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A Scary Diversion

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I will make a brief statement regarding the events of the past few days, and then I will take a few questions from the audience. Those that communicate with us as well as follow the blog are probably aware that the blog lags about 2 weeks behind actual events. We will return to our first few days out of the hospital after this emergency update.

At approximately 9:15 PM last Friday night, while we were watching old reruns of Alf (the one where he gets caught in the neighbors house and the police come and there’s a hostage situation, etc.), Kim began to feel a sudden and acute pain in her lower back and shoulder which was exacerbated when she took deep breaths. After a few minutes the pain did not subside, and since Kim is not generally one to show as much as pain as she appeared to be experiencing, I cajoled and convinced her to go down to the emergency room to get her “checked out.” Sadly, we forgot to tape the end of Alf so I didn’t get to see the end.

We proceeded to a clinic in town called “PromptCare” which is usually anything but – it’s kind of emergency room light. After a few minutes (if you ask Kim I’m sure she can tell you since it was obvious that she was in a hurry) they took us back, and in less than 5 minutes determined that she needed to go across the street to the hospital for testing. Soon we were wheeled into a holding area which consisted of approximately five “bays” that were separated by curtains, all filled with a variety of folks waiting for care. Kim transferred to the bed and we began to wait.

And wait we did, for about 2 hours until a doctor finally came to talk to us. In the meantime we slowly began to piece together the stories of our various neighbors. The fellow closest to the door evidentally fell out of a golf cart when his buddy took a sharp turn when he wasn’t looking, and severely busted his hip. He seemed surprisingly coherent considering such terms as Perkaset and Morphine were being tossed around. The lady next to us had some sort of hand tremor and weakness in her limbs. Across the way, another lady did not “feel well.” And then there was the lady in the corner next to us.

She had some sort of chronic stomach issue, and had been here before many times. She kept asking if the nurses remembered her, because she sure recalled them “last time I was here.” Personally, I think she was just lonely – every time someone wandered into her area, she chatted them up like it was in the aisle at the supermarket. But when she was alone for five minutes, then the moaning began. Once she discovered we had a baby in tow, she kept trying to have conversations through the curtain. Kim, suitably freaked out by the whole situation in the first place, responded meekly, with that “ok, I’m going to stop talking now” kind of inflection.

In any case, eventually the ER doctor on duty, who was definitely not Noah Wiley nor George Clooney, finally acknowledged us and asked us various questions. (“Where does it hurt? How long has it done that? If you stop breathing, does it still hurt? How long can you hold your breath? Have you considered holding your breath all the time?”) Upon hearing the symptoms, he said he was concerned about blood clots, and ordered a CT scan of Kim’s chest to take a look at her lungs. Soon thereafter Kim disappeared to take the test and I was left with Justine, who, amazingly had been sleeping through most of this in her car carrier.

Kim returned later and we resumed waiting in the ER for the results of the test. Despite more of the “doctor googling” that we’ve become so fond of lately, we decided not to risk transmitting the contrast dye used in the CT scan to Justine through breastfeeding, so we had the ER acquire some baby formula for us to use in the short term – the consensus was 24 hours. We were a little concerned that she’d have trouble taking a bottle in such a strange location, for the very first time and with formula instead of breast milk, but in what would be a recurring miracle, she gave us little trouble.

The results of the CT scan came back negative we were told, although the reviewer mentioned that the scan didn’t do a great job of getting the ‘periphery’ around the lung, which happened to be where Kim was experiencing the pain. We also found that the “reviewer” was actually some guy in Australia, who reviewed CT scans all night for ERs in America while the American radiologists slept. Of all the things to be outsourced…

In any case, we assumed we were good to go. But the ER doctor was still concerned, and somehow convinced us that we should take another test. Our options were a lung scan, which would have required radiological junk and would render breastfeeding impossible for days, or an ultrasound of the legs to look for clots. We opted for the latter, only later learning the caveat was that that particular test could only happen in the morning, some 6 hours away. We settled in for a long night in the ER holding area.

