Saturday, November 7, 2020

Katie Ellen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

Let's face it, 2020 has been a shit show.

I have been putting off writing a blog post for a really long time, because I didn't want to just be like "everything sucks" all the time. But, this year has been a real cluster. I finally decided that maybe if I wrote about it, it would help me focus a little less on the negativity, and maybe let others know that yeah, I'm right there with you.

My family started the year by calling an ambulance in the wee hours of the morning on January 2nd to take my mom to the hospital. She was so dizzy she couldn't sit up, and we discovered that she had a saddle embolism in her lungs that was pushing on her heart, and that her entire right leg is one giant blood clot. She had to go back to work before she was really ready, but because everything shut down in March, she was able to take it kinda easy, but still work. (Ironically, the one positive thing for her this year.)

She has been having continuing health issues. The leg clot is going to take a loooong time to go away, and she has since developed a build up of uric acid causing kidney stones, one that got to 20mm. To put a cherry on top, they also discovered that she has an ultra rare condition called a replaced right hepatic artery with aneurism. Like, this is so rare that nothing comes up when you Google it.

Work has been stressful, because COVID. Then, the derecho hit my home state and home town. My dad and grandparents were without power for a week, and my grandparents lost their deck, gazebo and most of their trees. The next day, my cousin unexpectedly died. Then a few days later I got word from my host sister that my former fiancé in Belarus had died. This was a shock, but also not a shock. It did hit me pretty hard though.

My anxiety had been ramping up and for a month or more I had been feeling just drained. We upped my meds and that helped, but then I started having a hard time breathing.

I was having some occasional wheezing and was using an inhaler regularly, which I hadn't done for 20 or more years, but the wild fires were really bad this year and the air quality was awful. A few times when I was walking I got really winded, but thought it was a combination of the smoke and my being so sedentary during the pandemic. Then one day, I was at a mall to get some chai with my boyfriend and I just couldn't catch my breath, just walking.

At this point, I realized that something was wrong, but I still thought it was asthma.

Mid October, the boyfriend and I went to one of our favorite restaurants and ended up having to sit outside in the cold and smoky air. That afternoon I was super winded every time I got up. It continued to get worse over the next couple days. The next day, Monday, I went to the doctor for some routine blood work and my oxygen was at 88. They had me take some deep breaths and we got it up to 93. By Wednesday I was really struggling. I spent most of my time just sitting in my chair trying to chill out.

By Wednesday I knew something was really wrong and I needed help. I called the doctor and they got me a nebulizer to try. I did a treatment and thought it might have helped. My mom, brother, boyfriend and I were supposed to go the botanic garden for a halloween event that night and I wasn't really up to it, but I also really wanted to go. We decided to give it a go and leave if I needed to.

We got there, got inside and it became very clear that I was not going to make it. Fortunately, they allowed me to borrow a wheelchair, so we proceeded to enjoy our evening. That night, going upstairs it took me probably 20 minutes to halfway catch my breath. By this time I was scared. I started crying and my super boyfriend just laid there rubbing my back and soothing me.

I called in sick Thursday, tried one more nebulizer treatment, then called the doctor in the early afternoon. The nurse was worried about me because even just talking made me winded. Mom drove me to urgent care, and by the time I got in there I was gasping for air. My oxygen was at 82 and they were extremely concerned. They took me to. room, put me on oxygen, listened to my lungs, which were perfectly clear, and said "we are calling an ambulance."

The ambulance came and took me the two block to the hospital. They got me checked in, got me on oxygen and we proceeded to sit in the waiting room for about 4 hours.

Finally, they got me in a room and started checking bloodwork. They took a chest X-ray--again, clear--and later, when they did a CT Scan they discovered blood clots in my lungs. They were concerned about my heart because the right side was working really hard and they wanted to make sure there wasn't damage. It turned out it was just because blood flow was blocked by the clots.

I was admitted, taken to a room at midnight, and started on blood thinners. They wouldn't let me eat or drink because of the possibility of some tests that they might have to run, so I didn't get to eat until lunch the next day. (Try getting blood out of someone who doesn't have good veins when they are dehydrated...)

The next day they moved me to a progressive care unit where they could monitor me a little more closely. All the doctors kept asking about my legs and were amazed I hadn't had any swelling or any signs of clots.

I'm still confounded...what are the odds of BOTH mom and I getting blood clots in the same year with no previous history, or family history???

I started feeling better pretty quickly and was allowed to wander around my room as a liked. They did an ultrasound and found a clot behind my right knee as well.

My coworkers sent me flowers and an adorable stuffed sloth, who got a lot of attention from the nurses. I truly felt cherished by friends, family and coworkers.

When I was discharged they said, back to life as normal as you feel up to it. I have felt twenty times better than I have for months. I have energy and the desire to do things again. I do have to go in for blood checks to make sure the blood thinner is at on okay level, but hey, I'm breathing and feeling good!

I did have to cancel my trip to the cabin (one that I rented a year ago) but, I guess I'll take being healthy over a cabin.

I'm really hoping that the rest of the year is not a bigger dumpster fire than it has already been.

If you are reading this and you are having a rough time, hang in there. Eventually, everything will be alright. Also, don't be afraid to reach out if you need help or feel like you're drowning.

As Red, from the show Red Green always says, "Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together."

Shlomo the Sloth keeping my company.

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