On Wednesday, February 12nd I met some friends before work to swim. My leg was swollen to the point I could barely walk but I still got in 2200 yards (never liked to kick anyway). I went to the doctor later that day and an ultrasound showed extensive blood clots from my hip to knee. A CT scan showed multiple bilateral blood clots in my lungs. Shocked by a diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolus, I was told to go to the hospital immediately.
My symptoms started 6 weeks earlier in late December when my left calf started hurting. I’m one of the lucky ones, because the first symptom for 25% of people with pulmonary embolisms is death, yes DEATH. In early January, I noticed limited lung capacity, began coughing up bloody phlegm and my ribs & back hurt badly. After a chest xray (Jan 9th), the diagnoses was bronchitis with raw bronchial tubes and strained rib muscles. For the next week it felt like someone was stabbing my ribs and I barely slept.
Things seemed to improve, the pain subsided and my breathing got a little easier. I ran a 5K on January 18th and felt okay but held back because I was still healing. A few days later I noticed a significant decrease in lung capacity. I could no longer walk upstairs without getting winded, nor could I run 1- minute without spiking my heart rate to 180.
Many people told me to go to the doctor. My January trip cost me $450 and he said it would several weeks to recover. Few doctors in my lifetime have actually helped me heal from sickness so my biggest faith lies in letting the body heal itself over time. I continued to swim and cycle and taking Symbicort inhaler.
In early February my lung capacity increased. I was back to swimming at a decent pace without gasping for air. I had my first real cycle workout in a month and was thrilled. The next day my left leg hurt in the quad and calf. Damn, can I get a break here? Within a few days it had swelled and people were noticing my limp. We’re back to February 12th.
At the hospital they put me on a heparin IV drip. On Thursday morning a vascular radiologist wanted to put filter in my vena cava vein to stop any more blood clots that try and travel north. After a few hours of research and seeking advice from a few outside doctors I agreed. Under only a local anesthetic they put a catheter in my jugular (neck) vein. They traveled to my leg to look at the clots and decided not to risk giving me medicine to dissolve the clots right away, let my thinned blood take care of it over time. They placed the filter near my spine between my hips. This all took less than 5 minutes. I now look like I’ve taken on a one-toothed vampire.
For most of Thursday and Friday they wanted me on bed rest. The staff was amazed that I didn't need oxygen. Really, I felt okay, and my breathing was a lot better than a few weeks ago. I refused to use a bed pan and insisted they let me shower.
I slept a lot in the hospital. I really didn't get much medical care after Thursday. I was basically there for monitoring while my blood and clots stabilized. On Sunday (day 5) the doctor said I could probably go home on Tuesday. I requested outpatient and they agreed but I would have to visit daily and give myself two shots of Lovenox each day. DEAL!! The “daily” requirement turned into twice the first week and then once a week. And, after 6 shots, I was able to stop. SWEET!
So now the why’s ….. I tested positive for a condition named Lupus Anticoagulant. The name is misleading because it has nothing to do with Lupus and it is a PROcoagulant. It is most likely inherited from my mother, but there is a chance that this was a temporary spontaneous episode. The symptoms of L.A. are: leg blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and miscarriage. My mother died of a stroke at the age 46, younger than me now, and she had 2 miscarriages before I was born.
What’s next: I’ve got my strength back and my leg is almost healed. It will take a while for my lungs to heal themselves, and we’re hopefully that there is no irreversible damage. I’m taking warfarin for the next 6 months and will slowly ease back into my active lifestyle of run, bike & swim. In 6 months I will see a hematologist and test again for any blood disorders. If I am positive again for L.A. then the diagnosis will be confirmed and my daughter and sisters will also need to be tested. I’ve quit taking estrogen and can never be on estrogen therapy again. Other general advice to someone with pulmonary embolisms does not apply to me -- quit smoking and start exercising, lol.