I am writing this from a hospital bed in Beebe Medical Center, in Lewes Delaware. It’s Wednesday, August 24, in the afternoon. I had expected to post this when I get home again. I find, however, that Beebe has a wireless network, open for guests, patrons and I assume patients, so I might as well post it now!
I’ve been here since yesterday afternoon with a blood clot in my left calf. Technically, this is known as a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Apparently, small bits have broken off in the least week or so and settled in my lungs. This is known as a Pulmonary Embolism.
As a result, I have been hospitalized overnight for the first time in my life. But I have to admit that I feel slightly guilty about the whole thing. I feel fine, while all around me are patients coughing and groaning in the night. They are bandaged and broken and I feel like a complete fraud.
Just this moment, the nurses brought an older gentleman in and put him into the other bed in the room. One of the nurses transporting him looked at me and said “What are you doing here? You look fine!”
That’s the problem.
It seems likely that I’ve been suffering, if that’s the right word, with this clot thing for a few weeks. I went to see my doctor this past Monday because of a lingering soreness in my calf. I guess I’d noticed soreness in that leg in the week or so before that, but wrote it off as part of the aging process.
Last week, I noticed tightness in my chest for several days. I felt like I might be coming down with something; like I might be getting bronchitis. But it didn’t last. I also noticed a slight fever a few days later, but that didn’t last.
In fact, I felt well enough on Sunday to walk and play 18 holes of golf. I need to go back and edit my write-up of that game to insert the excuse for my terrible play; I had a Pulmonary Embolism! Of course I played like crap!
But the soreness stayed in my leg and on Monday afternoon I went to get it checked out at my Doctor’s office. I saw the nurse-practitioner and had the possibility of a blood clot in my mind. But the symptoms didn’t quite fit and she thought it sounded more like varicose veins, though we decided to get an ultrasound scan to check for a clot, just in case.
Tuesday, I went in for jury duty and, when I wasn’t picked for the one trial that day, I called the hospital to set up an appointment for the scan for that afternoon. I will admit that I was uncertain whether I wanted it to be a clot or varicose veins; varicose veins would probably be preferable, but they also seem to signal middle age and I’d really like to hold that off as long as I can.
In the event, the technician looked up from the scan and told me she had found a clot, that I should grab a seat, and let her call my Doctor. That was a rough moment.
It wasn’t long before Dr. Robinson was on the phone. She was apologetic, but let me know that I would have to be admitted and start a treatment of blood thinners for a while. The hospitalization is to make sure that, if anything bad were to happen with the clot; they could take care of it. At that point, we didn’t know about the embolism.
So I checked in and was wheeled up to a room on the third floor. An elderly gentleman pushed my wheel-chair for me. I had the sense that it was a strain for the poor guy. I could have walked but do understand why I shouldn’t.
Now I have a valve inserted into the back of my left hand, to allow intravenous stuff when needed. I have several wrist-bands on my right hand, outlining who I am and what I’m allergic to. A switchboard’s worth of wires are connected to sensors on my chest and stomach and connected together to a sensor pack the size of a Steven King paperback – from early in his career, when he had a lot to say.
This thing broadcasts my heart rate and other signs to a control room somewhere. If something bad happens, I assume this will cause all manner of alarms to go off. From a practical standpoint, this is just something I have to juggle as I move around. This is even funnier when you understand that, for purposes of measuring inputs and outflow, the nurses have asked me to use a hand-held urinal. Thus, I have a regular job that requires three hands, and I have only two.
But this is not really all that uncomfortable. When I think of what some of these other folks are going through, I just feel guilty.
Anyway. I’ve had several productive visits with Dr. Robinson, who is a very young woman, a new mom, but a good doctor. I think she is somewhat struck by my lack of overt symptoms. I have gone back over the last few weeks with her to dredge up anything I can think of that might be related.
When I told her about the chest-tightness, she ordered a CAT scan, which is an interesting process. An iodine solution was injected through the valve, to provide contrast. The technician warned that this would likely make me feel warm, and to did. Like a quick flush of fever in the skin.
The CAT scan confirmed the embolism; I have one in each lung. I wonder if I can get a copy of part of the CAT scan. I could use it as an on-line icon for myself.
Based on my talk with Dr. Robinson this morning, I should be okay. The drugs I’ve started on will thin my blood and reduce its ability to clot. This will both reduce the chance of bits breaking off the clot I have and reduce its potential growth. That should allow my body's natural processes to break it down and get rid of it. My lungs may have some lasting scars from this episode, but nothing too terribly worrisome.
The more interesting question is why I got the clot. It may be the case that a whack on the ankle at some point started the process. Our long drives too and from the Tyler Place last month may have played a role. It’s also possible that here’s a genetic reason. My father tells me he’s had a DVT incident – following a surgery – and that his father had had some bouts of what was then called Phlebitis but that might have been a thrombosis.
She’s sending off a large amount of blood for tests that may shed some light on that question. If there is a genetic predisposition, I will probably have to take blood thinners from here on out. In any case, I expect to be on them for he next half-year or so.
So here I am. I hope to be able to go home tomorrow. One question controlling that was whether my insurance would cover the cost of a series of syringes with which I will need to inject myself over the next week or so. I didn’t think I’d be willing to try that, but I did one of them this morning and I think I can handle it.