Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pulmonary Embolism: The Whole Story, Part 1: What the Heck is Wrong with Bill?

I started this blog post almost a week ago now. The first night, I got too tired to finish. Then, B came home and I just didn't want to sit and think about it all. But, it is time to finish it. I'm thinking about breaking it into two or three parts just for the sake of length. I think most people reading know me personally, so you know I can talk with the best of them. I fully admit to my long-windedness. And my storytelling does tend to go on and on and on and on. But, that's usually because I don't like to leave things out. And in the case of what happened to Bill, to us, I don't want to leave anything out. I want to be able to have this story so we don't forget and so it's just out there for people to know about because we were so completely blindsided by what happened. Originally, I had hoped this would be a straighforward account of what happened medically, but there was so much more that I know the emotional/stressful parts will find their way through. I've said it before, I'll say it again: my blog, my perogative!

Also, we've told the story so many times to so many people that I feel like having it written out, printed, lamenated, and on hand to pass out when someone asks.

So, one more time, from the top.

On Friday, March 5, B started complaining about his left calf hurting. We didn't think too much about it as his legs often get stiff and sore because he refuses to stretch properly after working out--yes, I'm calling you out here, dear, so that maybe you'll start doing it!

He woke up the next morning with it hurting even worse. I rubbed the leg pretty extensively that morning and throughout the day. It was very stiff. It hurt him to put weight on the leg and after awhile actually hurt when I rubbed it. Sunday, more of the same.

Monday (3/8) morning, we decided he'd go ahead and do the elliptical like he does every morning, thinking maybe he could work out whatever stiffness was going on. But, we also said he'd take it really easy. After less than 5 minutes, I walked by the room and looked in on him. He was barely going, saying it hurt really bad. I looked down at the left calf and from across the room could see a small (maybe marble size) bump/knot on the side of his calf, about an inch and half above his ankle. Thinking he might have actually fractured a bone or something, I immediately told him to stop working out. Once we looked closer, we didn't think it was a bone sticking out, but still were not sure what it was. I urged him to see a doctor.

Monday evening, I brought home Dairy Queen for dinner--burger and fries. A couple of hours after dinner, B started complaining of chest pains, which he gets from time to time if he eats spicy, greasy/heavy, or acidic foods. He said he was hurting pretty bad and I asked him where the pain was, if it was down his left arm, etc. He said it hurt a little in his neck/back and some down his arm. I gave him two Gaviscon, which he normally takes for heartburn, and an asprin, which he also takes every morning. He continued to complain and actually started to get worried himself, which is rare. Neither of us slept that night and we discussed going to the emergency room.

Around 3:00 a.m. Tuesday (3/9), B was just about convinced that we should go the ER. I got up and got the laptop and brought it back to bed. I just wanted to see if I could pinpoint some symptoms. Within 10 minutes, he fell asleep for the first time all night. I stayed up looking at symptoms and was convinced he was not having a heart attack. I considered gall bladder because some of his symptoms reminded me of my mom's--she had her gall bladder out about a month ago. But, his pain was on the wrong side--his left side. Around 4:15, I decided to lie back down for a bit and woke him up at 5:00, our normal time. He was still pretty groggy and I knew he wasn't going to work and I decided I was at least staying with him until we had a chance to call the doctor. I got up at 6:30 to call my boss and he got up a little while later to do the same. He decided he wanted to go ahead and get up and thought he was feeling a little better. He went to the bathroom a couple of times and was burping a lot--both of which seemed to relieve the pain/pressure.

I thought the doctor's office opened at 8:00, so I made him wait until after I could get ahold of them to eat in case he could get in and they wanted to do any kind of bloodwork or anything. I finally got ahold of the doctor's office at 8:50. I explained to the woman at the appointment desk what was going on and she told me our doctor did not have any openings that day, but she went to talk to his nurse to see what we should do. I should mention here that at some point when I was looking up symptoms at 3:30 in the morning, I had considred his leg and I think even saw something about pulmonary embolism, but by the time I called the doctor, I did not think to mention his leg. Anyway, the doctor's nurse was going to talk to the doctor and call us back. She called back pretty quickly, but said they were thinking it may have been a really bad bout of heartburn/reflux and wanted us to try Prilosec or Prevecid and make an appointment to see the doctor as early as possible. I accepted that and B thought he was feeling better, so we decided to go with that.

We both had some errands to run, so we got out and about, but B was still not quite right. We stopped by my mom's office to pick up my jury summons that had been mailed to her house. We got to talking about how B was feeling and mentioned his leg. That set off alarm bells to Mom and she said we needed to go the ER or at least call the doctor's office back and tell them about the leg. B was skeptical, but while we were eating lunch, it was pretty clear he was still in a lot of pain. By this point the pain was localized to his lower ribcage on the left side. I was starting to get very concerned by this point, so he agreed to let me call the doctor back. This time, one of the nurses happened to be answering the phone and realized, I think, that this might be more serious than heartburn or even gall bladder. She got him an appointment with another doctor the next day at 1:00.

Well, B being B, did not want to keep the appointment because he was supposed to have his review at work the next day at 1:00. I told him we could cancel if he wanted. On the drive home, I still had a nagging feeling and we actually ended up in the parking lot of Harris Southwest ER. He convinced me that he was feeling better, but that if he felt bad again, he promised he would go to the ER. So, home went. Had a normal evening, complete with B playing Halo with the guys.

At 4:00 Wednesday (3/10) morning, B woke me up saying he really thought we needed to go to the ER. He was having pretty severe pain in his lower left ribcage. It hurt to take a deep breath, it hurt to the touch, and he could not get comfortable. He wanted to take a shower first, so he got a shower and I got up to take care of the pups. At this point, he was convinced he'd somehow broken a rib. By the time he got out of the shower, he felt a ton better and claimed it didn't hurt as bad. He again decided he did not need to go to the ER, but agreed to let me make an appointment with his doctor (but cancel the appointment for that day). So, off to work we went. I cancelled the appointment and made another one for the following Thursday.

Around 9:00, B called me and asked me to call back and see if the doctor could still see him that afternoon. The pain had gotten worse again and his boss was postponing his review and telling him to go home. I later found out that she actually tried to drive him to the ER herself and told him he was being selfish for not going to the ER/doctor to be checked out. All of this was enough to convince him. So, I called the doctor back and they scheduled him for 2:30 that afternoon. He went home and waited for me to come get him.

We did not see our regular doctor. She listened to everything, including the story about the leg, which B thought was silly tell, but at this point, I did not want to leave anything out. She seemed perplexed by all of the seemingly random symptoms and wanted run an EKG. Now, B was a bit scared by this. He is overweight and he has high blood pressure and high cholestrol/triglycerides. He was a little worried about what an EKG would show. Turns out, the EKG showed him to have a very healthy heart (I attribute that to his years an an athlete/runner). But, it did show some things that concerned the doctor. Without something to compare it to, she couldn't tell if it was normal for him or if what she was seeing indicated something else. She said she would not feel comfortable unless she sent him to an ER for some more testing. We asked her what she was thinking and she said blood clot (pulmonary embolism) or an infection around the heart.

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