It feels so weird to be back here, on my computer, typing to the blogosphere and you guys. I’ve had a hell of a few weeks. At first things had slowed down here because I really hadn’t been able to read, and boy did I want to read. If you saw my To Be Read list, it’d make you go cross-eyed and there’s book I want to read but forgot to add.
Anywho, I was editing left and right and then I was working more on me. With all that I have going on with my health and school, and editing, I’ve always been busy or sick and this past year–oh hell, make it the past the past six years–have been hard on me. But with the help of my doctors and a pain management class and just my own determination and sheer will, I was starting to feel better. I was eating better, watching to make sure I didn’t push myself too hard. Over the course of several weeks I worked my way through the ranks, starting out with walks with my dogs and gradually lengthening them, yoga (who knew I could be bendy!), occasional exercise routines, swimming laps, and the odd bike ride ( I had had a biking accident a few weeks prior so getting back on that particular horse was an entirely different matter).
Everything seemed to be going so fricken well for me. But Life always seems to have its own plans, doesn’t it? Nearly three weeks ago in June it happened.
I had started yoga that week and was loving it. After the first session I had felt a difference in my pain, and in my body. I remember thinking No wonder this is the ‘it’ thing right now. Well, that Friday my left shoulder was hurting me, it almost felt as it I might have pulled something or over stretched, or perhaps it needed to BE stretched out. Whatever the case I was restless trying to stretch it out and completely uncomfortable positioning my arm. As the weekend drew on my arm got worse–the pain, and it became swollen so that by Sunday as my sister and I were at Disneyland using our passes for their last valid day, my arm was massive, red and hurt like a bad book that just wouldn’t end. Well I was determined to finish my day out at Disneyland, using the pass for all it was, but by the time we got home I was done. Our parents were already on vacation and we had planned to meet up with them, the question was whether to head out that night or the next morning. Not wanting to postpone a thing, we packed our bags and left. The second we were through the door I was David thrown to the lions. My sister excused herself to the restroom, but not before telling my parents to look at my arm.
And so the inquisition began. Why didn’t I go to the doctor? Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why the hell had I still gone to Disneyland? Well, the answer to all– I thought it was a freaking muscle strain and nothing serious, maybe causing a flare–up in my RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or nerve damage). They were not thrilled, and even less so when we spent the entire next day at the ER. IN different city. On our vacation. After a round of tests, they concluded I had a DVT in my shoulder, completely occluding my arm and hand. That’s a Deep Vein Thrombosis, or blood clot. At first they weren’t sure if they would need to operate, or hold me. My mom had lost it when the doctor told her. And then the Contracted Kaiser hospitalist saw us to determine if I would need to be admitted, or have surgery. Let’s just say the man had no fucking clue about the words “bedside. manner.”
He had no idea why they even called him in on it. That my arm was perfectly fine, no big deal. Basically the skin had to be falling off from deoxygenation before they would do anything. And when they mentioned blood thinners, I had lost it. I’m already on a pharmacy long list of medications and didn’t want to be on any more, in fact I was working on cutting down that list. And to top it off, I’m anemic and blood thinners, if and when I bleed would not help my case. The crotchety man in a lab coat, looked at me and said, “You’re not dying, this isn’t terminal. Why are you so upset?” He basically went on a diatribe stating that I wasn’t dying, so what the hell was I complaining about. To grow up, suck it up and rub some dirt on it. Yeah. I was soo done with him.
Can I do that? No? Well I did it…in my head…repeatedly. Hey I never said I was nice.
They put me on blood thinners and sent me home. No class or lessons regarding taking Coumadin, or setting me up with the clinic. We weren’t happy with them. But my entire family was there. My parents and I had been at the hospital all day, and my sister had had a Teaching training in the morning then spent the afternoon with my brother and his wife at the hotel (they had come out for a Family day). I felt horrible that I had ruined it. But we were released in time for dinner and so made the most of it. As the week went on, we continued our vacation, and my arm continued to get worse. By that Friday we returned home and I looked at my parents and told them that we needed to go back to the ER.
