It’s true, I had heard of pulmonary embolisms. I’m a pharmacist after all. The main thing I associated with having blood clots in your lung was that there was a very good chance you could die. When I chose to have elective knee surgery – a simple day procedure – little did I know six days later a doctor would tell me I had bilateral multiple pulmonary embolisms. I cried, of course. Although I was relieved, they finally knew why my heart rate was so fast, and why I could hardly sit up in bed without breathlessness.
The day after my knee operation, I was puttering around on my crutches, chatting to my best friend on the phone. Suddenly, I couldn’t get my breath. I could hardly speak. I got off the phone and I sat down. My heart was going so fast it was unbelievable. I felt faint, I felt very breathless, and I knew something was very, very wrong. I also started shaking and was drenched in sweat.
I was rushed to hospital and taken straight to resuscitation – not a good sign, I thought – and my heart rate was 180, so they tried to reset it with medication. I gripped my husband’s hand for dear life and repeatedly said “I love you and the children,” and I thought that was it. I thought I was going to die, but I am only 35 years old. I was frankly hoping for a bit longer. Thank goodness my husband is such a great dad. The kids would be okay. “We’ve been so happy. I’ve been lucky,” I thought as I waited to see if I would die. I will never forget that feeling. It pushes its way into the corner of my mind when I go to sleep at night.
I was actually sent home the next day as a dubiously unclear CT scan showed nothing. “It’s just a virus,” the doctor said as I struggled to walk two steps without breathlessness. Two days later, I deteriorated and my general practitioner sent me back to the hospital insisting they investigate again. A VQ scan showed multiple clots in both of my lungs. By this time, I could barely sit up in bed. It was the scariest experience I’ve ever had, without a doubt.
Eleven weeks have gone by, and I’m home now. I went back to work for the first time this week. I’m doing school runs and looking after my three children. I’m about 80 percent back to normal. I can function fairly well, but on a bad day, going up and down the stairs is still hard, and I experience gasping for breath a lot, especially when I’m tired. I’m getting there, slowly but surely. I still wonder if I’ll ever feel completely normal again, but I live in hope.
I’m just so happy to be a survivor. I’m so happy to still be a mummy to my children and a wife to my husband. I never imagined how up and down recovery could be, and I was amazed how little information on recovery I was given with no rehabilitation program at all. I would love to be an advocate to promote PE recovery, advice and support in the future. Mainly, I’m just happy I have a future!
Editor’s Note: Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your story with BCRN. Connect with Victoria in the comments below.
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