I’m home and resting comfortably. I spent all of Friday night and a big chunk of Saturday in the ER being treated for a DVT – blood clot in my thigh.
When I was 22 and just married, newly moved to this area, I went on the Pill. One of those scary side-effects they warn you about is pain in the leg due to blood clots. I started having severe pain in my right calf. Our health insurance hadn’t kicked in yet, so I first went to the clinic, where I expressed my fears, but the doctors there said I just had a muscle spasm – and they sent me home! They even told me to massage the area, which turned out to be very, very bad advice. The next day, which was Christmas Eve, the pain was much worse and I called PisecoDad in tears and had him come home from work to take me back to the clinic. I hated the thought of “ruining” Christmas and almost didn’t go in, especially since we were having to pay out-of-pocket, but the pain was so bad that I finally relented. A different set of doctors was there that day and they told me I needed to go to the ER immediately. They were right.
I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and most likely the act of massaging it caused a piece to break off and travel to my lungs, becoming a PE (pulmonary embolism). The ER doctors told me that if I had tried to tough it out and wait until after Christmas, it would have been fatal.
I was on crutches for months, since the clot had done a lot of damage. I was on blood thinners (coumadin) for a year. At the end of the year, we had some genetic blood testing done and I found out that I have a Factor V Leiden deficiency. It means my blood clots more than normal. My doctor (a godsend who happened to be the on-call doctor in the ER that Christmas) put me on a lifetime aspirin regimen and told me that if I ever had another clot, I would be on coumadin for life.
The Factor V played a big role in my pregnancy with JediBoy, too, since the hormones from pregnancy (and the Pill) make clotting more likely. The day I found out I was pregnant, I started on twice-daily heparin shots, in the final weeks and days ramping up to three- and four-times daily. I had lots of extra ultrasounds and non-stress tests to make sure there was not a clot in the placenta. Fortunately, there was never a problem and JediBoy was perfectly healthy.
After giving birth, I continued on the heparin but also started in on coumadin, with the idea that once the coumadin had kicked in (it takes a while to build up in your system) I would wean off the injections of heparin. Unfortunately, the double blood thinners combined with my post-partum bleeding and turned into a hemorrhage which put me in the hospital for a transfusion when JediBoy was just two weeks old.
All of those factors played a role in our decision to adopt BabyGirl when I couldn’t get pregnant rather than to pursue any fertility treatments.
Since then, I haven’t had any huge scares. I’ve been on daily aspirin and perhaps twice before have had unexplained calf pain that took me into the ER for scans, which had all come back clear. Better safe than sorry.
I spent a longer time than usual on Friday afternoon sitting in bed with the computer, after we’d gone out to run several errands, because PisecoDad was home to play with the kids. When I got up around 7 pm, I felt a funny ache in my calf and immediately started to worry. Sitting still for long periods of time can be a risk factor in clotting too.
I tried not to pay too much attention to my leg, hoping it would go away. By midnight, though, it was still hurting and my mind was racing with what-ifs. I couldn’t sleep. I decided this was another case of better safe than sorry, and I drove myself into the ER, leaving PisecoDad and the kids home sleeping.
It was a long night. An ER on a Friday night is always a busy place, and there were at least three trauma codes called – all between 3 and 4 am. I found myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Eventually someone told me that policies had changed since my last scare, and the technician who could do dopplers of my veins was no longer on call overnight. They did take me in for a CT scan of my lungs, which came back clear, but they couldn’t tell me anything about my legs. By 7 am I was thinking I had made a mistake, a mountain of a molehill, and I just wanted to get back home to my family.
They gave me a preventative shot of Lovenox (a blood thinner like heparin) and let me go home with the understanding that I would schedule a doppler that day when the technician was able to come in.
Meanwhile, PisecoDad took JediBoy to a really cool bioscience expo for kids run by the university. I was home with BabyGirl, thinking we’d spend the whole morning snoozing and watching movies in bed, since I hadn’t slept that night.
The hospital called at 9, though, saying the tech would be in at 10. I took BabyGirl in and had the ultrasound done, then waited for the results. I was certain that they would come back clear and was looking forward to getting home for a nap. It was a huge shock when the nurse came out to sit beside me in the waiting room and deliver the bad news.
They advised me to return to the ER as a patient, and I jumped through endless bureaucratic hoops to get back into the system, telling a bevy of nurses and residents that I already had a diagnosis, and just needed to hear what to do about it. One of the doctors on my case told me he would admit me, that I could not go home with this condition. Another doctor told me that they’d like to have me recover at home, because I would have a better chance at mobility there than in the hospital. Around and around it went, all the time with me hooked up to an IV of heparin and trying to keep BabyGirl entertained in the hospital.
Finally at 1:00 they made the final decision that I could go home. PisecoDad and JediBoy arrived at about 1:30, just as I was signing my release papers and getting my at-home instructions. They wanted to teach me how to give the Lovenox injections, but I told them that with nine months of practice I was pretty sure I remembered what to do.
So I’m home. I’m tired and my leg gets fairly swollen when I move around, but I’m okay. I’m not in severe pain and I don’t have to be on bedrest or use crutches. PisecoDad will stay home tomorrow to take me in for a PT (blood test) and I will see my doctor at the end of the week. Pappy and Nita, who are at a conference this week and headed to South Africa next week, have let me know that if my condition changes or I feel I need help with the kids, they will drop everything and be here, so I have a built-in backup if I need it, and just knowing that’s there is a relief. Robin and Jared took the kids to a birthday party and then over to Leigh’s to play last night, and have offered to take them again today if we need them to, and Paula has offered help in whatever way she can. It’s so different from 10 years ago when we didn’t know anyone in the area and felt alone and lost.
Even though we have such great support now, it’s still a very scary time. Knowing that there’s a risk of PE, which could be fatal, keeps me awake worrying about my kids. But it makes me treasure every moment all the more, and tell the kids that I love them until they roll their eyes and say I know, Mom.
In the hallway of the ER was a poster.
March is DVT awareness month.