Health Update & Listen To Your Body

I had planned to be sharing photos of my trip to Bali with you these last few days but I ended up having a crazy health scare with deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in my leg) and pulmonary embolisms (blood clots on the lungs) that landed me in the hospital last weekend. I've been sharing some of the story on Instagram and wanted to share a bit more of an update here. 

My hope in sharing some of the more private details in this post is to encourage you to listen to your own body and to take action if/when it's needed to save your life or potentially that of someone you love. There is a lot more information about blood clots online (they can be caused by a variety of different things and not just long plane flights) but my suggestion is to talk to your own doctor if you have concerns. The internet can be a very scary place for health-related information and misinformation.  

Here's my story:

After returning home from Bali I had a leg ache/cramp in my lower right calf that wouldn't go away. For me it was a pain that made me want to keep stretching it - it was not noticeable on the outside of my leg (no redness or swelling). We had returned to the US on Sunday and I resumed my regular day to day life activities. By Thursday the calf pain was still present and I developed a low grade fever and was experiencing an overall feeling of "not goodness" (which can sometimes be known as jet lag to make it that much more complicated). I worked in the morning and then told Katie I needed to take a nap. Once I was up and walking around again I continued to not feel good and told Aaron that I wanted to go to a local Urgent Care (it was after 5pm) to have them check me out because the pain hadn't gone away and I was starting to feel nervous about it (fearing a blood clot due to my recent long travel). After arriving at Urgent Care I was told to go to the ER because they didn't have an ultrasound machine to test for a clot. 

There was a lot of mental second guessing going on along the way even in the beginning. Should I just wait until tomorrow and talk to my regular doctor? This is probably nothing. I hate going to the ER because I know how much it costs just walking in the door. It's probably nothing. But I'm definitely the person that wants to know what's going on and my anxiety is the kind that motivates me to take action/get a resolution vs. hide. 

I drove over to the ER and checked in. They called in someone to do the ultrasound and told me that I had a clot in my right calf that stretched into my right knee (called deep vein thrombosis/DVT). After some discussion they decided to start me on a blood-thinning medication (Pradaxa) and send me home. They asked multiple times if I had tightness in my chest or trouble breathing and at that point it wasn't an issue I was aware of for myself. At the end of my time there the last nurse I talked to said to me, "Here's the deal: if you feel anything strange, anything out the ordinary like shortness of breath or lightheadedness or pain in your chest, come back in here right away. This isn't something to mess around with." I think his very specific warning helped guide my decisions the over the course of the next day. Just a note for the sake of my memory - the wait that night for some people in the ER was 9 hours. I was lucky (or unlucky as the case may be) to be in and out of there in just a little over 3 hours. 

The fear with blood clots in your legs (or in your arms) is that they break off and travel to your lungs, heart, or brain. Without being overly dramatic, it can be fatal. According to the Mayo Clinic, "About one-third of people with undiagnosed and untreated pulmonary embolism don't survive."

So with that in mind (yikes), I went about my fairly regular routine and drove to fill my new subscription and did some work at my desk. I was tired and a little scared/anxious about what was happening, but okay. Early in the afternoon I was on the phone and walked upstairs to my bedroom and was winded and had trouble catching my breath while holding the conversation and needed to sit down. That is not normal for me at all and I definitely took note but chalked it up to just an overall feeling of fatigue that I was experiencing (international travel + moving in + getting back to work + the stuff of life).  

I was scheduled to go sign loan papers for a refinance of my house at 2pm and had planned to drop Audrey off with her Mom on the way to the appointment. While driving there I became lightheaded (and, at that point, very scared). I wondered if my anxiety was getting the best of me and was I creating these feelings or was it really a very bad sign (I learned after the fact that anxiety can be a warning sign for pulmonary embolisms - even more challenging for someone who already deals with anxiety). I dropped Audrey off and then decided to drive straight to the ER. I walked in and, through big crocodile tears, told the intake person that I swear I wasn't crazy and that I could possibly be making this up because I'm so worked up or something could be really wrong with me. I told her what I had been experiencing and they got me started in the triage process. 

