I hope you’ll bear with me as I share a personal story. It’s been a few years, so I can look back on this experience with objectivity. But I still cringe remembering this day. I survived a pulmonary embolism by the grace of God.
A memorable Valentine’s Day
It was Valentine’s Day and my husband was home for a rare week working from home. I remember I ran up the stairs because my two year old needed something, and I felt really out of breath and weak. I joked with my husband that I couldn’t be this out of shape, and then went about my day. I still felt breathless, but was so busy I didn’t slow down to think about it. When you have a toddler you never stop till they drop.
The next morning a pain in my side woke me up well before my alarm. It felt like I broke a rib, but my little kicking boy had spent the night in his own bed, and my husband had worked so late into the night that he crashed on the couch. I had slept alone so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I couldn’t take a deep breath because the pain was so bad.
I was in focused Mom Mode
But I had a very full day ahead of me, so I decided it wasn’t going to slow me down and off I went. (For anyone reading this with a sense of foreboding- you have good instincts. I was in real trouble but wasn’t paying attention to my body’s warning signs.) I had five blood clots in my lungs and had no idea. When I was running up the stairs a massive clot had hit my lungs. Thankfully the force of the blood at that moment broke the clot apart and sent much smaller clots deep into my lungs, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.
As the story continues, I took my sister-in -law shopping, and even stopped to take a passport picture. (I looked awful!) When I got home and put my sweet boy down for a nap, I really wanted one too. But I had this feeling that if I went to sleep I wouldn’t be waking up again. My husband was napping, and the house was quiet. That nagging feeling that I had to do something wouldn’t go away! So I started going through my mind trying to find a friend to talk things over with.
So God took over
This moment is when I know the Lord started guiding my path more firmly. I wasn’t doing so hot on my own. First, nobody was free for a chat! And my friend Dan kept coming to mind. So I called him. He’s a doctor, two time zones away, but I trusted him. Dan is rarely available during the day, so I was surprised when he answered on the second ring. He told me that I probably needed to be in the emergency room. So I left my sleeping baby, and a note for my sleeping husband, and headed out the door.
I was supposed to pick up my nephews and niece after school and then I planned on going to the hospital. But the Lord stepped in again. My brother called me and told me that he was taking care of the kids and not to worry. When I told him about my pain he firmly told me to get to the hospital.
I’ve learned something interesting about the Emergency Room. When you aren’t bleeding or dying the ER can be a long and boring wait. When you are in real medical danger you are whisked right through! This was the most eventful and fast paced trip through the ER of my life! Tests were done promptly, doctors showed up immediately, and in under an hour I had answers.
They did a CT scan to see just what was going on. And I started to catch a clue that things weren’t right when the tech insisted I sit next to her as she reviewed the scans. She didn’t even leave me to rest on the table. When I got back to the exam area, there was a concerned nurse there to meet me. The doctor came in and explained the situation and they immediately gave me a shot of blood thinner in my stomach and told me not to cross my legs or even move because they were afraid there were more clots that could be dislodged and travel to my lungs or brain. I had been intensely blessed that I was feeling mostly fine by then. They had given me something for the pain, and aside from getting winded easily, I had no idea what danger I had just escaped.
I realized how blessed I was
It was terrible calling my parents 3 states away to tell them where I was. And my husband was beyond worried. I had been being strong for everyone else, and seeing their concern was really emotional for me.
Cue the brother to scare the crap out of me. My brother (the one who encouraged me to get to the ER) came to visit me in the hospital. He is a medical guy and he laid out all the gory details like nobody else could. It was very scary. And I hurt having to be away from my husband and two-year-old as I recovered in the hospital. I hurt hearing the worry and fear in my parent’s voices when I spoke with them.
But I knew I was very blessed. I could have died, and I was still in danger. But seeing the grief on my family’s faces was a tremendous motivator. I determined that if it was in my power I was not going to be leaving them behind any time soon. I wanted to see my son get married and retire with my husband- both goals many years off. I did a lot of praying, and thanked the Lord over and over for sparing my life. (I had an undiscovered blood disorder, and that combined with birth control had put me in the hospital, and only God could save me.)
Getting better every day
It has been a long recovery. Even years later I am winded climbing stairs and carrying anything heavy. I sound like I am really working hard at nearly every exertion. But my doctor tells me I’m doing well. When clots form in the lungs, all the lung tissue downstream from the clot dies. And without blood thinners, those clots would have just kept growing and killing off more lung tissue. So now I am working on building up the strength of my remaining lung tissue. And eventually it will rebuild. I’m really lucky. Many people in my situation are on oxygen the rest of their lives. I may pant easily, but I don’t need oxygen.
Trusting the Lord is something every Christian works on daily. It’s kind of like faith- you have it, but you could always use more. So it is with trusting God. We trust Him, but then with each new challenge we are given a chance to trust Him a little more deeply. This challenge with my lungs has taught me to trust the Lord more.
I know more firmly that He is aware of me, and that He spared my life for something important. I know that none of us are here by accident, and that everyone in those critical 24 hours played a role in sparing me from further injury. I am so grateful to be here. Every blessing is sweeter because I know this is time I didn’t have to have. And I’m looking around more diligently to be sure that I complete all the things I was sent to Earth to do. It’s a wonderful life.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.