Worst. Super Bowl Party. Ever.

Actually, I don’t really care about the Super Bowl. But I did get to watch it. (Well, most of it, including the epic halftime show!) But it wasn’t from the comfort of my sofa. It was from a chair in the hospital, my husband next to me in a hospital bed.

So, he’s had some issues this summer, starting with stepping on a nail in the James river. That was in July. Since then, he’s been dealing with a wound that won’t heal. This was finally addressed with surgery last month to clean out the wound, which left him non weight bearing and on crutches awaiting the incision to heal. He had some significant calf pain the week after surgery, which we didn’t think much of, since his entire plantar fascia and moving into that achilles tendon were pretty pissed off most of the time we’ve been dealing with this wound. It just seemed like a continuation of the same. We were wrong, even though there were no other symptoms of DVT, like heat, redness, or swelling.

Oddly, the day of his follow up appointment with the surgeon, he woke up with chest pain. He thought it was intercostal pain (these are the tiny muscles between your ribs.) That evening, when it hadn’t subsided, I asked to take him to the ER, you know, just in case it was cardiac or a clot. He was adamant that he was not going back to any doctors. He was partly mad that he was given 2 more weeks on crutches. I worked Saturday, and when I got home, he was miserable. The answer to seeking medical care was still no. But by Sunday morning, he had enough. 

We returned to the urgent care who had managed his wound all summer. I think our visit was about 10 minutes total. With an elevated heart rate and his history, we were directed to the ER to rule out a pulmonary embolism, or PE, a blood clot in your lungs. I chose the level 1 trauma center affiliated with my own hospital. After checking off “chest pain” and “shortness of breath” as symptoms on the kiosk, it didn’t take long to get called into triage. I had a good idea of what tests they would run. 

A spiral CT scan with contrast was the most significant. It was just a few minutes upon his return from this test that the doctor came in to tell us the sobering news. He has a saddle pulmonary embolism, and that he would be admitted. I was thinking he may have a PE, but not one of this magnitude. This type has a mortality rate of 25%, straddling both sides of the lungs, thus the name “saddle.” This explains his elevated heart rate, his shortness of breath with minimal activity, and his chest pain. Sobering, indeed, to learn that you are not immortal. My husband is a pretty tough guy as a CrossFit athlete, so this news was tough to take.

The incidence of PE following surgery is fairly frequent. As a physical therapist, half of my job in the acute care setting is in early mobilization following surgery, simply to prevent deep venous thrombosis. These are blood clots that often form in your legs following a period of immobilization, like undergoing surgery, and then can potentially migrate to the lungs. My husband was up on crutches within hours of his surgery, but he spent a lot of time resting in a chair, as his job is sedentary. So, the perfect scenario for clots to form, unfortunately. The probable cause of his calf pain was the DVT. The relief from the calf pain was when part of the clot broke off and migrated to his lungs. The onset of symptoms of PE was when enough of his blood supply was cut off to cause problems.  

I’m kicking myself for not being more persistent in making him go to the doctor. But I know that it was really his choice to make, not mine. I can’t force a grown man to accept my tendency to panic and let my brain escalate to defcon 4 when I am confronted with medical issues in my loved ones. But, damn it, this was a case where I wanted to be wrong. 

Today is Valentine’s Day. And although it’s not the most romantic of days this year, I’m very grateful that I still have a valentine. It looks like we will be here in the hospital for a few days. 

___________

I hope your Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day have been less exciting than mine.

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Published by annecreates

I am a physical therapist, wife, mom, runner, artist, and vegan. I'm passionate about helping others find wellness, speaking about the human experience, and in fighting for social justice. Assistant Coach for the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team. Current ambassador for: Boco Gear, SaltStick, Switch4Good, and Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon 2022.

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