These ramblings aren’t going to be very random. They’re really about one thing…the fact that I ended up in the hospital recently.
At the beginning of the month (March 1, my husband’s birthday!) I was admitted to the hospital with a pulmonary embolism (PE). The doctors believe I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in my left leg that traveled to my lungs and stuck. Let me tell you, it is PAINFUL! Like, as much pain as when I went through childbirth, but being afraid I’m about to die instead of having the happy ending of a baby.
I debated on if I’d discuss this here, but decided I should since I want to use it as a public service announcement. I ignored many signs. I acted as many women act by pushing my own health aside for things I felt I needed to get done. Let me explain.
About a week or two before I got admitted to the hospital I woke up with some intense pain in my left leg. I have varicose veins and my legs tend to get achy, I had recently started working out more (mostly Body Pump, yoga, and other low impact aerobics), it’s winter so I don’t get out to walk barely at all…these are all reasons I ignored this pain. Not to mention, the pain would abate as I moved around during the day. In fact, I felt so much better after working out that it was a motivator for me to not skip a day. This went on for almost a week so I decided that I’d contact the doctor if it still felt that way after the weekend. I felt so much better on Monday that I promptly pushed it out of my mind.
On Friday, February 28, I was very run down feeling and had a headache brewing. I’ve lived my life with bad tension headaches almost daily and migraines a few times a year so didn’t think much of it, but skipped my workout. I had a pain in my left upper chest/shoulder/neck area and assumed I twisted something during a previous work out. By Friday evening I was having a lot of pain and was pretty miserable. Still, I assumed I had a pinched nerve or strained muscle.
Saturday I woke up in pain, but it didn’t seem as bad as Friday night. As the day went on, it got worse again. I took a nap at one point, and while it was painful while I was trying to lay down, once I found a good position I was okay and fell asleep. Yet I was sitting in the recliner with a heating pad on my shoulder region by that night, thinking I would have to call the doctor on Monday if the pain stayed. It was getting pretty intense. I was determined to feel better by morning since it was going to be my husband’s birthday. Although I asked my son and daughter-in-law to make him a Jell-O cake (the only cake he’ll eat, minus the whipped topping), I still didn’t want to be laid up for his birthday. When we went to go to bed I could not lay down. That is not an exaggeration. I was in so much pain every time I tried to lay down, I couldn’t breath, I was panicking which made it worse. My poor husband didn’t know what to do for me.
I went to the living room to try to sleep on the recliner. I told my husband that we’d go to urgent care in the morning if I still felt crappy. I ended up kind of stuck in the recliner because my husband had helped me get set up to sleep and I told him I wanted the leg rest up. Well, my body ended up not liking that after a while and wanted to be straight up. I did not have the energy or strength to put the leg rest down and it’s a big recliner, so it was very hard for me to maneuver in my pain. Yes, my husband was sleeping with his phone right next to his head in case I needed him. No, I didn’t want to wake him up. In hindsight, that was stupid.
I finally got myself to the couch and propped myself the best I could with pillows to sit as upright as possible but still try to get some sleep. If I was asleep I wouldn’t feel the pain, right? In the morning, there was a part of my brain that KNEW I should go to the ER, but I didn’t want the medical bill if I was wrong. Yes, you read that correctly. I was afraid of how much the ER would cost if they sent me home with a pinched nerve. The urgent care I wanted to go to didn’t open until ten, but there was another that opened at 8 nearby. The one that opened later is attached to a medical center that has CT scans, X-rays, all that stuff I may need. It was just before 8 when my husband had enough and said we weren’t waiting any longer and took me to the urgent care.
Of course, urgent care sent me to the ER with a possible blood clot. Called ahead to tell them I was coming and everything. I’ll tell you what, there’s not as much sitting around and waiting in a hospital when they think you’re about to throw a clot! In fact, they told me they’d give me something for the pain but the people for CT picked me up before they could.
Have you ever had a CT scan? Yeah, you have to lay flat on your back. By now, this is almost an impossibility for me. My breaths are extremely shallow, there are tears pouring from my eyes, and I’m making this odd keening sound that I can’t seem to control. I felt bad for the ladies giving me the test because I know they felt terrible when they laid me down. They tried working as fast as possible and knew it would be almost a miracle to have me hold my breath like they ask you to during the scans. By the time the scan was done and they were wheeling me back to my area in the ER, I was in that state where I could have been completely nude being wheeled through the hospital and I wouldn’t give a crap. I just needed to get rid of the pain.
I was given morphine almost immediately upon my return, but it took a very long time to really make a difference. I’m talking about 2 hours, and it only took the edge off. And it was as everyone suspected, a blood clot in my lungs. In other words, a pulmonary embolism. Shocking to me is that it’s in my right lung where all my pain is in the left. I was told that is normal, a person can feel the pain in either side.
To shorten this already very long story, I’m home now. In fact, I was home by Tuesday evening. The morphine and norco didn’t work for me, but once one of the doctors realized that I just didn’t take well to that class of drug she switched it up and helped me immensely. Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how much my pain should lessen with the other drugs so didn’t question the amount of pain I was still in at the time. Apparently, my body enjoys Toradol much more than the harder stuff.
They have no idea why I got the clot in the first place so I’ll be going through some tests with the hematologist to determine if I have a blood disorder. My mom and grandma both had clots, but that was back in the 70s and earlier so they weren’t tested for the same things they do now. I was taken off the birth control I have been taking for about 9 months to help with my pre-menopause symptoms. I was on birth control with no issues like this for many years in my teens and early 20s, but they want to be cautious and so do I! You guys, I just turned 46. I just had my first grand baby. I am not ready to hang it up yet.
For now, I’m tired and nauseous and have a headache. I’m sure some of that has to do with the blood thinners I’m on. My body has to adjust. I have absolutely no stamina. Here it is, a week later, and I am not ready to attempt to drive anywhere. I’ve walked to the corner and back, very slowly, a couple of times. That corner is less than a quarter mile away and I am beat by the time we get home. And yes, I said we…because I’m not about to attempt to do that by myself and pass out on some neighbors front lawn while everyone is at work.
So ladies (and gents), take your body’s cues seriously. I can’t tell you how many doctors have told me how lucky I am to be alive. I didn’t want to ruin my husband’s birthday, instead I gave him the worse birthday to date. They tell me it will be 2-4 weeks before the pain is really gone. It only hurts when I try to yawn or stretch (I still can’t take a deep breath, but it’s much deeper than before) or sneeze so I’m hoping it won’t be the full 4 weeks. The one that gets me though…most people don’t have their stamina back until 8 weeks or more! I’m already going stir crazy after a week! I didn’t think I was a very active person, but sitting and doing nothing is incredibly boring.
And let me tell you, I wasn’t even able to get much reading done in the first days of this since I was in too much pain to concentrate at all. Even now, my mind is torn in a million directions. But I’ll get back to my usual reading “schedule” soon. The weather is starting to turn a bit warmer around here and I’m looking forward to doing some of my convalescing in my backyard with a fresh breeze.