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I never thought it would happen to me...

by , 05 October 2015

Two weeks ago I was a pretty normal, energetic 32 year old. I thought I was doing most of what I should be to keep healthy by eating the right foods and keeping fit by exercising most days of the week.

I definitely didn't think then, that today I'd be starting my recovery after spending four days in hospital and discovering blood clots in my lung. And I certainly didn't think I'd be sleeping 15 hours a day with a partially collapsed and damaged lung because of it.

You see, despite being in the health industry all my adult life, having seen worse things than collapsed lungs in my time as an intermediate life support paramedic, I still thought 'it will never happen to me'. Especially since I viewed my health superior to many others my age.

Well, here I am, now feeling quite inferior as I'm not even able to climb a flight of stairs without becoming out of breath.

And so, I'd like to tell you a bit of my story, to let you know that it can happen to you, and you should listen to your body.

I should have known there was something wrong…


It felt like I'd pulled a muscle in my chest on Thursday. But by Saturday I was even uncomfortable even sitting normally on the couch and I began taking shorter breaths because it hurt. On Saturday night I woke up in a panic at around 1am and I was gasping for breath. That's when I knew it was time to go to hospital.
 
When I arrived, I could hardly speak and was talking in broken sentences trying to explain what I thought had happened. I told the doctor I thought it was a pulled muscle, obviously still in denial that it could be something serious, and they immediately gave me a muscle relaxant and pain killer, which helped tremendously. I was able to calm down and breathe relatively normally after that during which time they took blood and did X-rays of my chest.
 
The doctor admitted me saying he wasn't quite sure what was causing the breathing difficulty, but thought it might be a pulmonary embolism because my blood clotting factors came back elevated and my diaphragm seemed to be pulling upwards in the left side of my chest. He said I'd have to go for more tests the following day.
 
And just to be on the safe side, twice a day I'd get an injection into my tummy with an anticoagulant to ensure no more clots formed if it was due to clots.
 
It's the most painful injection I've ever had...
 
When the specialist came to see me, I told him my story again and asked him about whether it could be a pulmonary embolism (PE). I’d been furiously Googling while waiting and was getting fairly nervous…
 
But, with no family history of blood clots, the fact I was young and healthy and that I didn't have any sign of a DVT, he wasn't convinced that the high blood clotting factors were an undeniable diagnosis of PE.
 
But I was on an every day oral contraceptive, and that was a concern. The only real risk factor I had, and it was a smallish one at that – for most woman…
 
And so the doctor sent me for a CT scan and angiogram. Another painful procedure I’d rather not have to endure again.

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It’s official – I have clots in my lung

 
The results came back positive for clots in the lower lobe of my left lung. But worse than that, part of the affected lobe had already been destroyed due to lack of blood and nutrients and it had then collapsed as a result.
 
Besides the twice a day injections, it wasn’t a great time in hospital. The pain in my lung and back was so severe I couldn't sleep. And when I tried, I had to be sitting bolt upright to ensure I could breath. Most of the time I was sitting forward, leaning on a stack of pillows because it was the only way I could relax.
 
It didn't help the fatigue I already felt because of lower levels of oxygen in my blood and my body fighting the infarction (dying lung tissue).
 
And that’s what’s still getting me now.

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Recovery will be slow but I’m getting there

 
A week out of hospital I’m still pretty tired. I’m on a strong anticoagulant for the next 6 months, which leaves me with a high risk of bleeding.
 
My doctor is encouraging me to start getting back into my normal routine, and even start going back to gym and walking as much as my body can handle. It’s the only way I can really get my body back to where it was before the blood clots.
 
But, for the rest of my life, I’ll need to watch for any signs of DVT and take all necessary precautions when I travel to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
 
This should be a wake up call for you to listen to your own body. And immediately have any abnormal symptoms checked out before they land you in a place that takes away your freedom to live like you want to. I consider myself lucky, and maybe because I was fit and healthy.
 
I’d love to hear your stories about how you’re overcoming your own health issues. And I want to share them with our other readers to inspire them to keep moving forward in their recovery.
 
You never know, something you say could change their view on their ailment and improve their lives tremendously.
 
Please log on to our HealthandFitnessClub.co.za Community now to share your story today. All it takes is a few seconds to sign up and write your story on the site.
 
I really look forward to hearing from you. 

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