Friday, June 15, 2012

Feeling A Clot in the ER

I hadn’t been to the Emergency Room for six years, and only then because it was a weekend and I’d been kicked in the head while heading a football towards the bottom corner of a goal in a grassy recreational corner of Montgomery County. Although the insurance company largely paid up, I saw later from the bill that the two stitches they put in just above my left eye on a Sunday afternoon cost the best part of $1000. It was by a fair distance the most valuable goal I’ve ever scored.

"Make way, calf strain victim!"
Otherwise, I tend to avoid the Emergency Room unless I’m in a lot of pain and it’s outside of a doctor’s normal hours. You hear of stats reporting that the vast majority of all emergency room visits are not, in fact, emergencies. You don’t want to be the one sitting there with a vague ache in the head while accident victims with seconds to live are rushed past you and through several sets of double doors, as they always seem to be on television ERs. Which always makes me wonder why they have so many sets of double doors in Emergency Room buildings. Don’t you want to get people through to the operating theatre quickly? Then build corridors with fewer sets of heavy metal doors, for Christ’s sake.

Anyway, last Saturday morning I had a pain in the left leg, which had been getting worse for four days. I thought it was a football injury, but they usually get better when you apply muscle rub and scoff ibuprofen. But this was keeping me awake all night, when I was horizontal and restful, and it wasn’t just pain, it was ***ING PAIN. So bad that I got out of bed and went straight to the ER.

But pain is like love, it’s not always constant. By the time I got there, it had subsided.
Should I go home? I went in anyway, encouraged by a complete lack of sirens and broken accident victims. There were no other emergencies in the waiting room, so in theory I was a priority case.

A blood clot, yesterday
“What’s your pain on a scale of one to ten?” asked the nurse. “Ten being the highest.” I said that it was varying between about a Two and an Eight. “Yes, but what is it right now?” she wanted to know. That’s when I should have rolled on to the floor, clutched my leg, and yelled out, “TEN! It’s one hundred per cent a TEN. In fact I think it’s just gone up to eleven, ow ow ow!” But I said quietly, “About a Two. Right now. But this morning it was definitely an Eight.”

About half an hour later I saw a doctor. He was very friendly. He prodded around, and I didn’t scream, and he told me I had a calf strain. I should keep on applying heat and taking ibuprofen. I said I’d recently been on a very long-haul flight, and had been worried it might be a blood clot. He kindly told me that I’d been right to come in, and that we could even do a Doppler Ultrasound exam, but it would likely be a waste of my money. And given that the flight was ten days back, a blood clot would mean I’d have a thigh the size of an elephant’s by now. Reassured, I hobbled home, the existentially pertinent parting words of the nurse who gave me my despatch papers echoing in my ears: “I’m not quite sure why you’re here.”

The following Tuesday, with the upper end of the Pain Scale still a regular feature of both night and day, I went to my regular doctor, who took one look at my rapidly swelling leg and sent me for the Doppler Ultrasound exam, which is in fact like getting a leg massage from a melting jellyfish. It turned out I have a blood clot. When I returned to the surgery for blood tests and blood-thinning prescriptions, the doctor seemed touchingly relieved when she said, “I don’t say this to many patients, but coming in here today probably saved your life.”

That’s good to know, though I didn’t feel like my life was under threat, even having already researched the downside of pulmonary embolisms. That’s probably because I still think I’m immortal, at least until the day I die. Meanwhile, my doctor’s parting advice was, “If you feel any chest pain, dizziness, or experience difficulty breathing, go straight to the ER.” Where they’ll probably tell me I’m out of breath because I ran in from the car park too quickly.

4 comments:

AMD said...

Are you going to take the blood clot and throw it in Dr ER's face, or are you sufficiently inculturated to sue the malpractising quack?

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I assume that if I'd snuffed it between Saturday and Tuesday, the family would have been prompted to take some legal advice. Except as a journalistic observer and an uncalled witness, I've never been in a court of law in my life, and I'm going to try and keep it that way.

Marc Siliverstein said...

the blood thinner coumadin likely for 6 months and they'll probably want some genetic testing in order to see if you are prone to these clots.

No Good Boyo said...

Bloody hell! Reinforces my belief that planes are evil. Look after yourself, stringyman.