Post Surgical Setback, Pulmonary Embolism/Infarction


I have had a setback in my recovery from surgery.  Last Sunday I woke up very short of breath.  I really just thought it was because I hadn’t been moving around as much since my surgery.  It kept getting worse and my family kept telling me I needed to go to the hospital but I was really resistant to that idea.  I really didn’t think that 2 weeks after surgery I could still have a complication from it so it didn’t occur to me that it could be anything serious.  Plus, my health has always been excellent so I just assumed that I was fine because I am always fine.  Finally in the mid afternoon I agreed to go to the ER.  It was in the 80’s outside that day and I was freezing as if it were winter but I didn’t know what the significance of that was.  I even got Brian to stop and get me a pumpkin latte on the way to emergency! I am sure I will never live that one down!  We arrived back at East Cooper Hospital where I had my surgery and as soon as I said I had surgery 2 weeks before and felt short of breath the staff sprung into action.  I was taken back immediately and given an x ray and CT scan as well as being placed on oxygen.  My oxygen level was 84 when I arrived which is dangerously low and explained my feeling cold even though it was quite warm outside.  My CT scan of my lungs showed multiple diffuse blood clots called Pulmonary Embolism or blood clots in my lungs.

“Despite diagnostic advances, delays in pulmonary embolism diagnosis are common and represent an important issue.As a cause of sudden death, massive pulmonary embolism is second only to sudden cardiac death. In patients who survive a pulmonary embolism, recurrent embolism and death can be prevented with prompt diagnosis and therapy. Unfortunately, the diagnosis is often missed because patients with pulmonary embolism present with nonspecific signs and symptoms. If left untreated, approximately one third of patients who survive an initial pulmonary embolism die from a subsequent embolic episode”

 source:  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/300901-overview

This condition can be and frequently is fatal.  The clots can break and go into the blood stream and go to the heart or brain.  I was admitted immediately to the PICU which is the unit one step down from ICU. I am on 2 types of blood thinning drugs, levonox and Coumadin.  The only way to treat these clots is to dissolve them with these medications.  I cannot be discharged until my coumadin level is stabilized and this can take a long time, right now it seems like I will be here until Friday but maybe longer.  This process takes months so I am looking at at least 6 months of treatment with Coumadin.  Today my hospitalist told me that in addition to this condition I have also had a Pulmonary Infarction.     “Pulmonary Infarction is necrosis, or death of lung tissue due to ischemia (lack of blood flow) to that area of the lung.  Most result from a large pulmonary embolism (PE) that blocks or slows the flow of oxygenated blood distal to the blockage.  The clot may be caused from a trauma, post operative, or just after birth. “ 

This means that I will have a damaged section of my right lung for the rest of my life.  This whole thing is very scary to me and my family and friends.  I am not out of the woods yet.  I am not allowed to move around more than to use the bathroom for fear that the clots will break apart and travel to my heart or brain so here I am in bed writing, knitting and talking on the phone.  I am still very short of breath actually more so today than I was yesterday.  Today I woke up and I just feel terrible; achey all over, chilled and just in general yucky.  I will keep you all posted about my progress.  When I saw my ortho surgeon yesterday he said this is a temporary setback as far as my back healing.  I am apparently the first patient to have this complication in his career, he looks very worried every time he comes to see me.  After this crisis is over I can resume my walking therapy and continue to get my mobility back, for now I have to just try and be compliant and just rest and hope that the clots begin to dissolve soon.  Honestly I am afraid that they might not be telling me everything and I get the impression that this is more serious than they are letting on.  I will keep hanging in here and working to get better, TTYL, 🙂 pray for me if you believe!

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