Of Pulmonary Embolisms, Anxiety, and Recovery

IMG_0504“Our family doesn’t get clots after surgery.”

I was told this by a family member.

Yet, August 13, there I was. In the Urgent Care of the same hospital where I had had a partial colectomy a week prior. I was there because of a 102.5 fever and vaguely feeling unwell. (My gut said, “Something is wrong here,” and I listened.) I was met by my surgeon so fast the attending hadn’t seen me yet.

After my ninth CT with contrast, the words came out of the attending doc. “Two PEs.” Even my dilaudid (narcotic) cloudy mind got it: Pulmonary Embolisms. In. My. Lungs. “We are admitting you.”

It’s now nearly seven weeks post surgery. I am on a blood thinner called Xarelto.  I also have Xanax to take as needed*.

My surgery scars are healing very well, and my “alimentary canal”, as my dad used to call it, is working fine. I am not yet on a full/normal diet (avoiding non-soluble fiber – I am also learning what that is exactly – read NOT digestible, like CORN and celery, nuts, lettuce, sticks, twigs, seeds). I cannot drink alcohol due to a pissed off pancreas a week AFTER the PEs, that no one can figure out, despite an MRI.

And *the Xanax*?
The PEs are causing me weird anxiety attacks. I wonder what every body twinge is. The headache that appears sporadically MUST be a clot. The tingly legs – surely the same thing. I am inwardly convinced I am going to drop dead, or worse, have a stroke any second. They warned me about bruising and I thought “be careful to not whack a shin on something.” Instead, I found it means I cannot lay on my arms when I sleep or I wake up feeling like I pitched a no-hitter at the World Series with both of them. And the bruises do appear for no reason. I am achy all over like I have the flu.  My veins are fatter and when I lift a hand up to the sky, they collapse and I CAN FEEL AND SEE THEM DO IT.  Being out in public causes me heart palpitations that escalate into “I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE.”

I am trying to practice mindfulness and gratitude before I fall asleep and when I awaken in the mornings. I am still here. I have GREAT medical insurance. I have a great family. I have a husband who “gets me” and grounds me when I am frantic. I am working at 70% power and my company didn’t drop me while I was out.  I have a house and hot showers. Cute cats. Great kids. I am not being bombed, or having to leave my home. Perspective PLEASE.  I AM slowly healing.

And yet. Anxiety. PTSD. That is actually what doc called it.

I am on blood thinners for six months.  Will this spacey, wacky, panicky feeling subside before that?

I have so much more empathy now for people with any kind of anxiety disorder.  My Pulmonary doc tells me that the Xanax is typical of her patients. That the key is patience. I want my resilience to appear. My foundation “It will be okay,” which saw me through some pretty crappy years: it’s gone sometimes. That’s when I go into the drain of anxiety and spend two days climbing out. I achieve a day of semi/spacey normal, only to fall back into the drain and repeat the pattern.

I don’t like this. I don’t feel like me. And sometimes I am not even sure who that is. This has changed me into a whiny, tearful, anxiety-filled stranger who is overly dependent. Unsure of herself. It’s made me fearful of death, in that I am not ready to go yet and I don’t want it to be painful. Life is fragile. I get it. I am afraid of taking a walk. Afraid of talking on the phone. Afraid of taking a deep breath. Afraid of the beating of my heart.

DEEP Breaths.

One. Day. At. A Time.

October 13 is World Thrombosis Day



One thought on “Of Pulmonary Embolisms, Anxiety, and Recovery

  1. Awesome entry…perfectly articulates the anxiety that comes with embolisms or any life threatening medical condition. I am 4 months out from my bilateral embolisms and some days it is so tough to keep the anxiety in check. But overall in general, I am feeling gratitude and thankfulness for another chance! Thank you for sharing your writing!


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