Symptoms & Treatment
I was working out one day and got up from doing some pushups, noticed extreme pain in my arm and it was turning purple. I have a plate in my wrist from an old mountain biking injury, so at first I chalked it up to that. That said, the pain was so bad I knew it was something I needed to get to the hospital for immediately. I rushed myself to the emergency room and over the next hour they gave me morphine and hooked me up to a doppler trying to figure out why I had no blood flow to my hand. They figured out pretty quickly that I had blood clots throughout my arm and had suspicion that a clot had broken apart somewhere further up. That night I had a catheter put in to deliver TPA directly to dissolve the clots and open the blood flow. I remember watching the screens and seeing the dye go through my arm and all the tiny blood vessels.
The next couple days in the ICU were a total haze, I have barely any memory of it. I mainly just remember having to lay still so the catheter wire would not move around in my body. My next memory is of the doctors explaining that they thought there was a blood clot in my heart and then doing a ultrasound to confirm it was there. I watched the screen and could see it in there flopping around with each beat. That confirmation hit me like a ton of bricks, the next few days were going to majorly suck. Within an hour or so I was rushed to UCHealth in an ambulance, told my family and friends I loved them, then went in for open heart surgery.
Not going to lie, recovery was not easy. I was fortunate to have my family and friends around. I was in my 20s, active and healthy. The doctors said this made my recovery way easier than for most people. I can't imagine going through it without having all of the support I had.
As I remember, I was in the hospital for almost two weeks. Once I was let out I was out for about a week, then had more pain around my heart which was inflammation and pleurisy. I had to go back in to the hospital for another week and a half while the inflammation went down.
The first month is real tough. A couple days after surgery the nurses helped me stand up and walk, which was like learning it all over again. Pretty sure I threw up the first attempt. I think this is normal when your body goes through an extreme trauma. I slept with a pillow on my chest, which I'd hug if I had to sit up or roll over. Coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc were all incredibly painful. The pain medications (hydrocodone) gave me nightmares so I stopped taking them after a couple weeks. Early on I had to give myself Lovenox shots while we figured out the Coumadin doses and got my INR up.
Month 2, 3 and beyond
After the first month or so things got a lot easier. INR was stable so I could stop the Lovenox shots. I had already been on Coumadin years earlier for the Pulmonary Embolism, so I knew how to maintain my diet. They say there is a "magic 3 months" to recovery, which was pretty much spot on. After 3 months, to the day, I was back on my bike and out running on the trails. Never looked back. A year later I was running my first marathon and a few months after that I was doing my first ultramarathon. Since then I've run and rode thousands of miles.
Over the years, I've probably went back to the ER 10+ times for different scares. Each never turned out being anything. Early on it was pleurisy, but since then it's just weird twinges or pain. After almost dying a couple times, you get really cautious. Sometimes you read your body wrong and it turns out being nothing. Either way, sometimes it's just nice getting peace of mind rather than worrying. I've always erred on the side of staying alive.
- Know your body and listen to it! With blood clots, there is no "I'll get it checked in the morning", go now and don't hesitate.
- My uncle who had been fighting cancer on and off for 10 years, called me after the surgery and gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. He said: "I know it's bad. Today it probably won't get better, tomorrow it may not either, but it WILL get better. Just keep fighting." He died a few months later, but not before I saw him again and shared a beer together.
Time to be alive
To this day, I can't tell this story without getting emotional.. and it was almost 7 years ago.
February 1th 2011 is now my "time to be alive". I try to just do something awesome and enjoy life. Time to be alive is coming up in a couple months, but really, everyday is a time to be alive. Things can go south REAL quick, enjoy the good times while you got em. Cheers :)
“Gotta have opposites, light and dark and dark and light, in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in awhile so you know when the good times come. I'm waiting on the good times now.”
- Bob Ross