The day I died…

Last day of the year of 2015, it’s 10.30 in the morning. Time to shower and prepare for New Year celebrations later. After the shower I went downstairs to the computer hoping to relax, and put my right leg on the desk as it was hurting and needed rest.

Shortly after, something happened and my heart beat three audible times. What the? My adrenaline is now racing. Am I causing myself unnecessary anxiety? All I know is I’m out of breath and my heart is going strong. I’m afraid to move. Don’t want it to be psychosomatic or anything silly like that.

I phone Susana to come and stay with me for a while, telling her something has changed and I want someone present. She immediately starts calling for an ambulance and I protest: “We shouldn’t take that away from someone who might really need it. Just hang up!!

Susana insists I speak to a nurse on the NHS helpline for advice. After some fight I agree. As I explain to the nurse what happened, Susana gets a call from the police. The emergency responder had heard an argument on the other side and the call went dead. He escalated the issue to the authorities, suspecting domestic abuse. I couldn’t abuse anyone if they paid for it!

Nurse says that my lips and fingernails being purple with me also out of breath are good enough reasons to call an ambulance, and that one was being dispatched. I stopped arguing. After a few more questions I get up and walk to the front door to wait for pickup.

Didn’t make it. You know that feeling when you try swimming underwater for too long? I had been on my feet for about thirty seconds and it felt like I was too far away from the surface with that anxiety kicking in.

The last steps to the front door were rushed, and as I sat down outside it seemed like someone  sucked all the high frequencies out of the air. All I could hear was the muffled rumble of the traffic on the road in front of me.

“Quick! Assume the recovery position!” – I thought to myself. In my confusion I collapsed on the wrong side. My heart was giving it all and I couldn’t sit up, or had any wish to do so.

The ambulance showed up shortly after. Once inside they could see my heart wouldn’t go below 98 beats per minute and my oxygen levels were at 84 going down. Oxygen pipes are now in my nostrils. Great!

This was the day I died if modern medicine didn’t exist. Taken to hospital, to wait for the rest of the day, after prodding,  being queried, drained of blood, queried again, sent back, sent forth. Exhausted and broken, it’s now 22.00 and I’m being promised a bed. No New Year celebrations for me this year.

Finally a bed, and by 23.00 I was no longer awake. After a CT scan I’m told: “You have a very large clot in your lungs that for now you seem to be tolerating.” 

This was a five day stay in the Enhanced Care Unit at Llandough University Hospital due to a confirmed Pulmonary Embolism. Everyone there was top quality, but when I was sent home I could cry; Seeing the sky and the green again felt like something else!

Still broken, but still alive. Could barely walk! The problem was my right leg. Sometime in November of 2015, while at work, a metal bar fell and hit the rear of the calve causing damage to the veins and valves.  I limped and was sore for a while but you just get on with things.

About a week after that incident, my leg refused to climb the stairs. Can’t explain it but pain in the lower leg prevented me going up. What the? I cycle to work and things improve so I just ignore it. A few days later and it does the same. It becomes a frequent occurrence but it tends to improve as the day progresses.  Pain seems to be increasing with each day.

In early December, I spoke to my General Practitioner complaining about the discomfort in the leg but was dismissed.

“Could be tendinitis. Have some Ibuprofen.”-he said. I’m not one for taking a pill without a darn good reason.

On the 24th of December, after a meal with family, I went to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff due to a pain I could no longer tolerate. They injected my belly with Clexane, a process that would be performed for the next five days until the DVT clinic was back in action on Monday, the 29th.

Deep Vein Trombosis was found and, after a thorough debriefing, I was medicated with Rivaroxaban for three months. I do a lot of reading on this topic and find once you have one DVT incident your chances of getting another DVT are elevated. Awesome!

I’m commuting to work on a bicycle and usually ride like a lunatic. Always pushing it. Work is fairly physical, and I had weight-machines at home exercising almost everyday of the week. The leg pain was gone, but a certain discomfort was always there. My level of fitness gives me a resting heart rate below 50 beats per minute.

Then an all too familiar feeling came back. In early December of 2015, another visit to the DVT clinic was made and nothing was found. They dismissed me kind of quick.

On the 21st of December things changed drastically and I’m in tremendous debilitating pain on wake up. It was so intense I couldn’t breathe. At work the supervisor had an easy job for me that was completed in four hours. Endured through work but it was a new level of horrible.

A visit to the DVT clinic had to be made the very next day. Nothing was found yet again! I’m using a cane because I can’t walk. My lower leg is visibly larger than the other yet, they didn’t make any more efforts to find anything. Requested advice from the nurses due to suspecting Post Thrombotic Syndrome and was recommended a visit to GP.

Managed to book same-day appointment  later in afternoon. GP suspects tendinitis, provides Codeine and Ibuprofen, and advises sick leave as I’m unable to work.

As you now know, on the 31st of December I pretty much died. It took over four months of recovery before I felt brave enough to go back to work and it was very challenging for a good two months as I built back some of the conditioning.

A daily dose of 20mg of Rivaroxaban will be required for what remains of my life. There are risks attached to taking blood thinners.

I wrote to the hospital hoping to inspire better screening. There was an investigation.  A very generic reply was given months later.

I’m left dealing with the aftermath. The discomfort is still present in my lower leg to this day. Hope it doesn’t happen to you.

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