The Incredible Fall: My story of Pulmonary Embolism.

I love the Fall.

It is my favorite season, one I look forward to all year long. I couldn’t wait for it this year especially. I would be fully recovered from my surgery, and ready to make wonderful memories with my family. Apple picking, pumpkin picking, Fall Festivals, long walks, birthdays and Halloween fun.

I had a rough summer, facing the turmoil of severe PMDD, and a major surgery. I couldn’t wait to be healed and get a long awaited break.

And then it happened.

I was walking my daughter to her school which is very close to our house, when I could barely breathe, and the left side of my chest hurt. My chest felt a heaviness I’ve never felt before, and my heart was beating rapidly. I felt lightheaded and scared but hid it from my daughter while I whispered goodbye.

Little did I know at the time that it could have been my last goodbye to her. My sweet precious girl.

One third of people who have not been diagnosed or treated for pulmonary embolism will die. Wow. That statistic just hit me like a ton of bricks. I have to take a moment to recover.

I walked home with my five year old son very slowly. A walk which usually takes five minutes took about twenty. I called my husband and said something was wrong and that I needed to go to the emergency room right after he dropped off our son at school. My son who is now six years old. My son who still needs me to teach him so many new things such as how to live a full, safe life with severe food allergies. My precious boy who still calls me Mama, and falls asleep by my side each night before bed.

Though I was very nervous and having trouble breathing, I really thought I had pneumonia and pleurisy again. As someone with asthma and many chronic illnesses, I get sick very easily.

I was given a bed and an IV very quickly. Soon after they gave me a full blood panel.

I was completely shocked and taken off guard when the ER doctor told me that he had good news and bad news.

My gaze fell to the floor as I tried to hold back tears.

The way that he said it scared the hell out of me. It didn’t seem like the usual I’m about to tell you that you have pneumonia look.

Bad news? I immediately thought of cancer, and of some other horrible possibilities.

The doctor told me that my D-dimer test was high and that they would have to admit me to the hospital. I thought what the hell is a D-dimer test? I quickly found out that a D-dimer test is a test which measures blood clot risk. I had never heard of it before but it is a very valuable diagnostic tool, one which started the doctors on the path to saving my life.

The good news was that I would get my own room at the hospital very quickly and be able to get a CT scan to see if there were indeed blood clots somewhere. I was immediately given the blood thinner Lovenox through my IV. Blood thinners work to prevent existing clots from growing, and toward preventing new ones from forming. I was given an echo-cardiogram and Doppler Ultrasound of my legs. Thankfully, those tests were fine.

I had never had a blood clot before, but had a few of the risk factors including supplemental estrogen from birth control pills, recent surgery and bed rest. According to the Mayo Clinic, some other risk factors may include pregnancy, cancer, heart disease, smoking, long trips, and being overweight (especially in women who smoke or have high blood pressure.)

I knew there were some risk factors from taking birth control pills, especially the Yaz pills that I was taking for my PMDD. I also knew that my recent hysterectomy/oopherectomy held such risks. I took those risks willingly, never thinking that I, a woman in my 40’s who had never had a blood clot, would actually get one.

Well, welcome to my October surprise!

I was in the hospital for three days and the entire staff was warm, friendly and very knowledgeable. I hated being there for so long away from my family, and was very frightened. The nurses, assistants, nutritionists and doctors all helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone, in between my family visits. I joked with one of the staff and called her Nurse Ratched, every time she stuck a needle into my belly. My belly which is extremely sore and bruised from twice daily injections. My belly which once held my sweet babies is now a giant pin cushion. Brief pause as I imagine Hellraisers face imprinted on my belly. Ok, back to my belly, which may be in pain, but will be the place through which the medicine is placed, to help me live again.

I took a CT scan with contrast which diagnosed me with multiple bilateral pulmonary emboli. I will have to be on blood thinners for at least six months, and take many blood tests and scans. There are other blood thinners our there in pill form, but I reacted badly to them.

