My DVT Adventure

I’m taking a break from my typical posts to write this rather long account of a recent experience. I apologize in advance for my public display of catharsis.

A few weeks ago I had a bit of a hitch in my git-along. My leg started bothering me on or about Monday Sept 19th. It was like sciatica with tingling and the electric shocks of parasthesia, like when your leg falls asleep and then wakes up painfully. I didn’t think much of it. I’ve had that before and after exercise or a lot of walking can eventually work out the “kink” in the nerve and it goes away. Last time it was a few years ago and lasted a couple of weeks. (It resolved when I slipped on some wet concrete stairs and landed on my coccyx.) It hadn’t recurred since.

Tuesday came and the discomfort got progressively worse. I had been parking on the fourth floor ramp at work and taking the stairs for exercise because I hadn’t been able to ride my bike in the mornings like I had living in Ft Lauderdale. At the end of the day I take the stairs down from my 8th floor office and then back up the stairs at the parking ramp. Except Tuesday was painful and I almost couldn’t finish the last flight of stairs.

Wednesday I was in full limp mode. Stairs were not an option. When I got home on Wednesday night and got undressed I noticed that my thigh was unusually tight and my leg was swollen. So I fixed dinner and then lay on the couch with my legs elevated thinking the swelling would go down and did the same in bed that night.

On Thursday morning the swelling was still there and my left leg was noticeably larger than the right. I tried heat and working on the leg with the shower massage to see if I could get things moving then went into the office and began looking for a doctor. I was thinking phlebitis or possibly a DVT. (I’ve never had any history) but I was aware of them.

I haven’t been to the doctor in years other than for bronchitis, partially because I’m a guy. Guys wait it out. Guys suffer through it. Guys don’t want to be told they aren’t as young as they used to be and need to take it easy and take meds and watch their eating habits. Guys don’t want to hear that they are pre-hypertensive and hypoglycemic and should cut out the drinking and whatever it is they are smoking. Then the doctors will be happy to write you a script for Xanax, or Paxil or Ambien, or Lipitor or Viagra or Cialis or whatever pharmaceutical flavor of the month is. I believe in eating right and getting exercise and leave the pills to the lazy (Besides, I’m cheap and who knows how long I’ll have insurance).

Plus, I’ve been working with doctors for about 7 or 8 years now and I’ve seen behind the curtain. I’ve seen orders being written to increase billings, I’ve seen doctors tell patients to come back for injections on a separate visit just so that they could bill for the extra nurse visit. I’ve seen doctors prescribe supplements that they just happen to stock in their office. (Nutraceuticals are the latest medical scam, beware if your provider happens to sell what he/she prescribes, they’ve lost their objectivity to the goal of buying new rims for their Jaguar.)

So after making a dozen or so calls to look for a doctor to see me that morning I gave up and took myself to an urgent care clinic. They told me they didn’t have ultrasound equipment and I needed to go to the emergency room at the hospital across the street.

The hospital across the street is St Joseph’s. (A catholic hospital is where all good atheists go to die, naturally.) I was starting to have flashes of irony. I was christened a catholic, I went to catholic school and became anti-catholic in school and also learned the folly of religion in catholic school. I read the bible and went from agnostic to atheist. (Moved to Florida and became a very outspoken atheist)

They took my info, did a quick triage for histories and vitals (blood pressure, temp, pulse and blood oxygen) and sent me out to the waiting room to sit for two and half hours in a very un-ergonomic chair that further cut off the circulation to my leg. (By the time I saw the doctor in the emergency room my leg began to have a bluish hue.) But I was smart enough to bring a book with me and so I’m reading Superfreakonomics and getting to the chapter about emergency rooms when they finally call my name. Note to hospitals regarding protocol, when someone comes in for a possible deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and the emergency room is all booked up, at least have the patient sit somewhere comfortably with the leg elevated…

By the time they finally called my name I’m no longer thinking it’s just a phlebitis flare up and the doctor who began to question me was a bit incensed that I would have the nerve to give him a DVT diagnosis. He also became accusatory,
“what do you mean this has never happened before?”
no it has never happened before.
“You weren’t on a long car trip?”
no, my commute is only 8 miles. prior to that I didn’t commute for two years.
“You didn’t fly?”
Rarely since 9/11 because it’s such a pain in the ass especially with homeland insecurity mucking things up and because I can’t fly with scissors. How do you clip your nosehairs when you get there?
“Come on, something had to bring this on what aren’t you telling me?”
That you’re an insufferable pain in the ass whose ego is easily bruised? What’s worse than a doctor with a god complex? A doctor with a god complex in a catholic hospital who hates not being the smartest person in the room. Especially when there are pretty interns around as witnesses.