I had an ekg and my vitals were fine. I was moved out of triage to a bed in the main section of the ER and met with a doctor. There was more crying on my part as I told her my story and that "sometimes I just cry when I talk when I'm really afraid" (those of you who've been around awhile might remember me learning the lesson about continuing to talk even when you're crying). After listening and checking me out she suggested doing a spiral ctscan because then I would either know it wasn't an issue or it would be and we'd go from there. Aaron arrived. They hooked me up to an IV to receive some kind of iodine injection during the ctscan. It was all very surreal but I felt really glad to be getting checked out to either alleviate my fear or take the next steps. 

I waited close to an hour and then the doctor came back and let me know that there the ctscan detected a series of small blood clots on my lungs (I remember her saying two but at the follow-up visit to my doctor today we got to see the scans and there were definitely more than two). I might have cheered a little bit just in knowing that I wasn't making it up but I was also still very scared about what it all really meant. From there I ended up being admitted to the hospital for monitoring while they started me on Lovenox (a low-weight molecular heparin that is injected). I spent the night in the hospital and had the chance to talk to a bunch of different nurses and the doctor about what was happening - if everything stayed stable they planned to send me home the next morning. 

I know not everyone likes the hospital but I'm one of those people who doesn't mind. I was really happy to be monitored and to alleviate some of the bigger fears I was experiencing under the care of nurses and a doctor. I wasn't in a hurry to get out of there. 

The noisy chatter of all that is regular life (work, the internet, meetings, decisions to be made, putting all the stuff away in the house, etc) stopped and all that was left was the most important things: the people. I'm really thankful to my local community of friends and family who reached out with support and help with all the kids (and support directly for Aaron) while I was in the hospital. It's amazing how people mobilize when things like this happen.  

The next day we talked about discharging me. I was still feeling "off" overall but my vitals were fine and I wasn't experiencing shortness of breath or any other major symptoms. We decided to have me do a walking test around the floor (I was in the cardiac unit of a section of the hospital called the Heart & Vascular Center) to watch my blood oxygen levels. As I walked around I was doing okay but towards the end my oxygen levels starting dropping below a level they were comfortable sending me home. So I stayed another night.   

I really do try to live a life that focuses on gratitudes in my everyday life. Sitting in my hospital bed I had time to reflect on all that from a very different perspective once again. Health scares have a way of bringing the most important things, what truly matters, of our lives into acute focus. I might have laughed out loud a few times there in the room by myself - at the absurdity of the whole situation - and I gave so much thanks that I was okay and not the alternative. It was a very direct message to stop and rest. 

The next day (Sunday) I had an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) and I did another walk-around test where my levels stayed closer to where they should be so it was decided I didn't need to take any oxygen home with me. The orders from the doctor were to rest and to continue getting the Lovenox injections for a few more days and then go back on the Pradaxa and check in with my doctor within a week. If I experienced any of the same symptoms again I'm supposed to go to the ER. I felt comfortable going home and was ready for the next phase (and significantly more calm then when I entered the ER on Friday night). 

Coming home was the best gift. That night I sat on my bed with Aaron and all the kids while he played guitar while watching The Killers concert on Quello (an ironic band name for the situation but one of my favorites) and all the kids were either dancing or watching and I was overcome with gratitude for what is right now. It was one of those moments I don't think I'll forget.

The next few days were spent in bed with the exception of going to an infusion clinic for the Lovenox injections each morning (thankful to my friends who came over and took me to my appointment). I've been taking it as easy as I can with lots of resting, napping and reading. I was seriously so glad I had my Kindle along with me for the entire experience. So much waiting and resting both in and out of the hospital. From Thursday to yesterday I read Dark MatterWhere'd You Go BernadetteBefore The Fall and The Aviary. I didn't watch any TV. I turned off any noises on my phone. I just let my body rest. 

