From my vantage point on the stretcher in the Emergency Room I could see my name on the whiteboard at the centre hub of the ward. Scrawled in the box next to my name were two letters: P.E.
‘Your lungs are full of clots’, the E.R. doctor had said. Blood clots in my lungs. Pulmonary emboli. P.E.
I had been relaxing at home the day before, recovering from gall bladder surgery a few days earlier. I felt good and, as I had said to my husband the night before, if it wasn’t for the odd feeling in my chest I would be as good as new.
A friend arrived to pay a visit that afternoon. By the time I descended the stairs from my living room to the front door when she arrived I was out of breath. After we climbed the stairs and I sat back down on the sofa, I was so winded that I couldn’t talk for a few minutes. I caught my breath after a few minutes and we enjoyed our visit.
Later that evening she called me on the telephone. After our visit, she had an appointment with her doctor and happened to mention to him my breathless state.
‘It’s probably nothing, but it might be a blood clot, and she needs to go to the hospital.’ She relayed to me the words that her doctor had said to her.
I like to think of myself as strong; I don’t give in to sickness easily and would have paid no attention to second-hand advice from my friend’s doctor if it hadn’t been for two words. Blood clot.
My dad had died of a pulmonary embolism after surgery when I was in my early twenties and less than two years later Mom had died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism. My birth-mother, I had been told, had collapsed one day, also the victim of a pulmonary embolism.
When the E.R. doctor told me that I was experiencing the effects of a pulmonary embolism I was stunned. As I waited in the Emergency Room to be admitted to the hospital and saw those two letters scrawled next to my name I considered the events of the past twenty-four hours.
Had my friend not come to visit she would not have known of my breathlessness; had she not had a doctor’s appointment later that day she would not have had an opportunity to mention my situation to a doctor. Finally, had she not said the words ‘blood clot’ to me I would have shrugged off her concern and not sought medical help.
After six months of taking blood-thinning medication and enduring weekly blood tests to monitor the clotting tendency of my blood I was fine; I have no physical effect of my experience with pulmonary embolism. But I will never forget the experience and wonder at the reason why I was spared the same fate as my parents.
Perhaps there was something left for me to accomplish.
Linda Hoye is a full-time HR Management Systems Analyst, a part-time writer, and a full-time and fanatical grandma. Linda and her husband have four children and two brilliant grandchildren. She maintains a website at http://lindahoye.com/.