In March 2012, I was knocking at death’s door and didn’t know it. The diagnosis: Pulmonary Embolism. I had blood clots in both my lungs and legs. The cause: long-term oral contraceptive use. Seriously! I had taken birth control since I was 19-years-old. I liked having may periods regulated. I knew the risk factors – or so I thought – like not smoking; but I never thought I could be at risk of developing a blood clot.
In case you didn’t know, a pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. The condition is most often caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or sometimes other parts of the body.
I shutter to think what could have happened to me. I know it was the grace of God that kept me from suffering a debilitating stroke or even worse.
I wasn’t experiencing leg pain, which is one of the symptoms. When I could barely walk up the steps and down the hall to my office, I simply thought that I was out of shape. By the time I made it to my desk, I was out of breath. I mean, really out of breath. I had fallen off my exercise regime and figured being out of breath was natural.
I was wrong.
As my breathing got worse, I went to the hospital thinking that I had contracted some type of weird virus on my flight back to the West Coast following the Christmas holiday. Perhaps it’s adult asthma, I told myself. Either way, it can’t be too serious – right?
A quick thinking doctor asked me a litany of questions and suggested that I stay overnight for observation because my heart rate was excellerated.
“Sure, I can do that…. it’s not that serious – right?”
A 6:00 a.m. CT scan revealed otherwise.
” You have a pulmonary embolism. You’ll need to stay in bed,” the doctor said.
I was hospitalized for the next five days hooked to a heparin drip to dissolve the clots. The doctors have since described my situation as “impressive.”
I now know that my excessive heart rate was caused by a lack of air getting to my lungs. My heart was pumping overtime.
Since this episode, I have heard and read so many stories of people who have died from blood clots.
I know that God’s grace and mercy covered me through this ordeal and I don’t take it lightly.
I don’t think I had ever heard the term – Pulmonary Embolism – before this happened to me. I certainly didn’t know what it was until the doctor explained it to me. I am now on a daily dose of the blood thinner Warfarin, a small price to pay when I think about what could have been my fate.
You can find a lot of information online about Pulmonary Embolism. My go-to place is the Mayo Clinic. In the meantime, here’s some warning signs to be aware of:
- Lethargy or fatigue – Abnormal fatigue warrants a trip to the doctor (better safe than sorry!)
- Redness and swelling in the legs
- Shortness of breath
- Pain with breathing or other chest pains
- Sweating and feverish
- Fainting and dizziness
- Fast heart beat
- Persistent, unexplained cough
- Blood in your phlegm
- Other health factors putting you at an increased risk for developing a blood clot