The One in Which I Land in the HospitalDawn Meehan
A little back story – I have a genetic clotting disorder. It makes my blood more likely to clot than the average person’s. In 2005, when I was pregnant with Brooklyn, my leg became painful and swollen. I went to the ER where they did an ultrasound of my leg and discovered that I had a dozen blood clots in a superficial vein as well as a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). DVTs are scary because a clot can dislodge and travel to your lung causing a pulmonary embolism which can be fatal. I was in the hospital for a couple days while my doctor started blood thinners. I continued to give myself shots of blood thinners in my abdomen throughout my pregnancy. After I gave birth, my hematologist switched me to Coumadin which I took for a few months. A repeat ultrasound a few months after I’d given birth showed the clot to be dissolved so I was able to stop taking the blood thinners.
While I was in the hospital with the DVT, I mentioned to my doctor how my sister had had a PE (pulmonary embolism) while she was only in her 20s. This raised red flags, so the doctor did some blood work which revealed the inherited clotting disorder.
Fast forward to the present. Soon after driving to Chicago and back, I started feeling pain in my leg. I could tell I was developing blood clots again. I didn’t know if it was just superficial thrombophlebitis or a DVT, but given my history, I wasn’t about to mess around with it so I went to the ER. The ER doctors did an ultrasound of my leg and didn’t find any DVTs; just two blood clots in a superficial vein. They told me to see a vascular surgeon to see about getting my varicose veins taken care of. Then they prescribed pain meds and anti-inflammatories, and told me to go home because my leg would get better in a couple days.
It not only didn’t get better, but it got much, much worse.
A few days later, I stopped by my primary care doctor’s office and explained the situation to the nurse. I asked her if the doctor would see me because my leg was getting worse and the vascular doctor couldn’t see me for weeks. I cried that I didn’t know what to do. She spoke with the doctor and returned to tell me that the doctor didn’t want to see me because she couldn’t do anything to help me. Instead, she gave me the names of two other vascular doctors who might be able to get me in sooner. No dice.
So, five days after my initial ER visit, I went back to the emergency room. I explained the situation, filled them in on my history, and showed them my leg which was solid phlebitis from my ankle to my knee by this time. Again, the ER doctors ordered an ultrasound of my leg and again, they didn’t see a DVT. They prescribed different pain medication and antibiotics because the doctor thought I had a cellulitis infection even though it was really just the inflammation from the phlebitis. They told me to go home and make an appointment to be seen by a vascular surgeon in one or two days.
I called six different vascular docs and not one of them could fit me in before the end of the month. And once again, not only did it not get better, but it got much, much worse. This morning the blood clots in my superficial vein were running from my ankle to mid-thigh. My whole leg was extremely painful. But even more disturbing was the fact that I was out of breath while sweeping my lanai. I don’t get out of breath sweeping! I can walk 5K at least 3.5 mph without getting winded these days. I felt funny. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but I didn’t feel “right.” I felt very anxious and panicky if that makes any sense. Like I was having a big adrenaline rush.
The idea that I might have a blood clot that had gone to my lung went through my mind. But, my friend Eric had told me this morning that his dad had a PE because of the surgery he just had. I figured my supposed symptoms were only my imagination because of what Eric had told me about his dad. Still, given the state of my leg and my history, I wasn’t going to ignore it. Better safe than sorry, right? I went back to the ER.
They called me before everyone else in the waiting room, took some blood, and ushered me to a room. In no time at all, I had an IV, an ultrasound of my leg, and a chest xray. A few minutes later, I was whisked away for a CT scan of my lungs.
As it turns out, I have a blood clot in my lung. Somehow, two different hospitals, on two different occasions, missed the DVT. It broke lose and lodged in my lung. Right now I’m thanking God that I didn’t die. I’m so happy to be alive that I don’t even mind my hospital roommate with dementia who keeps asking me when my baby is due (in between screaming nonsense to no one in particular).
So, I’ll be here in the hospital for a while, I guess, while the blood thinners do their job. It really sucks to live so far away from family at a time like this, but I’m super thankful to have older kids who are responsible and who I can trust to care for the little ones until someone can help out. And I’m super thankful for my friend Cheri who not only brought me clothes, my computer, and Twistee Treat, but who also stayed with me and got air freshener while my roommate used her bedpan. That seems to be tradition because when I was hospitalized with a DVT five years ago, my sister stayed with me and got air freshener while my roommate used her bedpan repeatedly for her colonoscopy in the morning. I know, I know, try to contain your jealousy.
Well, I’m off to get some sleep before someone pokes me, or, heaven forbid, my roommate wakes up screaming that someone’s flying under her bed again.