Amazingly, Justine slept from 11 o’clock Friday night until 7 AM Saturday morning. When she awoke, she was hungry and had no issues taking formula from the bottle, and then went back to sleep for a few more hours.

Finally, after everyone else in the ER had gone home, Kim finally disappeared for her ultrasound, and I began gathering our stuff for our impending return home. Then the new ER doctor walked in, and told me that the local radiologist had awoken from his hibernation down in the cryogenics lab, and re-examined the CT scan and determined that Kim had indeed had a clot, a dreaded pulmonary embolism. When Kim returned from her ultrasound, I gave her the news. Shortly thereafter we were moved to an actually ER room where we were finally alone for a while, to let the gravity of everything sink in.

Over the next few hours, we learned that Kim actually had a few large clots (apparently yet ANOTHER radiologist reviewed the scan), that the treatment was a combination of a large, short term does of Heparin and a longer term, daily dose of a drug called Lovenox, both of which are blood thinners. We also learned, much to our chagrin, that she would be admitted for 1-4 days (depending on who you asked) to receive the heparin (via IV) and to be monitored. Eventually we were admitted and transferred to the Cardiac wing, and Kim was hooked up to a heart monitor and an IV and began the road to recovery.

We were, mercifully, given a single, which was probably more for the benefits of all the elderly, heart disease ridden folks who’d rather not spend their convalescence with a screaming baby next to them. We were certainly the darlings of the floor, for a variety of reasons, including 1) we were the youngest by probably 40 years, 2) we had an adorable 3 week old baby, and 3) my dashing good looks (a few nurses actually swooned at my presence). The nurses were absolutely wonderful, bringing us all kinds of things for Justine, including a bassinet from the NICU, bottle after bottle of formula, sheets, towels, a kitty cat, a swingset complete with slide, and a slip and slide to keep us having fun. Also, beer for me.

We spent the next three days in the hospital, with Kim eventually switching from the IV drip to belly shots, (not that kind), Justine from formula back to breast milk, and me from “seriously freaked out” to “less seriously freaked out.” I slept beside Kim on one of those comical “sleepchairs” – you know the one that looks like a plush chair but if you massage it just right it folds flat for sleep purposes. I thought that it would be extremely uncomfortable, but exhaustion instead knocked me out each night.

Finally, Tuesday morning came and we were discharged. We are home and resting comfortably. It was a scary few days.

—–

Anyone still here? Questions?

Q: What caused the PE (pulmonary embolism)?

A: We don’t know at the moment. The obvious answer is pregnancy, but there are also genetic concerns. Kim had blood taken that will be tested for genetic markers to determine if that may be the culprit. Her family has no history of it.

Q: How do they treat the clots?

A: In essence, they don’t. All the blood thinners are to keep the clots from expanding, and to prevent new clots from forming. The existing clots slowly dissipate over time, which is why the pain will linger for a few weeks until they are gone.

Q: What’s the long term affects of the issue/treatment?

A: Nothing terrible. She will be on the Lovenox (twice daily injections) for 4-6 months. When we have more children, she will have to go back on the Lovenox for the duration of the pregnancy and for several weeks after birth. Other than that, there aren’t many restrictions, other than to avoid “excessive cutting” and “blood sports” while on the Lovenox.

Q: What is the capital of Montana?

A: Helena

Q: Was it scary?

A: Initially, not so bad. After the words “pulmonary embolism” came out it became a lot more scary. That has subsided somewhat, but now we are both in that phase where every pain or tingling or difficulty in breathing immediately brings the whole issue to the forefront again. Anyone that has gone through similar issues is familiar with that.

Q: Is she still in pain?

A: Not really – she still can’t take a deep breath and she still has some shoulder pain, but it’s manageable with Tylenol.

Q: Now that you are home, have you looked up the ending of the Alf episode?

A: Actually yes. Willie Tanner snuck into the house, and had Alf hide in a hamper while he put a walkie-talkie in a window. Then he convinced the police that it was some prankster just radioing in the hostage situation. Everything ended happily – once again wise cracking ALF avoided the dreaded ‘alien autopsy.’

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This concludes our briefing. Stay tuned for a return to our regular blogging entries.

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