The recovery differs for each patient from a few weeks to many months or years. For me, it is taking a long time. I had just recovered from major surgery when I got my diagnosis. I was out of shape, and am now extra anxious due to my new medical condition. It has been hard to breathe, especially due to my asthma, and hard to walk far distances. I had some anxiety before, but now it is at an all time high. It is hard to get things done or leave the house on many days, but I must especially to exercise to aid my recovery, and prevent more blood clots from forming. I am currently on daily medication until the anxiety improves. I am hoping that it will soon, and that when I am off of blood-thinners in March that things will get as back to normal as they can.

I face a long, scary, anxiety provoking six months, but with the help of my family, friends and many doctors, I will get through this. I will keep taking baby steps, and pray I will not have more roadblocks on the way to full recovery. I will take it day by day. I will look at the faces of my children and my husband, and thank God I am still here. I will appreciate their beautiful faces even more now. I will try to show them how much I love them until my last breath. I will work harder to make a difference because this scare has taught me that my time here is limited.

Please learn the symptoms of pulmonary embolism and talk to friends and family about this important and dangerous condition. It can affect you no matter your sex, and risk factors increase with age. Discuss the risks of using birth control pills with your daughters, especially the ones containing drospirenone which can dramatically increase the risk of fatal blood clots.

I did not know the symptoms of pulmonary embolism weeks ago. But, I did trust my instincts that something was very wrong. Going to the ER that day saved my life and now though my activity is limited, I can enjoy my favorite season once again.

I love the Fall.

Now more than ever…

 

Kathy ❤

Poetologie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today I’ll Take Care of You: A Letter to My Family

It is a quiet Saturday morning in April. Rain falls softly outside, and the streets are covered with cherry blossom petals. Though all of you are sick with a virus, it is a good day.

Today I am able to take care of you for a change. Today I feel okay. I have the strength to make you some eggs, toast and tea. I’ll bring them to you in bed, and plant a gentle kiss on your forehead.

Today I will make some of my homemade tomato sauce that you love, and its magnificent aroma will fill the air. I will bake those nut-free vanilla cupcakes that you’ve been asking me to make for months. We will play Scrabble for hours since my brain is less foggy. We will cozy up on the couch and watch a great family movie.

I will be the mom/wife that I want to be every single day. The mom/wife that is not too sick to care for you, to cook for you, to be present for you, to explore the world with you. I will cherish this day, and pray for many more like it.

My many chronic conditions include Asthma, Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, Interstitial Cystitis, Endometriosis, Anxiety and Pre Menstrual Dysmorphic Disorder.

Any one of these conditions are enough to make life difficult to manage and cope with, but together they are often debilitating.

You see me wince with pain, so you help dry my tears. You see me tired and hungry so you bring me food. You see me unable to do chores so you help do them for me. You see me suffer, so you bring me my medicine.

What you don’t realize is that you provide the best medicine in the world. The medicine I need the most.

Love.

You provide it in daily doses of hugs, teaspoons of tenderness, and soothing scripts.

There is no better prescription for happiness. You make the tough days tolerable, the painful days palatable, and the crazy days comforting.

You are there for it all, and help me get through the unavoidable rain. You rarely complain, you just want to help me feel better.

I appreciate every single thing you do for me. I appreciate all of the sacrifices you make. I appreciate your constant companionship.

It is nice to not have to feel so alone in this long journey of chronic illness. In this long journey of life.

It is nice to have all of you by my side. My sweet family. I love you more than words can say.

Today I’ll take care of you.

Today I promise to keep fighting to get better so that we will have many more days together in sickness and in health.

Today it is my turn to provide you with some comfort, warmth and unconditional love.

Rest your weary heads.

Mommy is here.

And I will be here until the last cherry blossom petals wash away.

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter To My Kind Hair Stylist Who Eased My Anxiety

To My Kind Hair Stylist:

When I entered the salon you worked at I was filled with anxiety for no reason. It’s just something I deal with daily. My generalized anxiety has become much worse since I developed Lyme Disease. Regular daily chores and trips to the grocery store/hair salon/mall/restaurants fill me with anxiety. I wish I didn’t have to feel this way all of the time, but for now I do. I’m working hard to overcome it, but that could take many years.

And so I made myself walk into your salon. I desperately needed a nice haircut, and I took a deep calming breath and hoped for the best. The salon was beautiful, and had a nice relaxing atmosphere. The staff were all really nice and brought you out to meet me.

There was something about you that immediately put me at ease, and that is no small feat. You had a big smile on your face and a nice, tranquil demeanor.

