The near-death experience (part four).

Read part one, part two, and part three.

After I returned to my room after the procedure, I had myself a good cry. I had never felt so miserable. I had never wanted to take a shower so badly in my whole life. My nerves were totally shot. I was scared. It hurt to eat, to swallow. I had a foreign object implanted in my body.

Having a foreign object implanted in your body is a very weird experience. On one hand, I found a great sense of relief in the fact that the filter was there and would protect me from any future blood clots. On the other hand, I absolutely hated the fact that there was a medical device hanging out in one of the biggest veins in my body. It felt totally unnatural.

I also hated the fact that I was eventually going to have to go through the procedure again. The IVC filter I received was removable, and the doctor told me that depending on how I was doing in 6 months or so, I could have the filter removed. If it couldn’t be removed, then I would still be OK – the filter was FDA-approved to become “permanent.”

By this time, the physical details of what caused the pulmonary embolisms (PEs) began to become clear. A technician had come to do a Doppler ultrasound on my legs to see where the deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot, that caused the PE had come from. They determined that it had formed in my left leg, behind my knee.

It didn’t take long for me to connect that clot to some pain I had been having in my shin about two weeks before. I hadn’t been exercising, so I knew that it wasn’t shin splints…but it still was an annoying pain. At the time, I had called my mom, who works at a hospital, and she asked some of the nurses what the pain might be. They all suggested that it could be a phlebitis, or the swelling of a vein. They advised me to start taking a baby aspirin to see if that helped. It did, and I never thought another thing about it. As it turns out, that phlebitis didn’t go away — it just got worse.

The interesting part was that in the days leading up to the PE, I had no pain in my legs. This is pretty unusual. A lot of people who have DVTs experience redness, swelling, and pain which sends them to the doctor or ER. I didn’t have any of that.

So, the blood clot had formed in my leg — but why?

During this time, I was living an extremely sedentary lifestyle. I was working full-time and taking 9 credits at grad school. I would work all day, come home, eat dinner, and then sit for 5-6 hours, doing school work. Or, I would work all day, then drive an hour to school, sit in class all night, drive an hour home, and go to bed. There was no time for exercise. This went on for weeks and weeks.

On top of that, I was obese. With obesity can come increased odds of blood clots. Doctors don’t really know why that is, but it’s been proven.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was this — birth control pills.

I had only been on birth control for about 9 months at the time. I went on it because my periods were irregular and my skin was a nightmare. I thought a low-dose estrogen birth control might help. The doctor prescribed it without any concerns.

I had seen enough birth control commercials to know that they came with an increased risk of blood clots. However, they always seemed to give that disclaimer in relation to women who smoked. I didn’t smoke, so I thought I was in the clear.

Those three things — obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and birth control— are what caused the DVT to form. That DVT broke loose at some point on May 21, 2008 and traveled to my heart.

***

I was in ICU for a total of three days. By this time, I was allowed to get out of bed and walk around. I was moved to a semi-private room that I had to share with a crazy lady. She wasn’t sick, but she had been involved in a domestic dispute with her son and I guess the police didn’t know where else to go with her.

It would be three more days before I would be able to go home. The doctors were switching me from IV blood thinner (Heparin) to an oral medicine (Coumadin). I wouldn’t be discharged until I was at a “therapeutic” level on the Coumadin, and it took longer than expected.

My friends, who had been planning to spend the holiday weekend at my cabin, drove the two hours to the hospital to visit with me. My best friend from high school and her sister came down as well, and as soon as my friend walked in, she started bawling. My grandparents and brother came down to visit. I checked my cell phone and had 12 voicemails from people calling with their well wishes. I had never been so touched in my life.

I was feeling better. I had a MAJOR black eye from when I hit the glass face-first. I still felt disgusting, as I still hadn’t be able to take a shower because I was constantly tethered to an IV stand. But I was able to laugh and relax a bit.

My parents did their best to keep my spirits up. One day, on their way back into the hospital, they stopped in the lobby where I had done by face-plant into the glass wall to check out “the scene of the crime.” I had told them exactly what happened – about the bench I was heading for, and the tree I fell into – but I don’t think they believed me.

That is, until they saw the imprint of my face on the glass. It was still there, days later. They took a picture of it. They also made sure that every person who came to visit me went to see that imprint. They thought it was hilarious.

I had to agree.

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One Response to “The near-death experience (part four).”

  1. Danielle Says:

    Wow–some scary stuff!!! Good luck on your journey to get healthier, I am embarking on that as well!!!

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