Diagnoses of a DVT and PE were devastating and scary. The doctor saying to me, “You’re lucky you came in when you did,” continues to echo in my head. It also didn’t help that three of my friends had been widowed by blood clots in the past year, men ranging in age from 30s to 60s.
I became even more hyperaware of everything that was happening with my body. I noticed every single discoloration, fluctuation, and twinge. And considering my past with chronic pain, the twinges were the most interesting.
One day at work, the week after I’d been released from the hospital, my right arm started to pinch hard. I ignored it at first because I was guessing it was likely related to being back at work and on the computer all day. But it persisted.
Pain in arms was one reason to call into the doctor’s office, according to the literature on my prescription meds. That and I was just nervous. Plus I had just learned about another potential exposure at work and had to check in with my doctor to appease the powers-that-be.
The nurse got back to me and was great. She reassured me that I was already on the best medication for my condition, but kept asking me questions. We finally ascertained that what I was feeling was residual pain from the Lovenox shot I had received prior to leaving the hospital. I had opted for the arm instead of the belly for that one. And sure enough, when I looked in the bathroom mirror, there was a bruise at the injection site.
Crisis averted and sanity restored.
Fast forward a few weeks. I was proud of myself, taking my meds on time and slowly building up some strength by moving around more. I was at work, again, and went to file some things in the conference room down the hall. I decided I would do a few laps around the conference table for a bit of extra movement. And then the pain hit.
Suddenly, I could hardly walk. My calf had seized up just like with that initial DVT. No amount of stretching was helping. The pain was getting worse. My pulse oximeter showed I was tachycardic, just like the first time. I was sure that my blood pressure was elevated. Everything was just the same as before, and I panicked. Mentally, I understood that the chances of having another clot while on Eliquis was low. But it could still happen, and I am notorious for being the exception to the rule. I called in.
It felt like an agonizingly long time before I finally got the return call. I spent over 20 minutes going over everything with the nurse, terrified and sobbing along the way. She said I was probably okay, but what I was describing definitely warranted being checked out. It was probably best to just go right to the ER, because they could do all of the needed testing. And it would be best if I could get a ride.
Luckily, a friend of mine was still in the building and was willing to drive me to the hospital. It was hard walking in because of the pain. Then there was a long line. This was back when COVID was at its peak in my area.
When I finally got to triage, my pulse rate was definitely up. Then they used the wrong cuff on me, so my blood pressure was reading at deadly numbers. I was immediately sent for an EKG. (Later I figured out pretty much everyone coming through was getting an EKG.) I decided that must have been showing as relatively normal, though, or at least that I was not in imminent danger, because I continued to wait in the waiting area for a while.
During my wait, I spent a lot of time texting back and forth with a nurse friend of mine who had experience with clots and had been hospitalized with COVID back in February 2020. She also was glad that I had gone in because my numbers read high, but figured it was likely residual pain from oxygen still having a bit of difficulty getting to my calf, especially if I was exerting myself.
I finally went back for the ultrasound. It read really well. The clots were resolving and the blood flow was really good. I could hear the difference, myself. They still put me in a curtained room, though, and hooked me up to monitors.
A few hours went by and I noticed my numbers were fluctuating a lot. They seemed worse when I was really paying attention to them, of course. The nurse had mentioned COVID PTSD. We already knew I seem to have some White Coat Syndrome. Is that what this part was?
Around midnight, the doctor came in to talk to me. He wasn’t concerned about the fluctuations because those issues were already being addressed and overall were in the okay range, or at least okay enough to be released.
When I asked him about the pain, he said it indicated that I was probably doing too much. I still needed to take it easy. That part was frustrating to hear, because I already was taking it easy a lot. I was closing in on two months since coming down with COVID and it felt like it was taking too long to feel better.
But at least the clots were resolving?
I do still get that periodic pain in my leg, even several weeks after that trip. Now I at least know what it is and can usually determine an excess of movement. I now can either wait it out or take Advil to alleviate some of the pain.
I am glad that I went. I know I am getting better, as slow as it may be. And I really hope that I do not have to return.
Coming up next, dealing with all of the lifestyle changes caused by COVID.