So, my husband and I sped towards the hospital. The pain in my chest was so bad, I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack. I was able to walk into the ER under my own power (nearly crying at this point), but couldn't do much after that.
They ran the typical EKG or EEG to rule out a heart attack (which it was not). And yet the pain wouldn't subside. I was sent back out to the waiting room - at which point I *DID* start crying (I refer you again to the note in Part I about my rare fits of crying). People stared at me, but I didn't care. I was THAT WOMAN...the "crazy" woman in the hospital leaning on her husband crying her eyes out because of some invisible illness.
I finally was called back to a room and was introduced to that wonderful, fabulous, and blessed drug named "Morphine." If I had a firstborn, I would have sold him/her at that point for ANY level of pain relief. Morphine took my pain from a level 12 (on a scale of 1-10) to about a 7. During this time, they ran several other tests...many of which I didn't remember due to my new-found love affair with Morphine. I do remember what I believe was a CAT scan. A kinda creepy tech dude injected some purple dye in my veins, which (frankly) made me feel like I had peed my pants (I did not). Then a large circle machine made some loud noises and briefly interrupted my drug-induced bliss.
After about 8 (yes, 8) hours in the ER, a doctor finally came to deliver the news. "It appears you have a blood clot lodged in your lung. We'll be admitting you to the hospital so we can get that thinned down and make sure it doesn't move to your heart or lung." This condition, in case you were wondering, is called a "pulmonary embolism."
This began a six-day stay in the hospital. A normal INR (which measures how the thickness of your blood) is between 2.0 (thicker) and 3.0 (thinner). Mine was 1.0. Through a series of shots I had to give myself in the stomach (yes, you read that correctly) and a six-month course of blood thinners, I was finally able to get my blood thickness back into the "normal" range.
But how could this have happened? What could I have done differently to avoid this pulmonary embolism altogether? Remember that 300 mile long road trip I mentioned? What about the fact that I was living a pretty much stationary lifestyle due to my mysterious back pain? Road trips and failure to regularly exercise help contribute to blood clots. So do hormonal birth control methods.
So what was the pulmonologist's plan for me?
- No more hormonal birth control. Ever. It is now officially contra-indicated for me. This includes any birth control method that includes estrogen...from the Pill, to the Ring, to the IUD.
- When taking road trips, stop every two hours and walk around for 15 minutes. Never mind that pesky "not being able to stand or walk for longer than 10-15 minutes."
- Exercise more. Again, never mind that pesky "not being able to stand or walk for longer than 10-15 minutes."
So after having unexplained back pain for a couple of years and now a pulmonary embolism, I still had no explanation as to WHY all this was happening and no reasonable plan of treatment.
What else could be done?