He finally orders the ultrasound. They were having difficulty getting a pedal pulse  at the ankle and weren’t able to get the dorsal pedal pulse at all. The doctor came back and said looks like you have a DVT. (I smirked and he got further aggravated. I was right. First.)
He told me they were admitting me.

Now at this point one would think that you would start worrying about your health and prognosis and all that, but no.

My first thought was, “Who is going to take care of the cat?” I’ve got a fifteen year old cat named Stella that runs my life. She’s more demanding than any of my ex-wife or ex-girlfriends ever were. More vocal too and as much as I’d like to have a dog, a cat is infinitely more convenient, especially in situations like this.

Run mental check: bowl of dry food is full and water dish full so she should be good for two days. Because she tends to yowl when unhappy, or wants attention or wants to go out I’m thinking the neighbors are going to hate me and I’ll get cited by animal control.

So I’m lying there on the gurney sending emails out to family and close friends letting them know where I was and that I may be out of touch for a while. I’m not getting a cell signal but I can use the other features of the phone through the hospital’s wireless. No one lives close to me other than my dad who lives about 70 miles away and he’s in his 70’s too.

The gal from admissions comes and gets my ID and insurance card. Takes my critical info.

“Married, Single, Divorced or Widowed?”
Divorced, happily for almost thirty years
“What should I put down for your religion?”
Nothing
“Would you like to see a chaplain?”
Oh Hell No.
Puzzled look.
I guess I should have had DNR and a scarlet “A” tattooed on my chest a while ago.
Continued puzzled look.
Nevermind

She goes away and comes back with an extremely excited look on her face. “You have VERY good insurance!”
It was almost comical. If it was a cartoon you would have seen the dollar signs where her pupils should have been.

She’s a Boston fan and gives me red hospital socks to keep my feet warm. I demure saying, “I’m a Packer fan do they have green socks?” She came back with green and white socks. Jets colors. ugh. Oh well at least my tootsies will be warmer.

She said, “we could put on one green and one red and you could be christmas.”
“I loathe christmas”, I said smiling.
Puzzled look again.

The attendent arrives and wheel me up to the room on the gurney. Then down to radiology for a doppler ultrasound. (St Joe’s has some very attractive staff in the radiology dept by the way.) I enjoyed my ultasound. There was inadvertant intimate touching on her part as she pressed the lubricated wand into my groin and I began to concentrate on football and baseball and when was the last time I had an oil change and lube…lube uh-oh, she smiles, baseball, baseball, baseball…

Then back up to the room. A doctor came in and introduced herself, an internist/hospitalist and very attractive. (I was liking this hospital more and more.) The ultrasound confirmed that I had a blood clot about the length of my leg (DVT), now they needed to not only treat it but to determine what caused it. Again I repeated my known family and personal history and assured the doctor that there was nothing there that I know of. I work at a desk. I try to get up often. I drink so much tea and coffee that I’ve worn a trail in the office carpet to the restroom on the other side of the building. I hadn’t been riding my bike much since moving to Tampa due to the rain and getting up earlier to go to the office. Also my diet slipped since I was eating for convenience instead of health. When I worked from home I ate very healthy. Low fat, low sodium, light on meat mostly chicken and fish, big time on the dark leafy veggies… Since moving to Tampa I’ve practically eaten three pigs and a cow in two months and my salad consumption was way down. My alcohol consumption was up a bit, so after the previous Sunday’s Packer win over the Panthers I decided to take a break from drinking and give my liver a rest since the liver is the only human organ capable of regenerating itself.

That’s what probably caused it I tell her, “My blood had been artifically thinned by alcohol and now without the antifreeze…DVT.” She told me I was “a very smart boy”. I basked in doctor pretty lady’s praise.

Damn, I noticed the ring.

I opined, “well at least I’m not going to lose the leg or die tonight.”

She responded , “well we’ll find out what caused this but if someone up there decides when it’s your time…”
I responded that “I don’t believe in that malarky.” (yes I said malarky. I’ve read too much Robert B. Parker) Dr Pretty Lady lost a couple of points.

