This is a long one, but I’ve been gone a while.
It’s 2:45am. I’ve been up for about an hour now…since my spO2 dropped to 81% and the alert woke me up…watching some bullshit on Discovery channel with naked people pretending to be survivalists, while my bff snores on the fold-down sofa.
Let’s back up.
I’ve been so sick since the middle of December. It started with the flu, the week of the 15th, then my lungs started acting up. After about 2 weeks of feeling worse and worse, I went to my doc to say that I was pretty sure I’d had pneumonia. He laughed and said, “what makes you say that?” I said, “because I’ve had it before and this feels the same.” He proceeded to tell me that he was sure I didn’t have pneumonia and sent me home with a short, five day course of prednisone and a week’s supply of Tylenol #3 – to suppress the cough. He also wrote me an order for a chest x-ray and said if I didn’t feel dramatically better by the next day, to go get that done to confirm pneumonia. He also told me that there was a chance that I’d feel better for about a week and then take a “nose dive” – in which case, I was to come back.
That codeine though! Whew child, did that stop my cough! It felt soooo goooood to just not cough for a few hours and I felt like a new woman within 10 hours of my first dose of prednisone! I was CURED! …for about a week and a half.
I started feeling worse and worse and my symptoms had come back full-force. So, I called my doc about 3 weeks later and said that something wasn’t right and did he want me to get that chest x-ray. I got that done and waited for him to call. He said that my x-ray was totally clear and that I had “post-viral bronchitis” and it could take up to two months for my symptoms to go away. He gave me a new, mild, steroid inhaler and a few more days of Tylenol #3.
TWO FUCKING MONTHS?! I can’t live like that! I’ve got a house to unpack (I’d just moved over the weekend) and a schedule to get back to – which includes getting up at 3:45am for my regular Orange Theory workout!
Okay, well, I decided to take Tuesday off from working out and resume on Wednesday. Wednesday’s workout was a struggle, but I did it. My respirations were much too high for my heart rate to only be averaging 63% of my max. But I figured it was just the “bronchitis” and decided not to be too hard on myself.
Thursday’s workout…Thursday’s workout was feeling really good! I was pushing myself and getting my heart rate up on the spin bike, then we switched to the weight room, which started with a 500 meter row. I was doing my best but it was sooooooo hard! While I was paused for a rest, mid-row, my favorite coach encouraged me to “COME ON REGINA, LET’s GO!” — He’s my favorite because he’s kind of an ass (and embraces it) and he pushes me.
As soon as he said this, I took two more pulls of the rower and suddenly got really dizzy and couldn’t catch my breath. My vision narrowed and sounds became muffled and muted as I unstrapped myself from the rower and made my way out into the lobby to try to compose myself. The girl at the desk asked if I’d eaten. No, I never eat before my morning workouts, that’s ridiculous… though I did manage to, for the first time in my LIFE, forget to eat dinner the night before. Who forgets to eat?! Well, I did because I hadn’t been feeling well and wasn’t actually hungry.
So she fed me a THREE DOLLAR juice box, which I’m still a little bitter about, but whatev. I drank like 3 sips of it after my breathing slowed enough to be able to close my mouth around a straw. My chest was still really tight so I went to my car to get my rescue inhaler, used it, then decided to at least finish my workout – in tears. I took it really REALLY easy on the rower for the next round; I’ll be honest, that was a terrifying experience and I was a little gun shy about rowing again. No more near-death experiences in the last half of that workout, but I simply could not catch my breath at all! In the shower, getting dressed, even blowdrying my hair was causing me to breathe heavily.
I had made the decision to put my gym membership on hold for 30 days, because I was CLEARLY not healthy enough yet to work out like I know I can. I cried about that because it felt like failure to me, but I do know, deep in my core, that health and wellness includes so much more that physical activity. I needed to rest and allow my body to heal!
When I got to work that morning, I damn near died just walking the maybe 150 feet from my car to my office. I was so winded, that I couldn’t even hold a conversation with my friend at the desk, asking me if I was sore from going back to the gym. My wind-ed-ness got worse and worse as the morning went on and my boss all but ordered me to go to the doctor again. I called and, naturally, my doc was off until Tuesday. So I shed some tears of frustration and looked up the schedule for Urgent Care and made an appointment.
The urgent care doc was lovely! She was thorough and kind and really listened to me. She did a couple really basic breathing tests, and my vitals (at rest) appeared damn near normal! She gave me a couple nebulizer treatments and said that it seemed that I just had severe swelling in my lungs – pneumonitis – and that with this level of swelling, I should have been on more than 5 days of prednisone, so she prescribed me a 15 day taper and a different inhaler, since the one I got on Monday wasn’t helping. She made sure I understood that it was possible that something else might be going on and that if I didn’t improve within 48 hours, she wanted me to go to the Emergency Room so they could do more detailed tests to find out what’s really going on, like an undetected pneumonia.
I stayed home after that appointment, and couldn’t bring myself to go to work on Friday. I had decided Friday night that I would go to the ER in the morning.
So, I thought walking 150 feet was hard? Fuuuuuuuck me. Walking from my car in the Salem Hospital emergency parking lot, allllll the way to the check in window of the ER for reals, no exaggeration, almost fucking killed me. It was probably like 400 feet and I was at a slow, almost-shuffle and by the time I got in the doors, I was making the most embarrassingly loud gasping noises trying to get air into my body. I was so so so scared and started to cry, which OBVIOUSLY didn’t help. They took my ID, entered my name and took me back immediately.
Turns out, not being able to breathe is an actual emergency!
They took a few minutes to get back to check my vitals, which gave me time to sort of catch my breath… which is a little annoying because every time my sats are checked, they’re normal because I’m at rest! Anyway, they did the intake, drew labs, took an ECG, and roomed me. Dr Truong was a god damn angel. He was so warm and kind and factual and comforting. He put a firm, warm, loving hand on my shoulder when he told me I had blood clots (clotSSSSSS) in my lungs and that everything was going to be okay now.
I FINALLY HAVE AN ANSWER!!!
I knew, deep down in my logical brain, that something was very wrong and that it was a HUGE possibility that I had a pulmonary embolism. I’ve got a really prominent family history of clots, so I’ve sort of been preparing for and trying to avoid these my whole life.
It felt disgusting and scary and lonely, but also relieving and validating – the most fucked up combination of emotions, by the way – to hear that they had found “Many. Many, multiple” PEs, plus one clot still hanging out in my left leg.
So, they admitted me and are forcing me to rest while they pump me full of Heparin to dissolve the clots. The hospitalist said that I would be hanging out on the top floor of Building D for a minimum of two days, while they ensured the clots had all dissolved completely, and that there was no damage to my heart from suffering these symptoms – and likely having clots – for almost two months.
So, here I sit, watching cable TV with no idea wtf these random ass shows are, reading The Art of Asking, and finally taking time to post an updated blog.
Today, I’m grateful for knowing my own body, being persistent in seeking care and answers, and for having medical insurance. Never more grateful for my medical insurance.