You brought me to your chair and asked me a few questions about how I wanted my hair cut. I answered your questions quickly as I was still nervous. Then you proceeded to wash my hair. The scalp massage really helped me to relax. I felt okay as I walked back to your chair.

I had to immediately bring up a few health issues, as my Lyme Disease makes me more sensitive to chemicals, and I have to make sure there are no nut or shellfish containing products used due to me and my son’s food allergies.

You did not roll your eyes at all I told you. You kindly and sincerely answered all of my questions, and even checked and rechecked the product labels to make sure they were safe.

Even though you were very young, you had a certain patience and understanding about you that usually comes with age.

Whatever topic I brought up, you offered words of wisdom well beyond your years. You were sympathetic, perceptive, and very knowledgeable.

I was so grateful to be able to loosen up and be distracted enough to actually enjoy my haircut for the first time in years. You have no idea how much that means to me.

After talking to you for awhile you brought up the fact that you had recently donated your kidney to a boy you had been dating for only a year. Then it all made sense.

You aren’t just a thoughtful young woman. You aren’t just a patient woman. You are an Angel on Earth.

You had actually saved someone’s life, and I was grateful to be in your peaceful presence.

You gave off an air of acknowledgement, because you’ve already been through so much.

You were able to put me at ease, because you understood struggle.

You were able to show much kindness, because you know exactly what it means to walk a tough road.

You were also able to give me the best haircut I’ve had in years, even though you are just beginning your career.

When my haircut was through, you gave me a big hug. Not a forced one, a real genuine hug from your heart. That had never happened before in my 40 plus years of getting haircuts.

It was very sweet, and special, just like you are.

I believe deeply in thanking people who have shown me or my family kindness. I believe in thanking people who make my day, or go out of their way to help others.

Thank you for putting me at ease and making an ordinary trip to the salon an extraordinary one.

You are very good at your job and I wish you all the success in the world.

I also wish good health to you and your boyfriend. I hope the special bond that exists between the two of you lasts forever.

I will be back for more haircuts and will refer my friends and family too.

I have never thought of writing a letter/blog to thank a hair stylist before. That’s because I never met one like you.

I am altering the words of Sir Elton John to say:

My gift is my blog, and this one’s for you….

 

 

 

 

What My Neighbors Taught Me During The Blizzard of 2016

I live in Northern Virginia in one of the areas hardest hit by Winter Storm Jonas. My town’s recorded snowfall was 36 inches, but with the snow drifts it was even more.

We were very lucky that we did not experience a power outage in the freezing temperatures, and that our house was stocked with food. My husband is a registered nurse, and we were fortunate that he was off during the storm, because the wonderful emergency and health workers out there have to go to work in any weather condition.

A day after the storm ended, he cleared our front steps and part of our driveway, but the large amount of snow required many breaks be taken. During one of his breaks, a neighbor, who we do not know, proceeded to use his snowblower to clear our entire sidewalk, as well as the sidewalks of many of our neighbors. He did this out of the goodness of his heart. It was a pure act of kindness, and we were all blessed to witness it.

The next day I was so relieved to see that they finally plowed our street. Two of my biggest concerns during the storm was what would we do if the power went out, and what would we do if we had an emergency that required an ambulance, or a trip to the ER?

These thoughts terrified me, and multiplied with each inch of fresh fallen snow. My son suffers from life-threatening food allergies, and I have had to call an ambulance for him recently due to severe croup. I suffer from Chronic Lyme Disease, Asthma, and other chronic conditions, and am often sick or requiring an ER visit. Plus, an accident can happen to anyone, even while at home, and the roads were impassable.

The first day we were barely able to get out the front door, so when that snow was gone, I felt a little less anxious.

The plows had a very difficult time clearing the snow, and worked on our street for what seemed like hours. When they were through a huge pile of heavy snow remained blocking my driveway.

My husband was at work, and I had very few spoons left, but I knew that for our safety, I had to clear the area.

My ten year old daughter offered to help me, but was unable to do it for more than a few minutes. It was hard work removing snow from a huge area of what was now over four feet post plow.

It was a beautiful sunny day, but I wasn’t feeling very sunny inside. I was tired, nauseous from my daily antibiotic, and wishing my husband was home.

