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The Scary Truth About Pulmonary Embolisms

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The Scary Truth About Pulmonary Embolisms

The following is a guest post by my friend Lisa Lightner…

Recently, one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta was hospitalized for blood clots in her lungs. NeNe Leakes is 45 years old and thankfully it seems as if she’s going to be okay.

A few years ago, we had a similar experience. Our lives weren’t much different than many other families. Both my husband and I were 39 at the time and we were just coming down from a busy holiday season. It was the end of December and we had a 3-year-old and a baby in the house. Both of us worked full time outside the home. I was a teacher so I was off of school that entire seven to ten days over the holidays and my husband always used vacation time then so that we could just be together as a family.

One morning, he was complaining about feeling funny. Nothing he could really pinpoint, just mild chest pain, some shortness of breath. He read everything he could online and of course we both thought about a heart attack. I was in the shower and he came in and said, “I think I’m going to go to the emergency room.”

I was literally dripping wet, and as a couple we are painfully practical at times. So he drove himself to the Chester County hospital. Initially they found nothing, but given his age and the symptoms that he was complaining of, it’s pretty standard to keep him overnight. The boys and I just stayed home, concerned but not overly worried. At that point we hadn’t even told family members because we didn’t want to alarm people.

The next day, it seemed that it was a bunch of nothing. They had run a whole bunch of tests and found nothing. That is, until another doctor gave a second opinion on some films and scans of his heart and lungs. They were very small but they were there—pulmonary embolisms-AKA-blood clots in the lungs. At this point, I still hadn’t even visited him in the hospital—again, we are painfully practical and they don’t allow babies in hospitals for visiting plus as a region we were having a bad flu season and my baby had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia. We didn’t want to risk him getting sick again and we didn’t have a sitter. Dan called me and told me the news and I did the one thing you should never do—I went to the Internet.

I Dream of Nene - Season 2013

Pulmonary embolisms are very serious and often fatal. At his age (39) and with his history, we had no idea how he got them. Often if you sit for a long period of time or have other risk factors, you get them. Our story has a happy ending. He ended up being in the hospital for about week and then spent many months on Coumadin (which is scary too). He has adjusted his work schedule so that he can work from home one day per week and he now does a daily walk during his lunch break since his is a desk job. I now work from home so that I can take on more around the house and make our lives less stressful overall.

I want to add, that also during that week that he was hospitalized, our older son started school. He has special needs and the first school day of that new year (2010) he started at a special needs preschool. So in addition to the stress of my husband’s illness, I was now putting my non-verbal 3-year-old on a van to go to school 15 miles away. I also had limited time at work, so despite his pretty serious illness, it was business as usual. I did manage to get in and visit him and bring him some necessities, but most of the time he was alone. That thought makes me sad but we were just doing what we thought we had to do—keep on keepin’ on.

I say this, because it’s Thanksgiving time, and a time to sit back, reflect and give thanks for what we have. This was a huge wake up call for us. We have given up significant income to have me work less so that we can spend more time together as a family and focus on what is important. I can now be there when either of my kids or my husband needs me. Right now we laugh about it—about how he was discharged from the hospital and the nurses said, “Is your wife coming to get you?” and he said, “No, my car is out in the lot” and they said, “You had a pulmonary embolism and you DROVE YOURSELF to the hospital?!?!” It’s funny, but if it had a different ending I can’t imagine the guilt I’d feel.

Please educate yourself on the risk factors, signs and symptoms of blood clots. Yes, my husband was lucky and so was NeNe Leakes. NBC reporter David Bloom was not so lucky. Even someone as fit as Serena Williams got them. So can you!

 

Lisa Lightner is a Mom, Special Education Advocate and Blogger who lives in Chester County, PA with her family. Her special needs parenting and special education blog is ADayInOurShoes.com and she also serves on the board of NSEAI.org and the PA Education for All Coalition.

Image courtesy of Bravo.

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