They scheduled me for Interventional Radiology for 10:30 am Friday morning. In the meantime they started me on a Heparin drip to thin my blood trying to avoid clots breaking off and traveling to my lungs. (Pulmonary embolism) Sent me for a CT scan of my lungs just to be safe. When they shoot you up with the contrast media they weren’t kidding that you’d feel all warm inside. It was a weird feeling and I liked it.

I made it back to the room in time for the season premier of The Big Bang Theory (my favorite sitcom.) (My roommate and his girlfriend were watching X-Factor. Ugh!) No clots were heading for my lungs that they could see. Whew. Doctor Pretty Lady (DPL) told me that everything is looking up and the CT scan was clear which considering I smoked for nearly thirty years kind of amazing. (Do yourself a favor if you smoke, quit. Breathing is one of the greatest things.)

Friday arrives, I’m feeling like the main dish at a vampire feast. (Or Meatloaf in Rocky Horror) I’ve been poked and prodded and pierced multiple times. They added another IV drip for fluids in the other arm and they’ve come in every three hours to check my BP even though I’m hooked up to telemetry. My hospital roommate is working on his own conspiracy theory and has been on his cell phone all morning trying to determine how somebody named “Mott” knew he was in the hospital. He speaks like a 45 year old gang banger. Maybe he was. The nurse comes in to tell me that my trip to IR isn’t on the schedule but she’ll get to the bottom of it. Then asks me if I’m urinating and if I’m having bowel movements or passing gass. Apparently she likes farts. She shows me her fart pen. Yes a pen that makes fart noises. Does Dave Barry know about this? He’d enjoy it.

She returns to tell me that it turns out they overbooked IR with a slew of last minute emergencies more dire than mine. I’m on Heparin, CT was clear, leg isn’t blue anymore so no imminent danger. It just means I’ll be here longer. Ugh.

My dad shows up and takes my keys so he could check on Stella and set up the feeder and the waterer for her so that she’ll be good for a few days and to get me something else to read and the charger for my smartphone which has shut itself off due to a low battery (smartphones always have low batteries. I think they are anemic). So I zone out listening to roomie endlessly jabber on the phone about “Mott” and someone is gonna take a shotgun blast to the face, boo-yah!

Dad’s back and I still haven’t been wheeled down to IR. They are still backed up down there. Finally they wheel me down. It’s about 3:30.

Chuck, the nurse, explains a bit about what I’m about to go through. They are going to give me an anesthetic that won’t completely knock me out. I’ll be in dreamland but they’ll be able to ask me questions if need be or tell me to roll over or sit or fetch or whatever. Then they will catheterize the vein, essentially insert a tube in the back of my knee and the tube is like a lawn soaker hose with a bunch of holes in it. They will pump thrombolytics in there (a cocktail of chemicals) to break up the clot. This process could take a day or two. Then when the clot is broken up, they will get in there and suck out the clot and, if need be, go in with a wire and do a roto-rooter number on it. Then he has the IR doctor pay me a visit and talk about my options.

The doctor explains that I have a few options to go on. One is to just go the blood thinner route but there is no guarantee of success, it could take years and scarring would most likely develop in the vein. The other is to do what the nurse had previously described, with a couple of other options. The first being to install a vena cava filter between my leg and my lungs. They would take an umbrella-like device and insert it in my abdomen to catch any bits and pieces of the clot before it causes an embolism in the lungs. The doctor suspects that what caused this whole incident is a birth defect known as May-Thurner Syndrome. It’s a somewhat rare birth defect where the iliac vein is compressed between the iliac artery and the bone so that blood flow is cut off in the vein and clots form. It’s somewhat rare in the general population and even rarer among men. (Sometimes being abnormal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.) So in the case of MTS they may opt to install a stent in order to prop up the structure of the vein and prevent this from happening in the future. The doctor asks if I have any questions and I tell him it’s good enough for me and I ask my dad who is hanging out with me if it sounds good to him. He looks worried. But I’m not. Maybe I’m just in denial. Maybe it’s just because I tend not to worry about these things. I’ve learned in my 51 years that there’s no sense sweating stuff (large or small). What happens, happens and anxiety only brings on it’s own set of problems. At least for me anyway.