Then like a ray of sunshine two of the young high school/college age girls from two houses down came over and said that they were going to help me. I couldn’t believe it, it was incredibly kind of them. When I was their age, I was nice, but in a complacent sort of way. I was wrapped up in my own world and problems, and I don’t think I ever went out of my way to help a neighbor shovel. I was very impressed with these girls and glad that my kids saw them helping me.

snowmaggedon 2016 girl neighbors helping

After a few minutes of shoveling and chatting, another neighbor came over with the kind gentleman’s snowblower (which cleared our sidewalk the day before.) This was a great sight to see, and our mound of snow would be cleared in no time! He removed all of the remaining snow quickly, efficiently, and benevolently.

snowmaggedon 2016 mike & snowblower guy

The street was filled with neighbors helping neighbors, and was as it should be. They all helped each other clear their driveways, and rescue their buried cars. This lasted for hours, and continued after I went inside to rest.

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I’m incredibly grateful to all of them, and appreciate their kindness. They didn’t have to help me, but they wanted to. They represent the good in this world. They are an example of the kind of positive stories/acts that should continue to go viral, to drown out the negative ones.

I will never forget the Blizzard of 2016, and I will never forget what my neighbors taught me:

  • When you don’t have many spoons left, there is always someone to lend a helping hand.
  • We are surrounded by good people, we just have to take the time to realize it.
  • If you have a snowblower, shovel or a smile, you can make help make someone’s day.
  • We should all be considerate, and try to help our neighbors more.
  • For every unkind person, there are many more kind people to make up for it.
  • If you are the recipient of an act of kindness, point it out to your kids, then maybe they will realize its value and strive to give back someday.
  • Heroes are all around us, and are born from everyday acts of grace.

All of us face many storms or difficulties in our lives, some more than others. But if we learn to open our eyes and see the acts of kindness that are born from such storms, we can help each other get through.

We can help this world become a much warmer, brighter place. We can help each other melt any hearts that may have become icy, or burdened by piles of snow.

Kathy ❤

Poetologie/Nuts About My Son

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To All The Siblings of Those Who Have Food Allergies

When my son was diagnosed with food allergies in December 2014, it changed all of our lives, including our 9 year old daughter. For over a year now, I have been amazed at the way she has handled her brother’s diagnosis. She never complains about all of the sacrifices she must make, and she takes such good care of him.

I wanted to write a letter to her and to all of the siblings of those with food allergies, to thank them for all they do, and to let them know how special they are.

To All The Siblings of Those Who Have Food Allergies:

You must have been a little worried when your siblings were diagnosed with food allergies. You may have wondered what that diagnosis meant, or how it would affect you. You may have been scared for your brother or sister because you love them, and don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

You may have had to stop eating out at restaurants, or going away on vacations until things were sorted out. You may have had to give up favorite foods, snacks or desserts until your parents figured out what they could feed your sibling safely.

You may have missed a party or two, a ballgame, or some play-dates that included your brother or sister.

You may have had to start using weird new toothpaste, shampoo, lotion and art supplies. You probably wondered what on earth they had to do with food allergies.

Your holidays and certain traditions may have been altered.

You may have had to tag along to many emergency room or doctor’s office visits.

You may have wanted to cry, and have things go back to the way they were before food allergies.

But, you didn’t.

Because you are amazing.

You have a sibling with a life-threatening allergy and you know it. You do all that you can to help them, to protect them, and to comfort them.

You make sure their EpiPens are always taken on all trips outside of the home.

You hold their hand every time they have to get a scratch test or a blood test.

You help them put on their buttons, shirts or bracelets that identify their allergy.

You learn the names of their allergens, and make sure everyone else knows them too.

You can spot their allergen a mile away, and you can identify them on food labels.

You sit with them in another section when they are separated from everyone else, you eat whatever dessert they must eat at a party so they don’t feel different.

You comfort them when they are afraid, you are their best friend when other kids don’t understand or bully them.

You defend them when you need to, you teach them how to stand up for themselves.

You are compassionate, trustworthy and kind.

You care about others, you love your sibling who has food allergies with all of your heart.

Never forget how special you are. Never forget how loved you are.

You are the best brother or sister in the world.