My left calf really hurt. I wanted to blow it off as a pulled muscle, but something in my gut kept telling me this wasn’t normal. I didn’t have the other telltale signs like the redness, swelling, or hot-to-the-touch feeling. But the pain was just weird.
I called the nurse’s hotline. She said it would be best to get an ultrasound done, just in case. I didn’t have a primary care physician, though, so I couldn’t get an order that way. I knew the Urgent Care didn’t have an ultrasound onsite. I could have called my OB/GYN and I am sure she would have ordered it. But how long would it take to get in? And if there really was a clot, I shouldn’t wait. ER it was going to be.
I felt like I was waiting in line for a while. My leg had let up a little bit before I left work. I remember having a brief twinge of feeling like I was wasting my time. But better be safe than sorry, right? And I remember demanding an ultrasound of my legs when I was in the hospital for a week two years ago because of concerns, and though I was fine, I was glad I did.
When I got up to the triage, they started taking all of my vitals. I described the pain and told them I’d had COVID but had been out of quarantine since the previous week. They were immediately concerned about a blood clot. My blood pressure was also really high and I was tachycardic.
I finally got to go back to have my ultrasound. The technician was great. We chatted about all kinds of things and she was telling me things about what was on the screen, because I had mentioned I have an interest in medicine. When she got to my calf, though, the conversation seamlessly shifted gears, and I just knew she had found something. Dozens of pictures were taken of my calf. And then I was wheeled back out to the waiting room because there was nowhere available to sit inside the ED.
Not too much later, they wheeled me back into the ED observation unit to a little room and told me to change into the gown. And then I found I did in fact have a blood clot in my leg, a DVT, and they were going to run a bunch of tests on me. First up was drawing blood and then I was going to have a CT scan. I started to panic because I have horrible claustrophobia. When I had a CT scan for my kidney stone two years before, I almost had a panic attack. And that was just scanning the lower half of my body. This time, they were going to scan me from neck to toe, to see if any of the clot had broken off or if I had any more elsewhere in my body.
I also had the honor of having a pulse ox placed on my left index finger and a blood pressure cuff on my upper left arm that was going to squeeze and take a reading every half hour. That made texting with one hand interesting. I also tried to read, but couldn’t concentrate on the book, and it was by one of my favorite authors.
Ativan calmed me down for the CT scan and the techs were absolutely amazing. We laughed and sang a little bit and I got through the test okay. I got to go back to my little room and got all hooked up again. And then came the diagnosis.
I was being admitted. Part of the clot had broken off and gone into my lung. I had a pulmonary embolism. That scared the ever-living fuck out of me. But they reassured me that it was quite small and I was in the hospital where I needed to be. I was going to get injections of blood thinners for a jump start. And they wanted to keep an eye on my pulse, respirations, and blood pressure. Hopefully I was going to get a bed upstairs as they continued to monitor me. I remember joking around that I would take my friend’s room, as she had just messaged me that she was being released because of her own COVID complications.
I eventually got some food to eat because I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and had missed the dinner deliveries. I wasn’t drinking enough fluids. My urine was too bright. But it was also a pain to have to buzz the nurses and wait for them to unhook me from all of the gadgets so that I could go to the bathroom. Walking that short distance was torture because of the pain in my leg. I was just miserable. Finally, in the middle of the night, I got a pain pill and fell asleep around 5 AM. For the first time, my blood pressure finally read normal.
The next day, I ate my breakfast and had my first coffee since I had gotten sick. Of course, a hospital cup of coffee isn’t as much as my normal cup, but whatever. A couple of hours later, the day doctor came in to speak with me. I had been on a monitor for several hours. They had been monitoring my pulse and blood pressure and while they had been yo-yoing a lot, they were not overly concerned and didn’t feel that I had any heart damage. But I was going to have to go on blood thinners for an indeterminate amount of time and needed to find a primary care physician.
Their social worker was amazing. She found me a DO and my first appointment was going to already be the very next day. Otherwise, I would be waiting until January, and that was too far out. Once the appointment was scheduled and I’d had a chance to ask all of my questions and my vitals were recorded again, I was finally being released to go home after almost 24 hours.
But I’d be back.