Red Cross to the Clot

We Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Program

Today’s blog post is a story: Red Cross to the Clot. It is not intended to replace proper medical care.

First Aid Training Prepared Me for Everything Except My Own Emergency

First aid training seemed important to know to care for my family and others.  I received my first aid certificate for adult and pediatric Red Cross Training after intensive study during December 2016, as I have mentioned previously. I felt a little winded and light headed when I was demonstrating CPR and thought it was probably the adrenaline rush of knowing I would be certified  to help save lives! I was overly prepared for class and yet felt out of place with paramedics from local hospitals and the Mayo Clinic. I am used to taking and passing classes, but not while giving CPR to resuscitation dolls and being graded.  I was probably just nervous.

Everything worked out and I did pass! I could save someone who was choking in a restaurant, even a baby! I could know whether or not to call 911 if the neighbors had more situations arise. I was ready! I could now help in the case of stroke, heart attack, or other emergencies. However, I had no clue what I should do when I could not breathe several weeks later.

As I read in Medusa’s Clot: The Ill-Humor of Pulmonary Embolism by Dr. Michael D. Helzner, one study concluded that more than half cases involving blood clots are never diagnosed. Most cases, the author states, and not recognized ante mortem (prior to death). Half can be asymptomatic. He says, “Clots are one of the nation’s biggest yet least known healthcare headaches.”

I now know if you can’t breathe to call 911. But that wasn’t me! I was going to help others. It didn’t cross my mind I might have to help myself. I didn’t know what was happening as it was not mentioned  much if at all in class. I think it is not even listed in the table of contents of my participant’s manual. Of course, such training is not a full medical course.

Last summer I held someone’s hand during a wait for an ambulance. Now it was my turn to get in the ambulance? No, not me! Urgent care sent me to the emergency room, and the emergency room sent me to ICU.  They hooked up the wrong person to the oxygen! Oxygen was for people way older than me!

I knew I was really sick when I had some visitors with a new a baby. These people were being so careful to avoid germs. I must have been going to die. In fact, about 1 in 5 people with pulmonary embolisms (PE) die immediately according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. I didn’t learn much about PE in the hospital, but a month later was told I had experienced a sub-massive, near fatal pulmonary embolism with large bilateral lung clots as well as a clot in my leg. Well, OK then!

PE can come on so suddenly there might not be time to check symptoms on Google. The medical term for clot is thrombus. The embolism is the part that gets stuck in the veins.

Red-cross-to-the-clot-PE-storyAlthough PE can happen suddenly, it can also come on more slowly. Last November, one doctor thought I should go to the hospital to see if I was having a heart attack. Four tests revealed I was not. They did not check for PE.  I even went to the Mayo Clinic which is a few hours away and the day I was supposed to return, I was in the ICU at a local hospital. I was just a little too busy to go to the appointment.

Just two days before my ambulance adventure a doctor at UC had checked me for pneumonia and flu. Negative. And in the ambulance, I was given nitroglycerin four times to see if it helped. If it had helped, that would have meant it had been a heart attack. So even the doctors and other health care workers didn’t recognize what I didn’t recognize.

There was evidence the problem had indeed come on slowly, according to the cardiologist in the hospital. I liked her as she said I was going to be OK. She said the heart damage I had sustained meant it had been going on awhile. Anyway, all I knew was that I had been tired and just not myself.

Blood Clot Recovery Takes Many Months

Recovery will take about six months, and I am on blood thinners for life. I am supposed to avoid getting in knife fights at the bar. That will be relatively easy as I don’t go to bars. However, the recovery symptoms are so similar to the PE symptoms that it induces anxiety in many people. I have to talk myself out of going back to the ER. I have to talk to the doctors out of sending me back to ER, also, as now they won’t see me for a list of problems that should only be checked out at the hospital such as a terrible headache possibly indicating bleeding problems. I was told to see my doctor and not the PA as I had been doing. There is no antidote for bleeding while on my medicine. But it and similar drugs are advertised heavily on TV. So are lawsuits about them. I have a strange new world of things to take in to consideration. No falls! No accidents! No cuts! Be careful! Don’t do this! Don’t do that!

So, along with my prized Red Cross Training pin I can wear . . . a medical bracelet saying I’m on blood thinners. I want to be sure they match and compliment my outfits. I don’t want to make a fashion faux pas in case of emergency. . . or hopefully no emergency!

I still highly recommend First Aid Training as it is very informative. Thanks to Pastor Jeanine, the doctors, hospital, and everyone who supported me through this time. 

Thank you for reading. This is why my blog updates were stalled for awhile. Carolyn

You may also like to read my daughter’s post about CPR, CCR, and AED emergency information for parents and teachers at her I-Reid blog.


About the Author:

Carolyn Wilhelm is the author of The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has an MS in Gifted Education, a MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12, and has completed the KHT Montessori 12 month program. She makes mostly free resources for teachers and parents.