our delay. I was grateful that they were there, not so far away, should I need them.  I called Taylor, again.

He answered. ‘Taylor, I just passed out.’ I was frantic. ‘What do you mean, you passed out?’ I mean, it’s not that he didn’t believe me; but we had literally just talked! ‘Yeah,’ I continued, ‘I mean as soon as I hung up with you I passed out. I only remember waking up.’ My heart was racing but at least I could speak, I could function, and that made me happy!

A few days later I saw my doctor. Someone just doesn’t pass out for no reason. I don’t have a history of fainting. So naturally my doctor was concerned. We ran a series of blood work and found my blood pressure was a bit high and I was suffering from a bit of anxiety. I was about to shoot a feature film and then travel to London for my birthday – so perhaps I was a bit overwhelmed. My doctor prescribed Atenolol just to help me ease my heart rate. It helped! I had a great time in Europe, flew home, and right away went back into more tests.

But my doctor noticed my iron level was high. Like very high. Abnormally high. Normally where I should be at a 250 to 300 count, I came in at 850. I was tested again and that number did not change. So the hematologist decided to have me tested for something else – something I was unfamiliar with. And test for the HFE gene – a test, which came back positive. On March 19, 2018 I tested positive for hereditary hemochromatosis.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron. The iron then builds up in the blood, liver, heart, pancreas, joints, skin, and other organs. This can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, heart failure, diabetes…and many other things. There Is no cure and the only treatments are cutting iron out of the diet – and periodical – if not frequent – phlebotomies, where they drain your blood to lower the iron count.

I am scared. I am actually terrified. I have never had a chronic disease before and I am aware how significant this is in regards to my health. It’s life changing. It’s something I will have to monitor the rest of my life. I am trying to look at this as an adventure – because if I don’t I could lose myself – and that scares me too.

So I have only lived with this for a few days. It’s still new and overwhelming, and scary. I have only begun this journey in my life. My parent’s will get tested to see if they carry the jean. My twin sister will get tested to see if she carries the gene. My nephews will get tested as well. And I only talk about it because it’s something I need to own. I feel that if I own it then I will work harder to fight it, be less afraid of it, and make the necessary changes in my life to be healthier, stronger, and happier.

19 thoughts on “Interview 10 – Michael Coulombe

  1. Wow Mikey I love the way you will be facing this “adventure” head on and educate yourself and anyone else that might need some reassurance…as you know my husband and son are facing there own “adventure” and are now able to look this straight in the eye and say “you will not control my entire life” but deal with it on a daily basis and live life to the fullest each and every day…Remember your family loves you so dearly and are always here if you need anything or if you just need to talk. You are one of gods special people!!

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  2. While you feel terrified, trust that I have faith that this will become one your many triumphs in life. You will overcome this. You have many amazing things that lie ahead of you, and I plan to celebrate it all with you. You are brave and strong, and I’m so proud to call you my friend. If you need anything, I will be there for you.

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    1. Hi Michael,
      I am sorry to hear this news, but let’s look at it another way too. Now that you know, you are able to monitor and control it. The alternative would’ve been passing out and driving 55 to 60 mi an hour eventually crashing. Who knows what the outcome of that could’ve been. Now you are able to help save more lives by having your family tested. I shared with you a while ago about my cancer (still in remission). When I first found out I was dumbfounded. But then I became pro active researching & pouncing on what I needed to do. The alternative was not knowing or doing nothing. And being that it was invasive, it could have spread leading to a different outcome.
      So I just want you to take a deep breath let it all sink in then bite into it lik an apple. Don’t let it bite you! It really sucks that it is a gene that all your family may or may not have, but you have given them a gift of knowing!
      Love you buddy & if you ever need to talk, I am here. This will make you even stronger than you already are.
      Diana

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to hear it is no longer a mystery. Nothing like running many tests and still not have an answer.
    Sounds like something your nephews doctor will need to know. If you guys are close, become gym buddies and keep each other accountable.

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  4. So sorry to hear that Michael. Take care. You’re such a wonderful person, and deserve unlimited health and happiness.

    Much love,

    Daria

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  5. Thank you for sharing this Michael! I’m glad you immediately went to your doctor and he/she was able to give you answers. Sounds like you will continue to do everything that is needed to stay healthy. Sending hugs and positive vibes!

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  6. Glad to have you still with us bud. Fortunately the circumstances were (ironically) on your side that day — meaning the ambulance was not coming for you.

    Thank you for being brave and open about your harrowing experience. I would encourage you to revisit that day and write more in private about your experience with the “blackness”; sounds like fodder for a new sci-fi/horror/thriller film.

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  7. Hello Michael welcome to the world of true ‘iron men!’ (and women in my case..) I’ve been following you and others on the IDI website and really glad you found it–these people are the bomb, the experts, compassionate and helpful (and sometimes funny!) i too have hemochromatosis the C282Y homogenous gene. one from each parent (they’re still squabbling over which of them gave it to me) the good news is the hard part of this is behind you–you’ve been tested and diagnosed – it takes some people years and years to discover this-and the better news is that it is completely a treatable disorder.
    the bad news for those of us (me) who are needlephoebic
    is that 16th century leeching is difficult to find these days (although there is a company in Wales who do sell the wriggly critters i have high hopes for) and for the remainder of our lives will need to learn to be stuck with big ass needles every month or so.
    But that’s really it, just study up, keep learning, you’ve found a wonderful resource for this and if, in your studying, you find a method to do this in which i don’t throw up, faint, or feel completely crappy for 24 hours before and after–PLEASE share!!
    I still eat red meat and drink wine-just not as much as before
    and i watch my blood testing numbers avidly (and yes i throw up faint blah blah at Quest also)
    always test the same time of day and always fast (no matter what the doctor says) drink fluids the day before and on the day of the phlebotomy have a small low fat meal about an hour before. Don’t take vitamin C supplements and no vitamin C
    within 3 hours of eating (it helps absorb iron) so no orange juice
    at breakfast.
    good luck! enjoyable ‘chatting’ with you…..
    Kerry

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