Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Real Pain in the Leg

Everyone gets a muscle cramp from time to time. For me, it's usually the calf of my leg and I can relieve it by eating a banana (for the potassium) and walking or stretching. They are uncomfortable but no big deal.

That was before I had end-stage liver disease. Muscle cramps became one of the most challenging, if not the worst, symptom I experienced when I was sick.

Four or five months before my liver transplant, I began having bad muscle cramps in my legs and feet. Really bad cramps, whose frequency and severity increased as time passed. Then I began having them in my hands, too. These "cramp attacks" happened without warning at all times of the day and night. Night cramps were the worst, because they would jolt me out of my sleep (and I wasn't sleeping well then, so it was insult to injury) and keep me up for an average of one to two HOURS. Yes, you read that right: hours.

I never really understood what caused the cramps. Thinking that the diuretics I took (because of water retention) had depleted my body of potassium, I ate bananas, but no luck. My doc prescribed potassium supplements, muscle relaxants and sleeping meds, but no luck. Someone suggested tonic water; again, no relief. Actually, nothing made the cramps stop.

The cramps were so bad that there were times when I couldn't go up and down the stairs in our townhouse. On other occasions, my husband had to help me dress because I couldn't bend my leg to put on pants or socks. And losing sleep because of the cramps was insult to injury.

The cramps subsided only after my liver transplant and I haven't had one since. But more than two years later, I still recall how miserable they made me. I'm glad they're gone!

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