Eight days ago, I went to an emergency room because I was having trouble breathing. Tests determined I have bilateral pulmonary emboli, which is just a fancy way of saying I have multiple blood clots in both lungs. I’ve been told that such clots kill 30 percent of those who have them before they’re even diagnosed.
I was very lucky.
I haven’t posted any new articles here in almost three months. I’ve known something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I’ve had extreme fatigue, lack of energy and a general feeling of full-time exhaustion. I woke up exhausted each morning. Just walking my dog a quarter of a mile would drain me. I’ve been doing the minimum I had to do to survive — and then simply collapsing at home.
I knew I’d gained weight lately from stress-eating, so I attributed the physical symptoms to weight gain and the mental lethargy to depression. But I now know that another problem was building, although it’s impossible to say when it started.
Blood clots in the lungs make it difficult for the body to absorb oxygen from the air we breath. The blood vessels in our lungs normally take oxygen from the lungs and move it to the rest of the body. Since the blood vessels of my lungs were becoming more and more blocked, my body was having trouble extracting the oxygen from the air I was breathing and sending it to my brain and muscles and other organs. This accounted for the fatigue, both mental and physical.
For months now, I haven’t felt good enough to write and it doesn’t appear that will get better immediately. I’ve had ideas for a number of things I wanted to write about, but it’s been a struggle to get past making a few notes. This is likely to continue for at least six months.
I am taking an expensive blood thinner called Xarelto. This is supposed to make it more difficult for new clots to form and it’s supposed to allow the existing clots to slowly dissolve. There are additional stages of treatment available — medication to directly dissolve clots and even surgery — but those have higher risks. I’ve been told to expect to be on the blood thinner for six months, but that is subject to change.
In the meantime, I’m not allowed to do anything even slightly strenuous. One of the doctors at the hospital when I was being released used examples as mundane as cleaning my house and cutting my grass as examples of things I’m not allowed to do right now. (The picture at the top was my hospital room until I talked them into letting me go home.) This is a challenge for someone who lives alone with seven cats and a dog — and my house is already showing the serious effects of my accumulated lack of energy from the past few months — but it’s just something I have to accept for now.
For the last five days or so, I’ve also had a serious cold on top on the clots, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time with pharmacists figuring out which medications I could take that wouldn’t conflict with the blood thinner or the blood pressure medication I was given. Random coughing fits leave me feeling as though I’m about to black out — and it’s hard to say which to attribute to the cold and which to the pulmonary emboli. I’ll be considerably better if I can get rid of the cold.
There are a lot of things I don’t yet know about what the recovery process is going to be like. If you have any medical interest and would like to know more about that, here’s an article I found helpful. This woman warns that “…it may take you upwards of a year or more to start to feeling physically normal and participate in activities again…”
It’s also going to be a challenging process because I don’t have health insurance. I used to have a nice Blue Cross plan — which was already expensive enough — but as soon as the federal government stepped in to “make insurance affordable,” the price skyrocketed, so I have no coverage. That will complicate everything for me.
I might have times when I have the energy to write something — especially when it’s a simple idea that doesn’t require a lot of thought or time — but don’t expect to see much from me for at least another six months. I’ll be busy managing several related crises instead.
Thanks so much for your continued interest in my work. I’ll be back when I can.