I was released from National Rehabilitation Hospital on Tuesday, Feb 4. All good.
Then early Tuesday morning, I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism. What I initially thought was muscle cramping rapidly developed into crushing pain on my right side and the inability to take a deep breath. By 4:30am, I could barely breathe.
sprite rushed me to the GW Hospital ER, where my guess at diagnosis was confirmed, and I was admitted. I ended up being in the ER for 14.5 hours (no beds), had a litany of tests (CT scan, X-ray, ultrasounds of legs, lungs and heart), was put on big doses of Lovenox (a blood anti-coagulant), and tried to keep the pain in check (morphine was gooood). My pulmonologist told me I had PEs in both lungs, and that I was lucky I caught ‘em when I did.
I eventually got a room, and after eating my dinner (a sandwich provided by my friend, Greg), the pain presented with a bang on my left side. I couldn’t breathe, and I was in extreme pain, even with oxycodone in my system.
Overnight, I was put on Dilaudid (worked great) and later Tramadol (useless), and I got some sleep (sitting up – reclining hurts). Today, my pulmonologist has me on a PCA Dilaudid drip (i.e. the “happy button,” where I have some control over the dosing), as well as antibiotics as I seem to be battling pneumonia. It was a better day.
And today, I’ve made the transition from the IV Dilaudid to a Dilaudid pill – all good. I also got to take a sponge bath – ahhhh….
I’ll be here for a few more days. Once out, I’ll be on an oral anti-coagulant for a while.
1. My apartment is bad for ambulation, which likely caused the PE (not enough walking/standing activity). Once I get home, I’ll need to stand and boogie a lot, and get outside when I can. The recent snow in DC doesn’t help, but it’ll get warm soon enough..
2. My physical therapy has given me great strength in my legs, arms, and core (about 3 weeks ahead of an average person with the same injury, per my PT evaluation here at GW).
3. My endurance and overall conditioning likely saved my life. Even with the PE, I still had a pulse-ox of 96, normal blood pressure, and full heart function. Even when I had my issues late last night, I only dropped to 93 (still within the “normal” range).
So that’s where I am. NRH got me working on strength and crutching skills, and I did really well. My hemoglobin levels are good again. But the mistake was my not being active enough at home: the PT alone didn’t cut it.
So… there ‘ya go! Just a speed bump – albeit one that could’ve been lethal. I’m glad I knew of the risk and was familiar with the symptoms.