This patient story “When Blood Clots Are Just the Beginning” was written by Shelia Ipock for the Blood Clot Recovery Network Blog.
It was the scariest day of my entire 45 years on this earth. I had been complaining of a pain in my lower right side for about two years and had numerous tests. I got to the point where I figured I would just have to live with the pain. At the end of August 2014, I stretched my legs into a straddle and felt a burning sensation in my left inguinal, or groin, area. Over the next few days, it started hurting and it got very warm to the touch. I had been going to the doctor about the pain in my right side and had recently been told it was psychosomatic, or all in my head. I figured I just pulled something and it would resolve itself. We had some friends that we hadn’t seen in a while and we all went dancing that Saturday night. We did three rounds of a line dance, and when I went to turn into the next round, I started seeing spots and I thought, “uh oh.” Then, I passed out.
I came to and was surrounded by people. An employee at the bar assumed that I was intoxicated. My husband told him that I was drinking water, so there was no way that was possible. I got up from the dance floor and took a few steps, and I couldn’t catch my breath. After that episode, I just wanted to go home, but everyone insisted I go to the hospital.
I went to the emergency room at about one o’clock in the morning on Sunday and waited. They found a space for me and sent me in for an MRI of my head. This was after my husband told them I never hit my head. The doctor said nothing was wrong and sent me home. I still had issues breathing, but I figured that it must not be that bad since I was sent home. My husband instead insisted that I go back to ER. I went again and this time they did an x-ray of my chest and stomach area. The ER doctor disregarded the fact that I couldn’t breathe. He took one look at the x-ray and said I was constipated. He gave me some medicine and had a nurse give me an enema and they left me in a room and forgot about me. I had enough and my husband found someone to discharge me. They even admitted they forgot me and then sent me home.
On Monday, I went in to see my general practitioner. I wasn’t looking all that great. I was having more difficulty breathing and walking. My doctor had blood tests done and I went home. I could barely keep my eyes open. On Tuesday, I went back to my doctor. I was gray and couldn’t walk. I was also barely breathing. From there, I went to the hospital and had to be put in a wheel chair just to get to my doctor. She took one look at me and said she thought she knew what was wrong and had to take one more blood test. She sent me to ER so they could do a CT scan. In the machine, I could hear the techs in the back talking quietly to each other in an urgent manner (I later found out they thought I had died in the machine).
Once I was back in ER, everyone began to rush around me. I was quickly put in a bed, an IV was put in, and I was put on oxygen. Then an ER doctor came in and told me I had a saddle pulmonary embolism. He told me I was lucky to be alive, upon viewing the CT scan he said he had never seen a saddle embolism that large. The scan showed 90% of my left lung was blocked and 50% of my right lung was blocked. They got me as stabilized as they could, and I was sent upstairs to Intensive Care Unit (ICU). One of the few things I remember about that time was apologizing to my mother for being admitted to the hospital on her birthday, which was September 17, 2014. I was in the ICU for a week. A week after that, I was back in the hospital with a pleural effusion. That was more painful than the embolism. I was on oxygen for a month. I had to take Coumadin for six months.
When I finished my six months of Coumadin, I was rushed in to have a colonoscopy. It was determined I had a baseball size tumor that was staged at 3B cancer (so much for psychosomatic, huh?). I ended up finding out that when a person has cancer their blood hyper-coagulates. I finally found out why I had so many blood clots.
I lost my mom to colon cancer the week I finished chemo. I lost my dad nine days later of a broken heart. I have good days and bad days. It’s been two years since my initial diagnosis of a saddle pulmonary embolism. It’s been almost one year since finishing chemotherapy. I have been through a lot. I still have this fear that I will fall over with another blood clot. I also fear a return of cancer. Life will never be the same for me, but I’m alive, and I’m working on getting to a point where I feel healthy again.
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