When Molly, my 22 year old kitty who had kidney disease for almost five years died on June 16 I thought the worst of things was over. I never begrudged her a moment of care and if I could have her back with me now, doing her fluids and meds, even for a day, I'd take it. She was an integral part of my life.
In the days that followed more than once I reached for her sub-q fluids bags and started to warm them, I started to set up her meds, only to realize she was gone. Mel, my 12 year old white Persian was also involved in the routine and for several weeks after he continued to want me to do the same things I had done with Molly. Even with the addition of Bogie (who will be a year this week) and Missy who will be a year in December, we still had a rough go of it.
That was why when, a week after Molly's death, I didn't think too much of a sudden onset of shortness of breath. I was certain it was simply a reaction to my grief. But when I had to stop half way up my stairs to rest I figured it was time to go to the doctor. I described to her how my leg was bothering me, but I couldn't remember twisting my knee or anything. She ordered an x-ray of my lungs. With a cortisone shot for my knee and an inhaler for what she thought was pneumonia I went on my way.
A month and a half later I told her I was still having some problems breathing and she sent me to a cardiologist -- just for some tests. Before I could see him though, in early September, it seemed I had sprained my ankle. How else could it have gotten swollen? I didn't remember doing anything, but I must have, right? After 3 days of icing and the pain getting worse I went to the emergency room and much to my surprise I had a blood clot that ran from my upper thigh to my ankle. As they asked more questions and took more tests it became apparent that the shortness of breath in June was a pulmonary embolism.
More times than I can count in the past 5 weeks I have heard how lucky I am that the clot traveled to my lung and just sat there -- that it didn't go to my heart or head. Life truly is precious and just like that, without having any idea why, you could lose it.
In the weeks that followed the diagnosis my life has undergone some changes. Some favorite foods like cranberry and spinach are off the table. A one cup serving of spinach equals almost a week's ration of vitamin K. Life on coumadin brings with it some other issues -- a simple scratch can bleed for an hour or so. Regular "girl" things can be problematic. With your blood 2/3 thinner than usual, your body reacts accordingly. The literature tells you if you notice certain types of bleeding call your doctor immediately because it could be fatal. It doesn't tell you about the fact that some things are going to bleed anyway.
You tire easily and something you could normally shrug at becomes a concern, possibly a major one.
For me there was -- is -- an upside. When my blood pressure tanked the beginning of the month and they finally go a reading, it was 90 over "we don't know". The paramedic, Karl with a K, assured me it was normal and that they don't take a lower number. After about the 5th time he passed his hand over my mouth I expelled a loud breath. He asked what that was for and I asked if I was wrong that he was trying to see if I was breathing. He admitted he was.
Now he know
To help me relax he asked what I did for fun and I told him I write on the side. He was excited to hear romance because his 80-something mother is a HUGE romance fan and loves the steamier books. He shyly told me that if I wanted to create a great hero it should be a blond haired, blue eyed fire fighter/paramedic named Karl with a K. He even offered to give me professional advice and input on how to make my character -- coincidentally Karl with a K -- realistic.
His mom will be happy to know her son will be behind a fabulous hero named Karl with a K who happens to be a fire fighter/paramedic.
But seriously, if something seems wrong, if you have a swollen ankle you don't know where it came from or if your breathing is off, check it out and keep asking questions until they can prove you are really all right.