I’ve had a bit of a setback in the past few days – after that outing on Wednesday evening I came home and went straight to bed at about 8pm. I was a bit breathless , and I had the strange nauseus/clammy/thick-headed feeling that I’d had the evening before the blood clot announced its presence. Thursday was a right-off – I spent all day in bed and then on Friday morning I made the biggest mistake since I started writing this blog. I looked up “pulmonary embolism mortality rates” on google.
I was astounded to read that 60,000 people died from my condition in America last year . I learnt that 30% of people die within the first hour and that overall there is about a 40% mortality rate. Bloody hell, I had no idea. My slight breathlessness suddenly became a lot more pronounced and I was gasping for air. No matter how much I breathed in, I couldn’t seem to get anough oxygen. I sat down, and all the other complaints became more pronounced – a sharp twinge in my ribs – an ache in my lungs – my thick head became dizziness. I phoned the hospital and to their credit I was called straight in.
I was given all manner of tests – blood, ECG scan, chest X-Ray, and a nasty little wrist injection to test the level of oxygen in my gases. The results were mixed – my INR (International Normalized Ratio) reading had dropped back down (this is a test which makes sure that the Clexain injections are thinning your blood as they should). My blood pressure was great – 126/79 but there was a significant drop in the oxygen levels in my blood.
Mair came into hospital with me and we walked around the wards to get the x-rays. This was a huge improvement on a week earlier when I’d needed a wheelchair, but my choice of companion was unfortunate. Not that my wife isn’t lovely, but she does walk very fast. She did make an effort to hold back for me, but this is a woman who moves so quickly that when shopping, her head reaches the entrance of John Lewis about 15 seconds before her feet. I struggle to keep up.
When all the tests were gathered, I was seen by a consultant who told me judging by my scan and x-ray, that I had a spot of pneumonia on the lung where the clot had been inflamed. There was no sign of infection in my blood, but he seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. I could go home, and would be treated with an anti-biotic to help clear up the pneumonia. He didn’t think it was too abnormal that I should still be breathless. By his reading of the ECG, he could determine that my heart defect had happened as a direct result of the pulmonary embolism, which again was reassuring.
But do you know the funny thing? In all of this, I had completely forgottten that I had a bout of pneumonia a few years ago. In 2001 I had been working all over the Winter in our dusty, cold house as builders worked on our extension, and had taken ill for quite a time. You would think that with another lung-related condition that I would have remembered about that. Of course in a more civilised country, they would have already known, as we would have a centralised digital database of each patient.
So what have I learned? Firstly, never look up your illlness on the web. It will drive you mental. With my body is in its current fragile state, the effect that anxiety can have was strikingly apparent – both physically and mentally. I had even retched before going into hospital in the way I do before big football matches. My breathlessness had got much worse, and my symptoms were hugely exagerrated – not that I faked them – they were very real. But I’m much calmer now, and reassured that I’ll get over this. Just maybe not as quickly as I’d anticipated.