Chuck comes back and tells us there is still a backlog. They don’t finally wheel me into the room until a couple of hours later. They get me on the table and situated. A blonde female assistant (I’ll refer to her as “Ursula from the camps” since no one introduced themselves other than Chuck and the doctor.) dry shaves the back of my leg. (I’m rather furry) Then they have a discussion of what music they will play during the procedure and Ursula starts playing country music. So now I’m annoyed for the first ime in this ordeal. If there’s one thing I really can’t stand musically it’s modern country and of course, I say so. “Hey I’m the patient shouldn’t I be able to put in a request? Can’t I have some jazz?” Real jazz not that Kenny G elevator faux music they call smooth jazz. “Anything but country”

Ursula decides not to Friend me.

They get to work and occasionally I open my eyes and look around the room. It reminds me of the superconductivity labs at the University of Wisconsin. Then next thing I know they are wrapping up and getting ready to send me to recovery. Chuck said things went well and that I was snoring for about two hours. I thought I was awake the whole time. Anesthesia has come a long way since I had an inguinal hernia repair when I was seven. (elephantiasis of the balls is not funny especially to a seven year old)  The folks in recovery were really nice. I had no symptoms to report and I was only there as long as it took for them to get me a room in my favorite place in the hospital. The ICU.

My ICU room was spacious and had a flat screen TV, much better than the small tube tv that was in my previous room. I had a very attractive ICU nurse named Nikki (not sure of the spelling). In short order I had developed a severe crush on Nikki. (Or maybe it was just a rapid case of Stockholm syndrome.) She was very attentive and sat at her desk at the window below the flat screen tv. So I couldn’t help but to see her every time I looked up to the tv. I tried to avoid that because I didn’t want to be thought of by my most recent crush as a creep. Dad came in briefly to make sure I was ok and went home and said he’d be back in a couple of days to check on Stella again. (Did I mention how great my dad is?)

I was under orders to not move the leg and had the Heparin drip in my right arm, the IV fluids drip in my left arm and the thrombolytics cocktail drip in my left leg. So I developed some lumbar muscle cramps from trying to maintain the same leg position and asked for some muscle relaxers to get me through the night. I got morphine instead. Morphine I might add really doesn’t affect me all that much. Some people it just knocks to the dirt. Not me. I have a high tolerance. (Keep in mind I followed the Grateful Dead for years, when it came to recreational drug use only Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters may have out doen me.) Nikki kept expecting me to just drift off to la-la land. I didn’t. After a while I asked for the muscle relaxers again, Flexeril anything. She finally got me a script for Robaxin, I believe, and all was well. Until four am when the drugs wore off and the cramping moved from my back to my abdominal muscles. I was doing my best not to start bawling like a baby especially in front of Nikki. But dammit, it hurt like hell. This time she gave me a full dose of morphine. The pain subsided but since it was by now five am I was going to be awake for the day. She was still amazed it didn’t knock me out. I finally drifted off to sleep around the seven am shift change when the day nurse Anthony came. Anthony was a really nice guy. (But he was no Nikki.)

My co-worker and office mate Al brings me my company laptop. I can work from the hospital since there’s wi-fi (though it’s slow) so at least I won’t have to take time off from work. I’ll just be working remotely. It’s better than using the smartphone. Besides I think Al doesn’t want to do all the software testing alone and I don’t blame him. (Al does the job of three people as it is he doesn’t need to be coverng for my monkey ass too.)

It was around noon before they were finally able to locate the doctor who was going to do that day’s followup procedure on my leg. They wheel me back to IR. Different room this time. Smaller. Some of the same people. Ursula is there. She is doing the procedure under the guidance of the doctor. It’s a teaching hospital after all.

Ursula goes to work peeling off the adhesive holding everything in place from the back of my leg. I’m getting the feeling she is relishing her job. I asked her if my crack about country music yesterday pissed her off. I get a half hearted apology. I must have interrupted her revery. She smirks and says that she guesses she didn’t shave enough of the leg. I suspect it was on purpose.

The procedure starts and they haven’t given me an anesthetic. I feel everything. It hurts. I tell them so.

The doctor, today it’s the partner of the guy from yesterday, says it’s impossible, there are no nerves in there.

I tell him that I can only tell him what I’m feeling and it hurts like hell.

He doesn’t believe me. At this point Ursula is getting more aggressive. She doesn’t have a gentle touch. I think she was missing the one-on-one torture sessions at Guantanamo. I suspect under the gown she’s wearing an “I heart waterboarding” t-shirt. I start humming Guantanamera hoping to get on Ursula’s good side.

