Thursday, May 28, 2009

High potassium alert

For my latest adventure in post-transplant complications, I have been dealing with high potassium. Once again, I pose the question: Who knew?

This results when the kidneys do not filter out potassium as well as they should. My kidney function continues to improve, but after what I went through this winter, they are apparently not up to speed in this department. The number was high for two weeks in a row. The treatment was drinking this awful concoction that gives you the runs, plus taking in more fluids and avoiding high potassium foods, which actually cover a wide range.

Complications from high potassium can include arrhythmias, cardiac arrest and changes in nerve and muscle control. My potassium was not so high as to be extremely concerned, (5.8 out of a normal range of 3.5-5.0), but it was high enough to do something about it. Yesterday I took an extra dose of the lovely medicine, and today it was back to normal -- 4.8. I will need to take the medicine twice a week and monitor my potassium intake.

I wasn't that worried, but when I learned that the kidneys are responsible, I did have a flashback to those days in the winter when I was on dialysis and my kidneys were failing. Once you have had a problem in a certain area, you are always hyper-alert to possible signs of a flare-up.

My platelets were 18 today (out of a normal range of 155-410). They seem to be at least staying in the teens instead of going down to single digits, and Dr. Alyea was pleased. He said I might be able to decrease soon from two visits a week to one. "But we have to get those platelets out of the teens!" I said. "One step at a time," he replied. Ooops. Thanks for reminding me. One step at a time, I went to the infusion room and got a bag of platelets.

You might be surprised at the long list of foods that are high in potassium:
• Apricots, canned and fresh
• Banana
• Cantaloupe
• Dried fruits - apricots, dates, figs, prunes
• Honeydew melon
• Kiwi
• Nectarine
• Orange
• Orange Juice
• Pear, fresh
• Prune Juice
• Asparagus
• Avocado
• Bamboo Shoots
• Beets
• Beet Greens
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage, Chinese
• Celery
• Chard
• Kohlrabi
• Okra
• Pepper, Chili
• Potatoes, white and sweet
• Pumpkin
• Rutabaga
• Spinach, cooked
• Squash, winter
• Tomato
• Tomato sauce
• Tomato juice
• Vegetable juice cocktail
• Black-eyed Peas
• Chick Peas
• Lentils
• Lima Beans
• Navy Beans
• Red Kidney Beans
• Soybeans
• Split Peas
Nuts and Seeds
• Almonds
• Brazil Nuts
• Cashews
• Peanuts
• Peanut Butter
• Pecans
• Pumpkin Seeds
• Sunflower Seeds
• Walnuts
Breads and Cereals
• Bran
• Whole Grain
• Chocolate
• Cocoa
• Coconut
• Milk and Milk Products
• Molasses
• Substitute Salt


Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Hi Ronnie,

One step at a time, one day at a time...

The list of potassium-containing foods is long. Maybe it would be helpful to make a second list: foods that are allowed, with the ones you like best at the top.

Sending wishes for continued healing your way. With continued, unwavering hope, Wendy

PJ said...

Who knew is right! I'm sorry you have to experience another weird symptom (I call it "material), but by writing about it you alert others to the crazy things that can happen.

Thanks for the list. Since I'm low on potassium, I'll try to eat more of those foods.

Marty said...

Hi Ronnie,
It seems that this is a list that would make the meatpackers union pretty happy. Who knew that beef jerky can be a health food in certain situations?!!
I now have 3 phrases that get me through:
a)One day at a time.
b)Boring is good. (ergo, exciting news is not)
c)Keep on breathing.

I hope it helps to know that you're not alone; we're all holding hands in cyberspace.

PJ's husband

Ann said...

Your potassium don't list is nearly identical to my magnesium do list. It's a strange and varied amount of knowledge that we have to compile and keep up with. Hang in there, home is just a few steps away.

Susan C said...

I am amazed at the number of foods high in potassium.

I hope you find something yummy and low in potassium to eat this weekend.

Nelle said...

Right after my heart surgery I had an extra thirty pounds of fluid. The solution was lasix...except that my potassium bottomed out. No problem they gave me potassium pills. Then I began to have a racing heart and shaking and I had to have the medicine because I had too much potassium. I still take lasix ocassionally and it's always a fine line with the potassium. Since being diabetic most potassium rich foods are a no no except for asparagus which I love. Oh the ins and outs of correct balance for the body. Hoping you will soon be able to consume the list of potassium rich foods.

Ken Ross said...

Your writing skills definitely seem to be strong and healthy.

Hang in there.

Talk to you soon.


Anonymous said...

What? High potassium- I learn something new all the time. I have heard of low potassium and the serious side effects of low potassium but obviously having it too high is serious as well.
You know, it stinks- you are allowed to feel a little annoyed (I would) and think "what next?". To take medicine that makes you sick is always tough- it is hard to put something in your body that you know will make you feel bad and give you the runs when you are trying to maintain energy and nutrition.

Keep going girl. This is not an easy path and your body has been through so much. Rest rest rest. Be kind to yourself you are doing great.