One year ago today I was 14 weeks pregnant and curled up on a gurney just brought into the ER of Scripps Mercy Hospital by the paramedics. I don’t remember many details of the environment around me because my eyes were closed tightly as I tried to block out the pain. I thought I had a muscular skeletal problem that needed chiropractic treatment. Instead I found out I had two pulmonary embolisms. (My clue should have been that people who have back problems don’t typically need to call 911!)
my husband and I were on a baby moon/medical conference for his job in San Diego. About a day into the trip I started having “back pain.” Even though I thought it was a little strange that it hurt particularly when I drew breaths I was convinced that it I just needed a chiropractor to adjust me. my husband was suspicious that it might be a P.E. because I was at an elevated risk due to pregnancy and travel. He kept pinching my fingers to see if blood was circulating to my finger tips – I guess that’s a rough measurement of your oxygen circulation. He kept asking me if I was out of breath which I didn’t feel. In fact, the day before we pedaled a tandem bicycle around Coronado Island. For the most part I was asymptomatic for a blood clot. Even though the pain was getting progressively worse I didn’t want to see a doctor because I thought it would ruin our trip. The nausea I was experiencing related to the pregnancy was already ruining our last couple of months.
I do vividly remember that pain. Maybe I’ll always remember it the way some women remember childbirth. I was so annoyed by it. I remember praying that God would take the pain away. I just wanted to enjoy our time away and not distract my husband for the work portion of the trip. When I wasn’t getting any relief I said to God, “Fine, I’m not going to pray anymore because you’re not even doing anything about this!” Probably five minutes after I spoke that out loud the pain got severely worse. I was doubled over on the hotel room floor and could barely move enough to call my husband who then called 911 as he was running back from the convention center.
Once I was diagnosed the look on my husband’s face was of sheer terror. He was standing next to the ER doctor and both of them were watching me rather intensely. my husband bent next to me and said, “I think you are going to be alright. But, is everything okay between you and I? And, is everything okay between you and God?” Until that point I don’t think I knew how serious it was and I felt God saying, “There was a reason for the pain. Listen to the pain next time. The pain is what I used to get you to the hospital where you will be cared for.” He assured me that I would be okay.
What followed that day in the ER was not an easy road. I found out that I have two blood mutations which contributed to the clots – Factor V Leiden and MTHFR. I had to give myself two injections of anticoagulant medication every day, which turned my stomach and thighs black and blue. And, it made me nauseous! I just couldn’t seem to escape the puking!
I made it to the end of the pregnancy, with a few additional complications, and delivered a beautiful baby boy who, although was born six weeks early, is doing great! As I pass the year mark of this significant life event, I wonder how my life is different because of it? You always hear stories of people who battled cancer and never took life for granted again. Same thing with heart attacks and whatever other serious health issues people tend to fight. For me I can’t say that I’ve had a dramatic shift in my perspective on life. I certainly can’t say that I no longer take life for granted. However, I do think having such significant health problems forced me to depend on others more than I would like and it made me live more fully in the moment. Both of these things do not come naturally to me.
I trust my husband even more so after this experience. He really carried a lot of the weight of managing my health, handling practical things around the house and just dealing with the emotions of it all without having a lot of people who could relate to something similar. My mom was a huge help in living with us for four weeks (and moving us!) while I recovered. Our Church community loved us from near and far. They brought meals, prayed, called, and visited.
Now that Mac is here, and okay, I am able to really embrace each moment with him. There were so many times that I thought I would lose him during the pregnancy and after he was born so prematurely. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another baby, at least biologically, again and I really want to soak up each moment with him. The old me would have tried to multiply moments and plan my way into the future. I would have wanted to work full-time, decorate my new house, cook homemade meals every night, work-out five times a week, and be the BEST mom ever! I still slip into that temptation from time to time, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job or being here right now. I’m trying to take life at a slower pace. I want to enjoy things I mentioned above like decorating, spin class, or playing with Mac without the pressure.
Surprisingly DVTs and P.E.s are not uncommon among women. In fact 600,000 people are hospitalized with DVT each year and 300,000 die from P.E.s. Here’s an article to learn more. Unfortunately I don’t think this issue gets as much attention as breast cancer or heart disease but it is affecting more and more lives. You can also learn more at preventdvt.org or clotcare.com.
What an experience to be wheeled through the lobby of the Hyatt on a stretcher with a conference full of Physician Assistants looking at me. I felt like I was a case study for them or something. The whole time the paramedic was convinced I had a kidney stone and I kept listening to my husband mumble under his breath, “She doesn’t have a kidney stone.”
Well babe, you were right I didn’t have a kidney stone but I kinda wish I had! I love you. Thanks for standing by my side through the last year. Here’s to many more!
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!