I tell the doctor that it feels like she is stabbing my kidneys with a knitting needle. He said they weren’t anywhere near my back. I replied that Ursula must have taken a wrong right turn at Cucamonga then. He tells the other assistant to give me something. I think she faked it. No one injected me with anything. My IV ports remained capped. I endured the pain. The doctor said they were going to forget the filter and forget the stent. They were just going to do a balloon angioplasty and see how that holds up and I’ll need to follow-up with him in six months. (I hope Ursula isn’t there). So she inserts the balloon and they complete the procedure. More jabbing. I wish I could pass out.

They finally finish the procedure and the doctor says everything is looking good. It looks like they were able to clean out the bulk of the clot if not all. I’ll be on blood thinners for the foreseeable future at least until my six month assessment when they’ll decide if they can take me off the blood thinners or if they will need to continue for another six months or the rest of my life. (oh joy).

I get wheeled back to ICU. Anthony checks back with the doctor and they tell him to go ahead and pull the tube from my leg. I’m free to get up and move about the cabin. I even get to have a meal. It’s Saturday late afternoon and I haven’t eaten since Wednesday night. (although there was a small window of opportunity on Friday night and Nikki got me a cup of minestrone from the cafeteria. It seemed like the best damn soup in my life and Nikki got it for me.) But Saturday’s Pot roast and overcooked carrots were just out of this world.

Shift change. Nikki returns. Joy! She’s changed her hair. It’s straighter now. It looks good. I’m becoming obsessed. I consider a sponge bath. Oooh. I think better of it and ask for some washcloths and towels so I can get myself cleaned up. (I’ve caught a whiff of myself and it ain’t pleasant.) Nikki gets me what I need and closes the curtain for privacy leaving a gap so that she “can watch in case I should fall or collapse.” I hope she’s not peeking. I’m not at my best. The A/C is a little cold and I’m having a George Costanza moment. I keep my back to the window.

I cleaned myself up and I’m steady on my feet. I long for a private toilet. I would never survive in jail with a john open to the room. I’d end up exploding like an antogonist over a shark tank in a James Bond film. It’s Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody…

Sunday morning arrives. Nikki says goodbye and that she probably won’t see me on her next shift since they should be moving me up to a room again soon. I’m feeling sad but the one thing that keeps my spirits up is the thought of getting out of the hospital hopefully tomorrow. They told me initially 3-5 days. So I’m thinking Tuesday at the latest.

Another parade of providers comes through, pulmonary and hematology and whatever else. I think they like to pop in just to get on the ticket. Hi how are you? Any discomfort? Breathe for me, take a deep breath. That’ll be $600.

Still yet another doctor comes in. Didn’t get his name either. Says they are taking me off the Heparin and will transition me over to Coumadin. I’m happy because they are removing the last IV. I’ll be fully mobile again. Then he tells me in addition to the Coumadin I’ll be getting daily subcutaneous abdominal injections (they shoot you in your belly fat or love handles) of Arixtra. It will take me 3-5 days to make the transition and then I can get out of here.

Ok. What wait a minute another 3-5 days? I was hoping to get out tomorrow. The doctor shakes his head at the silly patient for getting his hopes up.

They are working on getting me another room. Anthony is telling the floor nurses I’m the easiest low maintenance patient to take care of and they’ll enjoy having me. They finally get me a room late in the day. I’m only one of four patients in the wing.

They weren’t prepared for patients. My room is next to the nurse’s desk. They must have taken Anthony at his word, keep the easiest patient close. Keep the whiners out of earshot.

Heather the nurse says they’ll have pillowcases shortly and other supplies. Meantime Dad comes back. The Packers/Bears game is on and Dad and I are watching the game. Heather wants to hook me up to the telemetry again. I ask her to hold off since the bathroom has a shower and I’d like to get cleaned up. Dad says he’ll run and check on Stella and bring me some clothes (It’s been a while now since I last mentioned it, my Dad is great.) and that he’ll be back by halftime. She covers the IV ports and the back of my leg with plastic. The shower has about as much pressure as my iliac vein but it feels awesome anyway to give myself a decent scrubbing. (I’m singing White Zombie to myself, “More human than human…”)

They’ve got me rehooked up to telemetry and the IVs are no longer running but they won’t pull the lines yet in case they need to use them. They still pop in regularly to check my vitals. Dr pretty lady comes by to let me know how things are going. Everything is looking good just have to get my INR to the magic number of 1.8 so I can go home. After she leaves, Dad notes that she is very attractive. Makes being here tolerable I respond.

