Friday, August 23, 2013

From The Glad To Be Alive Dept.

Some of you know I've been having trouble catching my breath recently and that I've been going to doctors over the last three weeks to figure out why.

We figured out why when I went to the emergency room on Wednesday morning. I was having SERIOUS trouble catching my breath, I was sweating, delirious... It was bad. Really bad. My first visit to a doctor I was only pulling in 93% oxygen where healthy people are pulling 98 - 100%. When we got to the ER on Wednesday, my level was 84%. That's seriously awful.

Cheers to the nurses who really run things. 
Two hours, some chest x-rays, an echocardiogram, EKGs, a CT scan of my chest and dozens of people later, I was told I had 'massive, bilateral pulmonary embolism' in both lungs. That is, both lungs were a haven for dozens of blood clots. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was as serious as a stroke or a heart attack. The catch was, this had been creeping up on me for a month prior, maybe a little longer. That's why I was seeing my primary doctor, a recommended cardiologist, and radiology doctors who put me on a treadmill and gave me a stress test for my heart.

The next day I landed in the Emergency Room, otherwise plans were being put in place to send me to a pulmonologist. Instead, she came to see me in the ER and I was admitted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit. They gave me some super-clot-buster medicine (usually for those who've just suffered strokes or heart attacks) and with the help of external oxygen being pumped in through my nose I started to get better.

The ER team and the ICU crew were AMAZING. The first thing I noticed was that each of them seemed to want to be there, doing the job they were doing. There was lots of joking. When I asked them why they quizzed me on my name and birthdate Every Single Time They Did Something ("Is it to ensure that I'm lucid?") I was told "No. We just want to annoy you."  And as I was being discharged today the nurse came back needing to take one last read of my vital signs. As she checked my temperature and blood pressure she said. "You're not really going home. We like to keep the good patients. That way we never get a bad one."

Trust me that these were funny things I needed to hear.

Anyway, I'm home now and I'm on the mend. "Alive and kicking" I told someone. The lesson that I'm taking away from this is that I should have gone to a doctor sooner than I did, but it still might not have made a difference. Every doctor who'd looked at me was thinking asthma. I was thinking asthma and so was my wife. No one considered blood clots. I didn't fit the profile for it: no history and none of the other markers. It shows how little we really know, despite everything we think we know.

I'm 45 years old and now I have a primary doc, a cardiologist and a pulmonologist. I'm too young for this. I'm on a blood thinner I could be on for the rest of my life and that entails a whole other ball of wax in regards to regular life, too. I can't help but wonder if my body is out of warranty and breaking down bit by bit or if it's merely the luck of the draw. I don't know and neither does the team that saved me.

But I'm damn glad I'm alive to have these people when I need them.