This past week has been Spring Break in my area of South Texas. Everyone has been making plans, going somewhere or just planning to relax at home. “Spring Break” doesn’t really mean anything to me. No kids, no one heading to visit us… it was just another week on the calendar. Well, that was what I thought. From my post last week you learned about my many limitations.
I really need to back up to the end of January when this all started. I had a complete hysterectomy. It was necessary and unavoidable. There was no way I could leave either ovary because of tumors (happy to report they were benign!) I can get real technical and use all the medical explanations, but I will keep it simple for now. Complete hysterectomy. Done. Most of us know that there is always a risk with any surgery; big or small. Most of us know that sometimes there are complications. For me, those things are always in the back of my mind.
I am in tune with my body. I always have been. I can tell if something just isn’t quite right and I am not afraid to go have it checked out. I grew up in a household with a doctor (my mom) and I was always interested in things so when someone would get sick, I payed attention and learned. If someone I know gets sick or diagnosed with something, I tend to do research and learn more about it. When I head into a doctor’s appointment I come with a notebook and questions.
I was just starting to get out and do things over the past two weeks. Starting to do a bit of grocery shopping and able to push a lightly–loaded cart. A week ago Friday was a busy day for me. I had several stops and errands. Spring Break week was to be busy. A friend and I were doing a presentation on the Herb of the Year – Elder (sambucus or elderberry) to a group of Master Gardeners. I had a field trip and lunch arranged for the garden club I am in. My friend and I were doing our Elder presentation for the local Herb Society. Busy week. Samples to make, etc. Friday I was wrapping up loose ends with all these stops and errands.
Just a short walk to the truck was hard. I was short of breath and having chest pain. I knew it wasn’t my heart, it was my lungs. My mind thinks; blood clots or walking pneumonia, but I don’t have other symptoms other then the shortness of breath and lung pain. I ran a few more errands and I didn’t feel any better so I headed home. Saturday there was no change so I headed over to the local Urgent Care. They didn’t do any scans of x-rays, they suspected the same thing I did – blood clot. Again, since I only a few symptoms, they basically gave me two options – to head to the newly built ER or head down into town to the hospital where I had my hysterectomy to that ER because it would be one less transfer if I needed to be admitted. They stressed that the hospital ER might be my best choice because all my information was in their system including my medical insurance and it would save time. Down the road to the hospital I went (you guessed it, I drove myself)
I was quickly ushered into triage. After they listened to my “story” (hysterectomy, shortness of breath, etc) they asked me if I worked in the medical profession. Nope, that’s just me. They were all taking bets that it was a blood clot (I just didn’t know that at the time) and off for a CT scan I went. Then all the commotion started. The scan showed that I had a very large pulmonary saddle emboli (really big blood clot hanging out between both lung at the heart.) That is not good! Then I had ultra sounds of both legs where numerous more blood clots where found. Just then my husband arrived. They were sending me off to have a filter installed (an IVC filter – Intra Vena Cava -a filter put in below the lungs and heart above the kidneys to catch and break up the additional clots that were traveling up.) The staff that had not seen me were looking for my husband to sign on sent forms. The doctors said I could sign my own forms because I was “conscious and alert” (because for the size of the clot, I really shouldn’t have been – just another symptom I didn’t have.) Filter installed smoothly. Time to head up to ICU and settle in.
From the reactions of the doctors and nurses in the ER and every doctor I met and checked in with me and followed me in ICU, there is a consensus that I am lucky to be here. Once the ER docs saw my CT results they couldn’t believe I was conscious and coherent because I didn’t have any other symptoms and haven’t had any of the other symptoms like:
- Swelling in my legs
- Heat in my legs from the clots
- Pain in my legs from the clots or when they examined them
So my Spring Break was an unplanned trip heading towards the big city, a room with a view on the 5th floor (ICU), room services three times a day. Amenities and bonuses are just too long to list so here are just a few (and of course not free for charge)
- Bed Pan – because I am not allowed out of bed at all! (by the way, those things just DO NOT work at all. Not at all!)
- Blood pressure cuff going off every 15 minutes all day and night (I know it is important, I can live with it)
- 6 electrodes stuck to my chest with all the wires going everywhere
- IV (Intravenous/drip) catheter – for me, this hurts alllll the time.
- Blood thinning medications
- A low-sodium, low vitamin K, cardiac diet (ahhhh my garden is full of vit. K - KALE, SPINACH, BROCCOLI – that’s not on the coumadin list)*
- A adjustable bed (wow, they did let me move enough to operate that one on my own!)
- Cable TV (a treat – watched the Food Network mostly – what a surprise)
I have a long recovery ahead of me. I can walk about as fast as a snail’s pace fairly well right now. Anything faster and I am super short of breath and have terrible pain in my lungs. Walking and talking around completely out of the question, my oxygen saturation drops below 90 (not good) and I need oxygen (which I have at home and use as needed during the day and use all night.) Since I can’t walk and talk at the same time, you can see how how chewing gum is completely out of the question. I haven’t chewed gum in years so that is good! I can barely do anything in the kitchen, just too much exertion (I can make toast! but I can’t make bread) I will be on blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months and the filter (Intra Vena Cava) will be kept in for that period of time too. It will take that long for my lungs to heal and get back to taking a normal, pain-free breath of air.
Right now we are linking the pulmonary saddle emboli as a complication from my hysterectomy because we do not know if I have a family history of clotting. Once I am off coumadin I will go through a full hematology work up to find out.
My spring and summer and fall look pretty bleak in terms of a garden (no, this isn’t a “poor me” post.) There is no way I can plant a garden. Even if my friends and neighbors plant it, I can’t water it, weed it, harvest it. Hopefully by June I can drive and hit the framers markets. Again, this isn’t a “poor-me” post, this was more about sharing my recent turn of events in hopes that it spreads some awareness and could bring up some discussions as I go through the healing process.
*Also, eating foods high in vitamin K (kale, spinach, broccoli and more) is a big topic of discussion when it comes to blood thinners. If you are interested, I would like to incorporate that into a post(s) as I go through this process. Comment and let me know. I am just starting so it is fresh and new to me.