Before and Now – One Year After my Pulmonary Embolism

“Even though I didn’t know you before, I think you sound a lot more normal now,” she said to me right before hanging up the phone. I had just finished reminding her that this was my one year anniversary of being admitted into the hospital with a DVT and PE that nearly killed me at this time last year. I knew she wanted to say, “You sound alive,” or something similarly shocking. Stacey, my nurse, has been an essential part of my recovery over the last year and I generally speak to her on a weekly basis about my INR and what dosages of medications to take. There was a time – and not that long ago – when both she and my hematologist questioned my ability to fully recovery, I know. The words weren’t said, but I watched them both desperately search for answers regarding my seemingly diminished mental capacity, ability to remember squat and difficulty finding a job I could simply do. I spent many a hysterical phone call with Stacey from month to month and if she ever grew impatient or frustrated with telling me the same thing day after day when I would call to confirm because I couldn’t even remember to write it down in the first place, she never showed it.

It was moments after I hung up the phone that I realized there really was a before and now. Before my PE and now, after my PE. It got me thinking about something I saw floating around on Facebook –

before and after this

The last year of my life has been, in short, hell on Earth. I have been angry, sad, forgotten, alone, desperate, confused, alienated and unbelievably grief-stricken by the fact that while two in three people do not survive a pulmonary embolism, I am the one that is still here. Why? Why me? The emotional trauma and grief I have faced is second only to the physical pain I have been in for so long and while that has slowly, very slowly started to ease, I know the emotional effects of what I have endured are just beginning.

And this got me thinking even more. The people that I meet from here on out will never know the other me. The me before the PE. They will not know the girl that was more lighthearted, not afraid of pain and able to push through a lot before tossing in the towel, calling it quits and moving on to the next big thing. They won’t know the girl that used to hit the ground running – literally and figuratively – taking three steps forward to every two steps back. “Look on the bright side, life can only get better from here.”

No, they will know the woman that is fearful of every little ache, reserved in action and in thought, at times withdrawn and unable to put into words what used to come flowing so freely. They will know the woman that has and will do all she can to keep her head above water – forget moving forward or back, it’s simply standing upright (literally and figuratively) that matters now. “Everything is a threat, most people can’t be trusted and your own body is most definitely out to get you.” If it can go wrong it will and probably already did.

Because I will never be the same.

And that is not an easy thing to deal with – for anyone, no matter who you are. This changes you. I don’t think you can avoid it.

As I look back over the last year of my life, I realize I am recovering – slowly, but surely and there are parts of me that have healed leaps and bounds compared to where I was when discharged from the hospital. I can walk without a limp more days than not and I can yawn, cough, laugh or hiccup without doubling over in pain. I even ran two miles this past weekend – an accomplishment 363 days in the making.

And I know, in other respects, I have a long way to go. Emotionally, my wounds are still fresh and I am not ready to tackle them head on so I will remain fearful of every little ache, withdrawn and struggling with finding the words to accurately describe my feelings. Today, I will be grateful for the chance I have been given to live again and I will stand.

My hope is that through my experiences, I can help others get from where I was, to where I am to where I hope to be so that together, we can all begin to heal.

Share your story. How long ago did you suffer from a DVT/PE/Blood Clot? What has been your biggest challenge during recovery? How are you a different person now than you were before your incident?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,