Back within our own city, and our own hospital we trekked back to the hospital. After the cursory wait in the waiting room, they started me immediately on an HEParin drip (the usual treatment for a DVT), while waiting for ultrasound to complete their own imaging of my arm. After blood test, a beyond painful blood gas test where they wouldn’t find my artery and had to wiggle and double-poke and nearly cause me to pass out, we made our way to ultrasound. The tech seemed annoyed and in a rush, doing only a cursory job especially since my arm was in so much pain and so swollen, I couldn’t lift it above my head, and she couldn’t figure out how to lower the guard rail on my bed. When her report came back, it said that there was no DVT, but an SVT (superficial) and in a completely different area. We were flummoxed. Had the other clot dissolved? Did they miss it? Is this a new clot, or a mistake? It made no sense. How could a clot that they said occluded my arm be gone a week later, when my INR (the blood thinner levels) weren’t up to were they should’ve been and my arm seemed to have been worse. Either way, they admitted me to the hospital for comfort control at the very least. They took me off of the HEParin, and all other blood thinners, saying that was only the treatments for DVTs, not superficial clots. As for the Swelling and pain, they were pawning that off as cellulitis, and put me on antibiotics. But we were confused and these findings wouldn’t hold for us. We wanted another ultrasound done. The doctor was sure that nothing would come of it, but put the request in. Seconds after she left the room, she returned with a piece of paper in her hand. They finally retrieved my results from the other hospital. She was amazed at the completely differing results the two reports had compiled and agreed that another ultrasound was in order. A little over an hour later I was taken for my third ultrasound. The technician was sweet, laughing as my mom and I told stories and joked–being fairly inappropriate at times–but she said she loved us and she thoroughly went over my arm, tracing and retracing veins, pressing, squeezing, taking pictures and measuring. When my mom had thanked her for doing such a great job, she simply said she didn’t want to miss anything. And when it was all over and she told me not to move my arm. We knew. They had found more than just an SVT.
Are you still with me? Hmmm?
It had taken the doctor only an hour or two to get the results as she phoned my room. I had not an SVT or a DVT, but 2 DVTs and an SVT. They were going to send in the vascular surgeon in the morning. After a lengthy discussion with the amazing Doc, who shook his head at how often the signs of severe DVTs are mistaken for cellulitis and treated with antibiotics, we all decided that I was a good candidate for a procedure. No I didn’t have to have it done, but with how active I am and my age, my other health conditions, it would be best. There were risks, but we were willing to brave them. That same day I went in for a lysis, where they put a catheter into the vein in my arm with a wire that has a bunch of holes on it and pump the vein full of not only HEParin but another drug called TPA or alteplase, which our bodies naturally create and that is what breaks down a clot (not blood thinners, they’re just preventative of another clot). Anyways, I was moved to the ICU, where they would watch my while I was infused over night and throughout the next morning. Everything went fine, but my already small veins were significantly narrowed in a few places and the radiologists were considering ballooning my veins there for fear that if they didn’t I would wind up here again, or in an ever worse situation. The problem though was that the worst of the narrowing was where my pacemaker leads lead into the vein, if they ballooned they risked breaking the lead and then leaving a piece of wire imbedded in my vein as well as then having to have surgery to have a new pacemaker placed. But as I went in the next afternoon, the clots were gone, except for some residual “coral-like” substance stuck to the sides, so he ballooned there to push it back and open the vein, then he called cardiology and the specialist up in LA to make sure that it would be fine to balloon at the pacemaker site, they all agreed–balloon, but not aggressively.
They figured that being a swimmer and former water polo player, even doing yoga, I work my upper body more and have built up those muscles, which compress the veins against the first rib, narrowing them and often causing trouble with clots. They see it a lot in professional baseball players, who then have their first rib removed to relieve that pressure. It was also determined that when I swim, both freestyle and butterfly strokes, My arms rotate up over my head and around, and that windmill motion would cause the leads to rub the wall of the vein and scratch it, causing scarring to build up and narrow, in which I’m restricted in my arm movements rarely to not at all do that motion, and most certainly not swimming. Breaststroke, you’re my new best friend! On top of that, there had been a history of cots in my family before, so they’re testing to see if I have the genetic marker for a predisposition for clots. Go Me!
I was held for another 24 hours. We thought for sure that I would be staying for Fourth of July. We already celebrated my sister’s birthday in my hospital room, I didn’t want to ruin another occasion. I’m convinced that that would’ve been the case if it hadn’t been for my vascular surgeon coming to my rescue and springing me from medical prison. So the day before the Fourth I was released, and I’m just now getting more and more functionality back in my arm: being able to type one of them…my grip–not so much.
On the bright side I’ve read several books and just need to right reviews for them, but with doctors appointments, rehabilitating myself, catching up on editing, and anything else I may have let go by the wayside, I’m not sure when that’ll be. I’ll try to write them ASAP and whenever I can, in between projects perhaps, but life happens, right?
Well, that was one very long entry, about myself that no one probably even cares about! I told you people I ramble. If you made it this far, treat yourself to something nice and pretend it’s me treating you– a cookie, ice cream, a Starbucks or smoothie, maybe that top or purse you’ve been eying. Heavens knows we all need a pick me up every now and then and you deserve this! Why Because I said So *in my best Diane Keaton voice*.
Okay loggin off, letting you go, letting the ink taper away…