It’s been a pretty crazy last couple of days in my neck of the woods. I don’t know if it’s the full moon, the mercury retrograde, the monsoon that is trying desperately to happen and not quite making it, or what’s causing it, but a lot of people I know are going through some Serious Things this week, and I’m no different.
Saturday my husband kept saying he didn’t feel well and he felt like it was harder to breathe than normal. He thought maybe it was just a cold, and we put on the humidifier in the bedroom and let it go.
Sunday he could barely breathe, and would get winded doing the smallest tasks. He couldn’t push the shopping cart in the grocery store. He couldn’t lift a 2-liter of soda. Walking around the store was making him winded. I started trying to talk him into going to urgent care. This is a man who hasn’t been to a doctor at all since 2012, mind you… he was not into the idea.
I’m a pharmacy technician, in case you weren’t aware, and Sunday night about 9 PM he was like, “Can you text your pharmacist and ask if there’s anything I can take over the counter for shortness of breath?” I said, “I think I know what she’s going to say,” but I did it anyway. And she answered almost immediately, “If anyone is having trouble breathing, go to the ER.”
He wasn’t quite ready for the ER yet, but I convinced him to go to urgent care. They did a chest X-ray, an EKG, and gave him a breathing treatment, but said that everything they could see was coming back “normal”. They referred him to the ER just before midnight. He was mad, refused to go. Said the ER would just tell him he had a cold and was wasting their time, and they’d send him home.
For about four hours at home, he tried to sleep and I couldn’t sleep because I was listening to him try to breathe. Finally, at about 6 AM Sunday, we both gave up on trying to sleep and he agreed very reluctantly to let me take him to the ER to be checked out. He got winded trying to get dressed and kept having to stop and rest. I still had to pretty much force him into the car. By this point every alarm bell I have was going off.
Finally got him to the ER at about 7:30 AM. Let me tell you what, when you tell the triage nurse that someone can’t breathe, they get you in the door quick. They did another chest X-ray, despite the fact that one had been done less than 12 hours before, and my husband got annoyed. “They’re not going to find anything. They’re going to run the same tests urgent care did, charge me twice as much for it, and send me home. We shouldn’t have come here.” Then they came back saying they wanted to do a contrast CT. My husband was complaining about how much all of this was going to cost for them to “find nothing”. I made him let them do the CT anyway.
They found large blood clots in both of his lungs. More than big enough to make it difficult for him to breathe. A later ultrasound found another big clot in his left thigh, running from his groin almost to his knee.
They told me first when he was out of the room to use the restroom, and I let them tell him when he got back. His immediate reaction was to look like he’d been punched in the gut. All the wind was taken out of his sails. Not only had they found something, they’d found something serious.
After that he got a lot more cooperative. He told the doctors he knew his health had been going downhill but he didn’t realize exactly how bad it had gotten. He started referring to this experience as “a wake-up call”.
I told the attending physician in the ER how hard I’d had to fight him to get him to the hospital. The doctor looked my husband in the eye and said, “You need to tell her thank you.”
They admitted him and started him on IV blood thinners and kept him overnight on bed rest. He was finally allowed to come home about four hours ago. He has many follow-up appointments in his future, and will be on blood thinners for at least three months and maybe longer, but he is already breathing easier and is sleeping as I write this. Soon I will also sleep, but I wanted to write this down while everything was still fresh in my mind.
People who have known me less than two or three years will find it hard to believe, but I used to be kind of a pushover. Especially if the pushing was coming from a man, or a boss/superior at work, or a friend/family member whose opinion I really cared about. My self esteem was not sufficient for me to believe that they could be wrong, and I would let them win.
For those of you wondering where the relevance to this blog comes in, here it comes: I credit the discovery of my voice, the discovery of my own strength, and the discovery of my own truth all to my yoga practice. Forcing myself to turn inward and examine my own thoughts and feelings, as well as physically test my own strength and my own limits, has forced me to grow and develop as a human being.
And where would we be now if I was still that pushover? Would I have forced my husband to the ER against his wishes, or would I have let him have his way? Would I have believed my own strong intuition that something was very, very wrong, or would I have let him make me believe it was “just a cold”? Would he have gotten a “wake-up call” or would he just not have woken up?
And lest you think I’m being dramatic on that last one, 25% of people with pulmonary embolisms don’t have any symptoms at all until they suddenly drop dead. Yeah. Dropping dead is the first symptom for one out of four people. Those aren’t good odds, folks!
So now as we’re moving out of the crisis and into life thereafter, I am choosing to be grateful. I am grateful that we have insurance. I am grateful that, even though my husband has a high-deductible plan and we still owe $3500 on top of what we were able to pay up front today, we aren’t going to be responsible for any more of his medical expenses this year (of which there will be many). I am grateful for the ER doctors who kindly but firmly told my husband that if he didn’t start putting some small amounts of money into maintaining/improving his health, he was going to end up right back in the ER again for something else major. I am grateful for that “wake-up call”. I am grateful that my husband has decided he needs to change his habits and lifestyle. I am grateful that he hated hospitalization so much that he’s willing to go to great lengths to make sure it never happens to him again. I am grateful that my employer has been understanding of me needing to take time off unexpectedly. I am grateful that my husband and I were both able to use PTO, so we’re not losing income at the same time as we are racking up medical bills. I am grateful for my intuition, and the courage to use my voice. I am grateful for the many friends (both online and offline), family members, and co-workers who have offered support, prayers, good wishes, healing vibes, and all kinds of positivity. I am grateful for my sister who, even though she is in Oregon, had Uber Eats deliver us lunch yesterday in Tucson. I am grateful that my son is old enough and mature enough to hold down the fort for a day or so while I was at the hospital, and that he even had dinner almost ready when we got back tonight.
I am grateful I still have a husband. I’m even grateful that I can hear him snoring right now (that’s how I know he’s still breathing!).
He’s already got a primary care doctor. He’s planning to finally get tested for diabetes, which we have long suspected he has or is developing. He’s making plans to eat better and to become more physically active. When they did an ultrasound of his heart, we found out about a congenital heart defect that, while minor, he had no idea he had and is now going to follow up on.
If he follows through with all these things, he might end up in even better health than last Thursday when he felt “fine”. I might as well, in fact. One of the things holding me back on my health journey has been his insistence that we were going to keep the grocery budget as low as possible by eating cheap, boxed crap. I am hoping he’s seen the error in judgment there now, and if he hasn’t I am now confident I have the voice to make myself heard above his protests.
I am grateful. I am thankful. I am extremely tired.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an empty space in the bed next to a snoring man, and it’s calling my name…