Today I'm heading to the doctor for a check-in after this week. I'm looking forward to asking more questions and seeing what his take is on things. I'm cautiously optimistic that the medicine is doing what it's supposed to do and I'll be on it for the next three to six months at least. I'm taking it super slow and doing a little bit here and there and resting when I get tired (which is still often). 

But I'm here and I'm oh so very thankful. 

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109 thoughts

  1. jamurphy says…
    08/27/2016

    I'm so glad you are taking care of yourself and have such an amazing group of family and friends to help you. You inspire me, both as a memory keeper and as a person. Keep on keepin' on, Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. 11cmroth says…
    08/27/2016

    Holy cow! That is a crazy and scary story! Thanks for sharing it - these are all good reminders for me. It's hard to trust those vague "something doesn't feel right" feelings. Good for you for trusting your instincts.

    On a separate note, wasn't Dark Matter so good? So intense, but also very thought provoking.

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. katiedidit says…
    08/27/2016

    Such a scary experience. So glad you are on the mend. And very good advice about listening to our bodies. Not something I always do. You are always such an inspiration. Continue to take care of yourself.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. AnnetteH says…
    08/27/2016

    Thank you Ali for sharing your story. That was tough to read, much less experience it! I'm so thankful you listened to your body and thank you for the reminder for us all to do the same. I'm so thankful Aaron and the kids and your friends are there for you. What a gift! And what a gift you are to all of us here. We love you and hope you continue to rest up and focus on "what truly matters" as you so beautifully said. Sending love and lots of good healing energy your way. xoxo

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. TracyG says…
    08/27/2016

    So glad you are home with your family and doing better. What a scary experience for sure! We do need to listen to our bodies...thank you for that reminder. Rest up and take care...you will be in my prayers. God Bless.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Bsthlf says…
    08/27/2016

    Thank you for the update! We all feel like you are part of our family and worry when you are not well. So glad you listened to your inner voice and your body! My OLW, "Observe", is teaching me to do the same! Sending Hugs and get well wishes!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Marie3 says…
    08/28/2016

    So glad to know you are doing better. Rest and take care. I am sending prayers and positive thoughts.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. meilin42 says…
    08/28/2016

    So glad you are better but my heart went out to so many Americans when I read "I hate going to the ER because I know how much it costs just walking in the door". I can't imagine not having free emergency medical care. You guys really need Obamacare.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Radish38 says…
    08/28/2016

    Blessings to you. Thanks for posting this as reading this is a good reminder to all of us, and especially those who fly. It was a treat to read about everyone in your bedroom singing and dancing. Love to all.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. YSandA says…
    08/28/2016

    So glad to hear you are home, resting comfortably. Thank you for sharing your story. What a scary situation! Wishing you well as you recover and heal - hugs.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Cookingmylife says…
    08/28/2016

    I'm so very thankful that you're ok and willing to share your life with all of us. You may never know which reader, which year, will read this post and her life will be saved because you were brave. Love you lots!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. GroS says…
    08/28/2016

    There are lessons to be learned from this. Thankyou for sharing, Ali. I'm sorry you and your Family have to go through this.
    Get well soon. And let people pamper you.
    Happy thoughts coming your way.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. vicki_dalton says…
    08/29/2016

    So glad you are doing better.
    Blessing to you and your family!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. happytoscrap says…
    08/29/2016

    Thank you for letting us know. Wishing you getting back to good health.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. carriek333 says…
    08/29/2016

    So glad you are well and getting back to feeling better! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. papergoddess says…
    08/29/2016

    Phew, that is very scary. But thankful you were treated and under good care. Hope everything works out well for you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Untiedt says…
    08/29/2016