Now that I finally have a 4g signal I can check my voicemails. (no signal at all in ICU just wireless and the room phone is for local calls only.) My sisters and mom (I haven’t heard from my brother in years) have left messages so I make sure to call everyone back and let them know what’s going on. My sister Courtney is an ICU nurse and she’s pestering her doctors for answers.

Night staff shift change. The staff apparently work twelve hour shifts (3 days on four days off. I like those hours) I’m on the phone with my buddy Jimmy in Wisconsin. I describe the nurses. Jimmy’s had a few pops at the golf course so is making a litany of lewd suggestions presumably from something read in Penthouse Forum during his youth about what I should ask the asian nurse for. I’m doing my best not to laugh while Jimmy is talking sponge baths and happy endings with pretty nurses while the nurse is tasking my vitals. I don’t realize until later that the phone was set for the hearing impaired and the sound was coming out of the speaker as well as the ear so she heard every word but pretended not to.

Four AM the vampires come for my blood. Every day. One of the lab techs’ name is Vladimir. (I shit you not.) By Tuesday or Wednesday (yes I’m still in the hospital when I thought I would be home by now but I can’t until my INR reaches 1.8) Vladimir is late it’s six AM and I know that the docs like to have the lab results in time for their rounds and I don’t want my release delayed any longer than absolutely necessary. I go out to the desk and ask where “Vlad the impaler” is. Puzzled looks. They don’t just don’t get me here. Or they do and they just ignore it. Probably the latter.

To be fair to Vlad he and one of the other techs have a deft touch and I barely feel the needles in my hands when they draw their samples. I suspect Vlad who is never seen in daylight is taking extra vials for himself. (Maybe I should stop watching True Blood)

There has been a plethora of staff coming through this week. All were very nice. One asked me about a book I was reading. Fiction. Detective book. Mindless reading is great now and again to just give the brain a chance to reboot. She wrinkles her nose at it. “Oh I don’t read books like that”. My first thought that maybe she reads serious non-fiction is quickly displaced when she reports that she is Pentecostal and “only reads christian books”. I tell her “not to limit her horizons”.

She said her name is Gladys. I laugh. I apologize because a joke from the third grade has suddenly come back to me. (I think my thinning blood is finally reaching areas of my brain untouched in decades). She asks what the joke is. I give her the summation. It was about a little girl who, when asked her name at school, says “My name is happy hiney” over and over again. The teacher who knows better asks the little girl why she keeps calling herself that and being a proper little christian girl responds, “I’d rather be a happy hiney than a glad ass”.

Gladys is not amused and leaves the room. I wonder if the Catholics know that the Pentecostals have infiltrated.

Only had one roommate in this room. It was brief on Tuesday. He came in the morning and was gone shortly after dinner. He’s been in and out of the hospital nine times in the last year. His wife says they have been battling over the hospital bills with administration and can’t afford this visit either. Yet the entire time he was there the TV was dialed to Fox news. (The anti-ObamaCare station). I don’t understand people.

No one has had to put up with my snoring. Except the nurses at the station outside my door. But then again I hear them chatting it up all night so I figure it’s a even trade.

Each day is the same. I work on my laptop. I get on the occasional conference call. Yes, I’m calling from my hospital bed. They are amazed by my resilience and company loyalty. I’d call from a chair if there was one in my room made for short people with DVT so your legs didn’t dangle like Edith Ann. (and that’s the truthththth) I take walks once a day around the hospital. I’ve been on every floor and every wing except the children’s hospital (don’t want someone yelling out “stranger danger!”) or the mental ward. They have a neat little sign on their doors to the mental ward warning to “make sure the doors close due to patient elopement”. (I’ve never equated eloping with escaping. They seem to be opposites but as previously noted I’ve been happily divorced for nearly thirty years.)

It’s Thursday. The eighth day of my incarceration. Dr pretty lady comes in to tell me that my INR is still not high enough and that I may be here through the weekend. She also says that she’ll be turning my case over to another doctor who will start seeing me tomorrow. First Nikki now Dr DPL. I ask if it was because when I greeted her the other day as Dr Pretty Lady, if she took offense, I said I hoped she didn’t because it was just nice having an attractive doctor for once instead of the usual old bald dumpy jewish guys I usually get. (I think my hematologist took offense at it but he’s younger than I though he is bald and jewish.) She explained it had nothing to do with that and that they have to switch cases weekly.

