Me and My Clots, Part I: If You Can’t Breathe, Go to the Doctor


One Saturday last October I was getting ready for Journey time the next morning, and i gradually began having trouble breathing.

In Central Texas, a crazy kitchen of allergies, it’s not unusual for any of us to have respiratory issues. So, yes, I wasn’t breathing very easily, and i also just felt sort of out of it, which can be Cedar Fever (yes, that’s real). but Sunday morning I called in sick at the last minute, which I don’t do unless it’s bad.

Make a note: if there’s something you do when things are bad, and you’re doing it, then, things are probably bad. 

I watched TV and napped and tried to breathe all day, feeling kind of faint. The longer the day went on, the more I was gasping. I thought maybe I had a cold. I put Vicks VapoRub on my chest, sniffed nasal spray. At about 4 am, not having slept at all, I decided not to wait til 8 when the doctor’s office would open, but instead to go to the ER.

Now, I’ve never been in the hospital, except for a few hours a few times to be watched while I passed kidney stones (the great test of human endurance). But i wasn’t worried or scared about going – i go to hospitals all the time in my line of work, and i trusted that they could help me.

I walked into the lobby of the ER, told them i couldn’t breathe and my chest was aching, and I was wheeled straight to a room and hooked up to heart things and blood pressure things and blood oxygen things and that oxygen tube that goes behind your ears and into your nostrils. and let me just say: having enough oxygen is great. i’m a big fan.

There’s lots more to the story, including how much i loved and appreciated the nurses and doctors and technicians and how kind and professional they were, but i’ll stop here for now:

turns out i had a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis, or, blood clot) in my left lower leg. i also had another blood clot which had departed my leg, carried by my veins up to one of my lungs, where it got stuck and became a Pulmonary Embolism. that’s why i couldn’t breathe. guess what? people die from this because the blood clot doesn’t make it through the heart to get to the lungs, or it blocks off enough of the lung to shut things down, or a zillion other things. i wasn’t nearly as scared as everybody else was (i had oxygen going into my nostrils!), but i actually was never scared at all. even when they told me this is a “potentially fatal health event.”

however, scared or not, here’s the thing: if you can’t breathe, don’t wait a couple of days to see if you’ll be able to breathe at some other point. go to the doctor or the ER.

yes i have to wear these an entire year

Next: I Win The “Best Patient On This Floor” Award.

i mean, obviously.

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  1. I’m so happy you are alive! I think a Journey art project is painting your support socks.

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