What is a Pulmonary Embolism?
The clot blocks the normal flow of blood. This blockage can cause serious problems, like damage to your lungs and low oxygen levels in your blood. The lack of oxygen can harm other organs in your body, too. If the clot is big or the artery is clogged by many smaller clots, a pulmonary embolism can be fatal.
I came down from the Lakes convinced of getting older and less fit, experiencing a certain breathlessness as I climbed up the gentle hills. However, when I had the same experience on the flat, I knew something not right in the state of body. Acting on good instinct, and with a heavy heart I called our surgery. Heavy heart because it is well known that our practice is so cut back, paired down, austere, bereft of full time doctors, we cannot get an appointment for at least 2 weeks, and we no longer have regular doctors.
One such stranger called back within 5 minutes. He was clear. After hearing my symptoms, said this is a red flag, go to A&E, do not drive yourself, you can call an ambivalence if you cannot find anyone. At A&E they will be able to check you out. I said, but I am not an emergency I am in no pain. He said the last patient that said this to him suffered seriously within days
I mulled this. Got the car filled up. Made a decision.
I picked up Marisa, who’d come a few days early to look after the dogs while I was in Texas, from Halesworth station at 3. Her train being delayed I changed my decision to go later that after noon to i’ll go tomorrow morning. I introduced her to the town, where we met Julia. Go now she said, Marisa, catching on the story said, let’s go now. Les called and said Go now.
So we went, Marisa from Portugal who’d come to look after the dogs, and I, to A&E James Paget Great Yarmouth. Classic A&E on a Monday (Monday and Friday the busy days), we waited, with the seriously ill i noticed and once again I felt a fraud, being fit, upright and in no pain. When they finally found both a doctor and a room (this took some juggling) I saw a trainee doctor called Amy. I felt immediate confidence in her. She considered and after regular checks said, all is clear, but I can hear you are short of breath, I will order a D Dimer test.
It was the D Dimer which revealed the blood clot. The X ray the next day revealed it was a large clot on my lung, near my heart. Potentially fatal. I was just in time. It probably started at my leg and like a snow ball got bigger as it rolled up. Michael was brilliant through out the day, insisting on coming, supporting every state and uncomplaining at the endless waiting. Texas is cancelled.
My father died at almost exactly my age now, 61, of a heart condition which may have been caused by blood clots who knows. A change is necessary, this is an invitation to change. I will slow down, take easy, look out, resume tai chi, Pilates, keep walking, enjoy the company of others. Change, update my Will, get my papers in order, do my garden.
I started today with the garden.
Update October 30th
Marisa looking after the dogs, Michael drove me back to James Paget 2 weeks later. I am touched and grateful for his kindness and concern, I am not used to it. We do not have to wait long, a young female doctor sees us shortly after 9.
‘We want to find out the cause’, she said. The plan is to scan the top and bottom part of the breathing apparatus, (i’d said some difficulty in swallowing, perhaps), and apart from that a check in 3 months time to see how the blood thinners were acting.
It was the question – where exactly is the embolism – that solicited the most impressive news.
Ah, it’s not just one but many. Yes, this could well have been fatal. The good news is we have found it.
Behave normally, hang upside down, run, walk, eat well, anything you do to bolster your system will be to your advantage.