So now I’m depressed. Again it has nothing to do with my health or prognosis. It’s all about not being able to go home. I tell the nurses I’m going for a walk. They can tell by looking at me I’m down in the dumps. Today rather than doing my usual rounds through all the floors I just head to the main floor. I’ve walked around the Medical Arts building and then all round all the accesible areas and am heading back to the elevator to go back to my room still dejected.

Coming towards me from the children’s wing is a little girl of about six years old. (About my niece Ava’s age) She’s wearing a pink and white outfit and playing with a paddle ball (you know the wooden paddle with a ball attached by rubberband?) and she’s happily attempting to swat the ball while chirping at her dad over her shoulder who is trying to keep up with her while she’s skipping along. And her little head is nearly bald with a small shock of blonde hair on top like a mohawk and wearing a white mask over her mouth and nose held on by her ears.

I nearly break down and weep. Here I am feeling sorry for myself, whose only real problem is staying in the hospital, whose prognosis is good yet still somewhat uncertain and here is this little princess bopping around like she doesn’t have a care in the world. I’m getting a bit weepy right now writing it. (Historically, I don’t get weepy. Ok I got teary at the movie Sounder and during Brian’s Song, which is the only official movie when guys are allowed to cry) I hope everything turns out ok for her.

I get back to my room and my dad arrives for his every-other-day visit. I tell him about the visit from DPL and my walk and I’m doing everything I can not to sob while I tell him about the little girl. Together we say, “it puts it all into perspective doesn’t it?”

Friday morning I get a different lab tech at 4 am. about six am one of the nurses comes in and takes my vitals then goes and writes something on the board. They have whiteboards where they write the name of your shift nurse and the name of the PCT (patient care technician) and she leaves the room. Knowing that I won’t be getting back to sleep I get up to take my shower. (They pulled my IV ports because they can only be in for four or five days and I’ve refused to allow them to replace them. If they need to put me back on IV they can stick me then but not until then.) I turn on the light and on the board in the slot for the goal for the day is written, “Your (sic) going home!” I ignore it. I figure they are just trying to pull some Zig Ziglar motivational crap (it’s not an alarm clock it’s an opportunity clock) on me and I wasn’t in the mood. I wasn’t relishing spending the weekend still in this damned room. (I’m beginning to understand the concept of purgatory.)

I take my shower and go out to the desk to get some more ice water and inquire about breakfast. All of the nurses are standing there waiting for me and smiling. Amy asks “did you get our note?” I told them I thought they were just screwing with me. She said “Your INR is 2 and doctor’s instructions says you can go home.” I pretended to swoon. They all jumped to catch me. I laughed.

I was packed and ready to go in five minutes. But it still took a couple of hours. Every half hour I moved my bags closer to the door. (like stop-motion photography) They were still waiting for the doctor to come and write me my script for Coumadin. No more Arixtra shots. Whoopee!

I came out of the bathroom for the last time and did a once-over around the room to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I see my mobile charger still plugged into the wall over the bed and someone calls my attention from the nurse’s desk. The charger is promptly forgotten. They’ve got the Rx and I need to sign my discharge papers. I ‘sign ze papers’ and I do a happy dance and ask the nurse for scissors to cut off my patient ID band. They say they’ll find me a wheelchair to take me out. I told them I’m walking and I don’t have far to go my car is still parked in the emergency lot where it’s sat for the last nine days. Besides I don’t want to wait any longer than I have to.

I thank everyone profusely for their care and that everyone was great. But I am Audi 5000. See-yah!

About seven blocks away I remember my charger. I ignore it, there’s a T-mobile store right near the Walgreens by my place. I’ll buy a new one. I’m not going back.

Coming out of Walgreens there’s a message on my phone from Ingrid at the nurse’s desk. I call back. They have my charger and they are holding it for me. I told her to keep it in case another patient may need it. But I’m not coming back unless they wheel me in on a gurney.

The moral of the story is this. If you have unexplained leg pain, even if you haven’t been on a long car trip or plane trip and if your leg swells get your ass to the doctor. Don’t wait for it to get better on it’s own. The life you save may be your own.

