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.