Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pulmonary Embolism

Last Thursday, a loud bump woke me up. It was so loud, it sounded like someone had overturned the dining table. This was followed by a fast, rhythmic, grinding sound. My sleepy brain thought wtf is happening to the dishwasher? After a moment I got up to investigate & found my husband lying on the kitchen floor. The harsh rhythmic noise was the sound of him trying to breath.

He had fallen with his head in a cupboard, and had hit some Pyrex dishes. I moved his rigid, shaking body onto the kitchen floor. Babe? Babe? Can you hear me? Oh my god what is going on? After a minute of this I called an ambulance. Teenage Daughter came into the kitchen to hear me saying to the phone, no, he can't squeeze my fingers. I didn't realise she was there until she opened the front gate for the paramedics.

The kitchen is so tiny the paramedics had to drag him into the lounge room to work on him. They couldn't get a vein to insert a cannula, and his arm looked like a dog's breakfast. My husband was able to groan out his name, and tell them where he was. He could hardly breathe, had severe chest pain and was in a huge amount of pain. At one stage the paramedic said into his radio tell the hospital patient has lost radial pulse in his left arm. They called another ambulance for assistance, they needed an emergency cart to get him down our stairs as the trolley wouldn't fit.

I pulled into the hospital parking lot, blessed the parking fairy & ran into emergency. I was told to take a seat, they would let me in after he had been assessed. Over an hour and a half later, I was still waiting. It didn't seem to be a busy morning, just the usual minor injury's; people complaining that they have been waiting to long for someone to tend to their sprained wrist, etc. I was beside myself - I am not one of those people who say no news is good news. No news means bad things to me, it means that someone is keeping something from me - why? My mind spins off into an abyss of terrifying possibility's.

After approaching the counter several times I am at last led into a small waiting room & told to take a seat. Suddenly everyone is very friendly. I am given a cup of tea, some sandwiches and a juice.  The young intern has trouble meeting my eyes but he tells me that my husband has some clots in his lung that where blocking the main artery to his heart, which meant that his heart couldn't work. He is currently stable, but undergoing more tests, they would let me see him soon. Then he left and locked the door. There is a bible in the room. At this point I ring my sister and freak out - she tells me to bang on the door until someone opens it. I know they have things to do but this shit isn't on. The door opens and the nurse brings an old lady and her adult granddaughter in. I resist the urge to tackle this old lady for the half Valium she has found in her purse. When the nures leaves she leaves the door open, but I am too afraid to wander into the controlled chaos of the emergency department to find out what is going on.

After 30 minutes, I can see my husband. I am led to a very large cubicle, with at least 10 people busily checking monitors, talking on mobiles, calling for medications, checking tubes. There is a lot of people and a lot of activity going on. In the middle is my husband, exhausted and grey looking, with what seems like a hundred tubes and leads attached to him. He smiles at me, and the abyss recedes. A social worker hugs me around the shoulders and asks me quietly if I would like a chair. Oh, fuck I think, this is going to get worse.

My husband has suffered a Massive Pulmonary Embolism. Three large clots in his lungs had blocked the Pulmonary artery to the heart, meaning his heart wasn't getting any oxygen and had therefore decided to shut down. He is lucky to be alive. Very very lucky - this is normally fatal. If I hadn't heard him fall, if I had delayed calling the ambulance, if he wasn't relatively young and healthy....all of these factors helped him dodge a bullet, but all of these factors don't stop this being more than 60% fatal.The clots in his lungs are unprovoked, there is no good reason for them to be there. He had been feeling some chest pain for almost 2 weeks, and hadn't made a big deal about it. He told me he was feeling congested but he had recently had a virus, so I didn't think anything of it. He had made an appointment to see the GP, ironically on the day he ended up in hospital. Thank god I didn't buy a lottery ticket the day before, it would have used up all our luck.

He is given a blood thinner, that is too mild and doesn't work. He is moved to the Cardiac Care Unit and given another stronger blood thinner, which hopefully works. Over the next 2 days his pulse slowly picks up to a low normal. The paramedics originally took it as 60 over 40; his heart was shutting down his body to focus on keeping his brain alive. He has an educational visit from the pharmacist, who explains all about Warfarin and it's side effects. He will need to take Warfarin for the rest of his life. This must feel like someone has taken his superman cape away, and replaced it with a zimmer frame. But it is worth it to have his family, his children, his life.

Day one is a day of panic and quick education.
Day two is a day of tears, and thankfulness. He has made a remarkable recovery and moved to a general ward.
Day three sees him heartily sick of the moaning groaning unpleasantness of the general ward. He starts to complain about the food, so I know he is on the mend. There is talk of him coming home on day five, even though they have found another clot in his thigh..
Today is  day four, and he is finally lead free. No drips, tags or monitors. We steal a few hours and head down to the hospital cafe, drink juice and buy a paper. The doctor has said his medication should take care of the clots (plural!) in his thigh, but they are conducting tests to find out why a young healthy man with no family history of clotting should develop a Pulmonary Embolism.

Hopefully he can come home tomorrow.



  1. OMG! I am so sorry to hear that you have both had to go through this. I am sending you my biggest cyber hugs & kisses. I hope that his recovery is speedy & that you both get to breathe a sigh of relief soon. xoxoxoxox

  2. Oh Lisa how horrible for you all. I'm so glad he's getting better and can have medication to prevent anything like this happening again. I hope they find out the cause quickly!

  3. Oh my goodness Lisa how utterly terrifying. Holding you close in my thoughts and praying that all will be well with hubby. Much love to you. X

  4. I am not sure where my comment disappeared to. but your husband was lucky you were nearby. It must have been terrifying. I'll be praying for your husband, and you and your family. Rachel x

  5. Holy Mother! I pray that your husband heals. My granddad had the same thing, but he is old and they knew why he had all the clots. I'm so sorry for your troubles and hope he heals well.

  6. Lisa, I am so sorry to hear that your husband has been through this. What a blessing that you heard him and he has age on his side. Thinking of you all and hoping for a speedy recovery.

  7. Oh you poor love, what an horrendous experience. Thank goodness you acted so quickly. Sending you love and healing good wishes x

  8. How completely terrifying.

    All the what ifs.

    Hoping everything continues to go well and he is come and being a pain in your arse as soon as possible!


  9. that lottery ticket an x nurse...I have only seen a few survive a PE...let alone multiple scary for you all...sending love and light xx

  10. Oh Mrs Bc! I'm so sorry your husband is going through this. Look after yourself, your man and your family. You are so lucky he made it and I hope he continues complaining for a long timexxa

  11. Oh Lise what a terrible shock. You and Mr BC obviously are meant to have many, many more wonderful years together. Big love to you all xxx

  12. I'm so sorry to hear this. Sending you and your husband much love and strength at this time. xx

  13. Holy cow! So glad he's on the mend..

    Thinking of you all xxx

    1. Oh shit! Thank God you were there. Sending you thoughts and prayers and big hugs my love xxxx

  14. I'm not particularly a believer in god but right now I'm focussing on the 'thank god'.

    Thank god you heard him fall.

    Thank god you called the ambulance so promptly.

    Thank god his recovery has been so speedy.

    Thank god that now you know that, for whatever reason, there is a problem that it can be controlled and monitored.

    Thank god you still have your husband with you.

    Much love and best wishes xx

  15. Oh gosh Lisa! What a terrible shock! I am almost in tears for you. What a frightening time this must have been for you all. I am SO glad he has been so lucky. Glad he seems to be on the mend, hope you get some comforting answers soon. If you need anything I'm here. Stay strong xxxxx


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