Postscript: In my case this episode was caused by the birth defect May-Thurner Syndrome coupled with a previously unknown (by me) genetic disorder called Heterozygous Factor V Leiden. (a somewhat rare clotting disorder, in other words I clot faster than the average bear. I rarely used bandaids because by the time I’d get the package open the bleeding would have stopped.) I’m going to the hematologist weekly until I can find a decent primary care physician and I have an appointment for a vascular assessment at the end of this month and another IR assessment in March when I’m hoping they will take me off Coumadin and put me on low-dose aspirin. I’d cross my fingers if I thought it would help. ;>) The downside is the Warfarin diet (cut way back on my spinach and dark leafy greens intake due to vitamin K conflicting with the rat poison I’m taking and no cranberry juice. I’m also not allowed to ride my bike. If I get into an accident I could bleed internally or end up in the vegetable garden (Brain bleed in neuro ICU.) I have to clean out the downstairs closet so I can fit my bike in there so I don’t have to look at it every day. I live near the Upper Tampa bike trail and I can’t ride it. At least for 6 months. crap.

Post-Postscript: Mom says “It’s not her fault”.

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About NoSacredCow

Irreverent atheist, skeptic, independent voter, social liberal, fiscal conservative, music lover, avid reader, engager in ruthless repartee, just an extra in somebody else's movie...
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12 Responses to My DVT Adventure

  1. Pingback: Get Your Anti Aging Fix During Lunch | Anti Aging Nutrition News

  2. Pingback: Q&A: How to teach your dog to play dead? | How To Teach Your Dog

  3. Oh – my – glad you are ok – what an ordeal!

  4. NoSacredCow says:

    Thanks Jenn. It was a most excellent adventure. ;p

  5. My dad has Factor V Leiden. Pretty sure my brother did too. He died at 29 from DVT. Clot moved to his lungs and caused an embolism. My grandfather, grandmother and two uncles have had multiple strokes and/or heart attacks. I’ve been tested, and supposedly I’m negative for Factor V. It’s so rare, though, I wonder if the doctor even knew what he was testing for.

    I’m glad things worked out for you, and they figured out what caused it.

  6. NoSacredCow says:

    Thanks. Sorry about your brother. I figure how much of a factor can it be since this is my first incident at 51? But I’ve always been something of a lucky little $%#^ my whole life (if you believe in luck). It depends on how you look at it I guess.

    Favorite Bill Cosby quote: It isn’t whether the glass is half empty or half full, it just matters if you’re pouring or drinking.

    • My dad just turned 70 this year, and he didn’t find out until 2003 or 2004. He just always knew that if he got cut, there was no reason to go get stitches. He clotted fast. It wasn’t until he sprained an ankle badly stepping in a hole on the farm, that he discovered the disorder. Then we started looking back at all the strokes, heart attacks etc. in the family history.

      • NoSacredCow says:

        Ah I see. It makes sense too. They didn’t really have a label for Factor V Leiden until the 90’s. (when gene mapping was making progress) Before that you were either a clotter or normal or a bleeder.
        I think my main problem is I just can’t sit on a bar stool for an extended period of time. Or anywhere for that matter. ;p

  7. Thimblecot says:

    That was a pretty interesting account, though very scary. Recently the Catholics bought the hospital near where I live, and I have made up my mind to go clear across town to a less religious emergency room if I ever need to. I would rather die in transit. But I’m pretty immature like that. And my husband reserves the right to change my mind about it if he ever needs to. (At least, I am suspicious that he does, although officially he’s said he will respect my decision.)

    I’m glad you got your leg and blood and everything fixed up, NoSacred. You should make a tee-shirt about them trying to sic a chaplain on you.

    • NoSacredCow says:

      Hey, don’t let your non-belief get in the way of your health. Even if you find it completely distasteful to be stuck in a religiously affiliated hospital don’t take chances on your life.

      Remember, we only have this one.

      • Beyond a doubt, the best hospital in Mobile, AL is the Catholic hospital. Even my Southern Baptist mother-in-law worked at the Catholic hospital when she got her nursing degree.

  8. mizchula says:

    Hello, I’ve also gone through the same situation as yours. However, they didn’t remove the vein. I was diagnosed with DVT two years ago. I had the same pains you described, however when I took a trip to the ER they almost sent me home. If it wasn’t for the medical student I think I wouldn’t be here today. An ultrasound confirmed I had no blood flow from my inner right thigh down to my ankle. They also check my lungs and I had PE’s in my lungs. I am on coumadin for the rest of my life and have a lovely ” Purple Leg” to remind me everyday how Thankful I should be and am.
    I’m happy that everything went well for you. And I very much enjoyed your story. Thank you!

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