    You poor thing. I understand your fear. I too myself had a blood clot in my leg that was from a procedure I had. Luckily, like you it was caught in time and I too was but on blood thinners which took care of my clots. I'm all better but it was very scary time for me. Amazing how quickly life can change. You are so grateful for modern medicine. I'm glad you are taking care of yourself and the medical team will get you as good as new in no time. Be Well. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. cryslee444 says…
    08/29/2016

    So scary. Glad you are doing better and that you listened to your body! I am so guilty of not listening and this is a huge wake up call especially as I leave for Italy in a month. Now I am reading up on what to do on long flights to hopefully avoid something like this. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. tccba says…
    08/29/2016

    You describe the exact feelings my husband had when he had a blood clot. The difference is that he refused to go in to be checked out, and at every post surgery appointment, the doctor refused to listen to my concerns. So his was the entire length of his leg by the time we found it! Since he was not allowed to put weight on his leg, the muscle pain was not so prominent, but he constantly complained that he didn't feel well. He could not tell me what was off, just that he did not feel well. He did have trouble breathing but insisted it was allergies, yet he had no other symptoms at all. I am very lucky I didn't lose him. By telling your story, you may help someone who recognizes these symptoms in themselves as well as someone who sees them in a loved one who brushes things off! I hope you heal quickly and safely, and I am happy to hear you are finding joy in the unexpected down time too!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Juljul13 says…
    08/29/2016

    Ali, what a terrible string of events and I'm glad you're ok and you still have a sense of humor. I laughed out loud when I saw the photo of your whiteboard. 'girl is always documenting. love it'...is what I said to myself.
    Continued recovery to you. - Julie

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. jscales915 says…
    08/29/2016

    I had that same thing happen to me after knee surgery - I was eating bananas like crazy and my newly-married husband was massaging my calf a lot - thank God he never broke it loose during one of those sessions! :) So glad you are on the mend - we've been following through Instagram and praying for your recovery!

    Jen S
    Irvine, CA

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Deneen03 says…
    08/29/2016

    I have a DVT that goes from the groin to my ankle and I have had it for almost 10 years now. My body didn't reabsorb it like they thought it would. I have been on Coumadin since they found it. My mom died of a pulmonary embolism caused by a DVT that broke and went to her lungs. She was in the hospital when it happened. I had some genetic testing done and found out I have Anti Thrombin III deficiency. A simple blood test to find it. We had my girls tested for it and 3 of the 4 of them have it but the good news is we know and can watch for signs of DVT should they have an injury. Also they can not take any medications that say risks of blood clots including birth control but at least we know it. I always say to listen to your body. I had colon cancer and the doctor's didn't listen when I kept going back in saying my stomach was hurting. Finally I ended up in the ER and a CT scan and then a colonoscopy found it. The DVT was a result of the surgery I had to have to remove the tumor.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. AddmUpr says…
    08/30/2016

    Hi Ali, I am very new to your blog and to papercrafting. As a matter of fact, this is the first of your blogs that I've read and I felt compelled to send you a note of blessings and good wishes for a healthy future.

    I also wanted to share that reading your health update just confirms what I felt the first time I saw a project that used your Loving Words stamp set on an old kWerner blog a few weeks ago. There was just something about the words, the style that spoke to my heart. Then tonight as I read your story, it all came full circle for me. Your creations are from your soul, your life, your deep felt experiences. You are present in the moments of your life, something that is so difficult today and the very reason why I started papercrafting...to give me time to pause, reflect and remind me to be present every day.

    Thank you for sharing this very private few days, it is important for us to hear for so many reasons.

    You and your family are in my heart.

    Anne - StL

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. spagirl says…
    08/30/2016

    Oh my gosh Ali. It sounds like things are under control and you are doing all you can. Through it all you still selflessly share to encourage us to take care of ourselves too. Be well. Sending prayers for continued health.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Bookworm says…
    08/31/2016

    Ali, I'm so glad you're doing better -- what a scare! Glad God was watching over you and you worked through your jet lag and fear to listen to your body. {{{hugs}}}

    Reply 0 Replies

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