Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't scare me like that!

I got a call from my sister while I was at work that dad was in the ER with a pulmonary embolism. Talk about freaking me out! Freaking all of us out! Especially in a family full of nurses (me, my mom and my sister and brother working on it) we all know how fatal pulmonary embolisms are. For you non-medical people :) it's a blood clot in the arteries of the lung. It usually forms in the legs and gets caught behind the knee, and if it breaks loose, it goes straight to the lungs where it can cut off oxygen supply and kill you. Even just a small clot can be fatal. Surgeries and sitting for long periods of time (like on an airplane) are two main causes of blood clots. My dad's leg had started to swell below the knee and that's what brought him to his doctor who immediately knew what he had and sent him straight to the ER. Here's a picture of his lovely leg.He suspected that clots in his leg were causing the swelling, he could feel the lump behind his knee, but he had no idea that they were in his lungs as well. They did an ultrasound on his leg and from his ankle to his groin was one HUGE clot!!! There was hardly any blood being able to circulate. I always imagined blood clots just being small and round, not long and filling the whole artery from your ankle to groin! They then did a scan and found massive, massive clots that filled his whole main pulmonary artery (main artery to the lungs), clots filling all the branches into the right lung, a smaller clot in the left lung and clots in the base of his left lung. He should have been dead. Or at least intubated (tube down to his lungs to breath for him) and in the ICU. And yet all he had was a little shortness or breath and otherwise felt "marvelous" according to him. The doctor told him his health and fitness is what saved his life. He can still beat the 20 year olds on the basketball court, he hikes through mountains any chance he gets to hunt, hits the gym regularly, takes the stairs etc, etc. He's super fit. The fact that his lung capacity was so good to not even need oxygen with 3/4 of his lungs compromised with clots is huge! He was only using a quarter of his lung.

He was at Ogden Regional in the IMC. My mom has worked there for over 30 years on Labor and Delivery and so the nurses she works with know my dad pretty well. One of them had come down to see him and brought this hilarious, lovely lei made of roses and peri pads. Those of you that have had children probably recognize them.
He was in high spirits the whole time, saying he had "elephantitis". He was just bugged that he felt fine but apparently had massive clots in his lungs which meant little to no activity for the next couple weeks. Also that they have no idea why in the world he developed these clots at all. He was cracking us up the whole time. My dad has a really dry sense of humor and always keeps a straight face while joking. My mom said in the ER when the triage nurse asked him what he was there for he looked at her with a straight face and said "To get these clots out of me." and the ER doctor, in between my dad's jokes, kept saying slowly "This is serious. People die from this. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
He was started on Lovenox injections (anti-coagulant) that he does twice a day and was in the hospital for 2 days. He now has to be basically on bed rest for the next week and do the injections and then he can switch to Coumadin. They say it will take at least 6 months of anti-coagulant therapy to dissolve all the clots. We are so lucky that he is alive and going to be ok. At least we hope he does ok. There's still a very small chance that things could go the other way, but he's definitely over the risky stage. It has definitely put some things in perspective for me. Things don't matter. People, and what we do here is what matters. I get so caught up in things that don't matter. Making money, vain things, greedy things, being selfish, not treating people kindly. I needed a little slap on the cheek to bring me back. I'm so grateful for all the blessings I have.
We love you dad! Don't scare us like that again!