Patient Story: Not Ready to Go by Theresa Grinstead

theresa-grinsteadThe pain in my knee and calf was excruciating, but I am not the type to go to the doctor unless I’m dying (I’m sure you can tell where this story is headed). Maybe my new high heels were the cause – being a woman is painful sometimes. After about a week and a half of hobbling around, the pain subsided, and I had successfully avoided the doctor.

Fast forward two months. With snow in the forecast then, I planned for a quiet evening with Netflix. As I was contemplating what to have for dinner, I felt the strangest sensation in my leg. It felt like something popped, but there wasn’t any pain. Just as quickly as it happened, the feeling was gone. Within two minutes my chest started to tighten up. It got harder to breathe and suddenly I was seeing spots. It felt as if someone was sitting on my chest. Classic signs of a heart attack. I was going to pass out, and all I could think of was to call 911 so someone could find my body.

theresa-quoteI got off the phone with the dispatcher and started to feel better, but when the paramedics arrived, they insisted I was going to the hospital. As the EMT helped me put on my shoes – my Cinderella fantasy – I kept telling them I was feeling better. For the first time in my life, I’m happy that someone ignored my stubbornness. By the time I was in the back of the ambulance, I was getting sicker. My chest was hurting again and my stomach was churning. I had no idea how long it took to get to the hospital, but when we got there, I was in even worse condition. I felt as if I was going to pass out and throw up at the same time, which was pretty wretched. If this was a heart attack, I wished it would hurry up and take me. The doctor came in and told me that he was pretty sure it wasn’t a heart attack and wanted to know if I was on birth control. When I said “yes,” I heard him say those terrifying words, “blood clot.” The nurse immediately gave me an injection blood thinner.

Within the hour, it was confirmed that I had a DVT and a saddle PE. The popping sensation I felt in my leg was the blood clot breaking apart, finally settling in the major artery to my lungs. My oxygen level was at a dangerous 65 percent and my heart suffered damage in more ways than one. They wheeled me to critical care and was told I couldn’t move for 24 hours. Were they kidding? The next day my chest started hurting again, this time it was about ten times worse. My nurse was waiting for approval to give me morphine. I could tell by her voice, she was scared. I tried to focus on what a great nurse she was and not that I could be having a relapse, or something worse. When my pain was finally under control, the doctor came in to check on me. He diagnosed me with pericarditis. Huh? I needed Google, stat. The lining of my heart was inflamed, but fortunately, it would heal itself. The body is amazing that way. I stayed in the hospital for four more days. I had trouble breathing and was unable to hold a conversation without having to catch my breath. I’m a pretty quiet person, however, that week I wanted to talk to everyone.

When I went back to work three weeks later, I physically felt okay. Inside, I was a complete mess. Nobody told me how much this would affect me mentally. I was scared to be on blood thinners and scared to be taken off of them. Every little ache and pain sent me into a panic and I kept replaying the doctor’s words over and over in my head, “I don’t want to scare you, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it either. If you hadn’t called 911 when you did, you would have died.” Maybe I watched Final Destination too many times but I was in constant fear that death would come back for me with a vengeance.

I feel more stable now, although I still don’t let my phone out of my site. Living life to the fullest is no longer just a cliché anymore. Sometimes, I feel guilty for bouncing back so quickly when I know there are so many who take years to recover or do not have that chance. I truly believe this was a blessing in a hideous disguise since it happened at a very low point in my life. I was introduced to death, but I’m not ready for that relationship just yet. Life and I still have a lot to do together.


Share Your Story SQEditor’s Note: Thank you, Theresa, for sharing your story with BCRN. Connect with Theresa in the comments below.


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