Thursday, March 4, 2010

Visits to the Doctor Are Not Always a Breeze

Okay, so as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made a doctor's appointment for this past Tuesday, so I could figure out about my wheezing and get back to running asap.  In the meantime, I've been keeping up with the 30-day Shred (I finished Day 2 of Level 3 on Tuesday morning) and have been incorporating a little bit of additional resistance training into my day.  I've been wheezing and had a tight feeling in my chest again since I got back from a trip overseas in mid-January, but I had waited to go to the doctor because he's two hours away and I'm in a ceramics class for three hours every Saturday. 

I wasn't worried about my appointment - I had a laundry list of things to talk to him about, but I figured the wheezing was just because of the bronchitis I had in October and he'd just prescribe me an inhaler and send me on my way.  I've also been having some periodic stomach pain (it feels like I'm starving, but when I eat, it hurts even more and lasts for about five days at a time) and wanted to talk to him about the toe I injured just before Christmas, which I still can't bend and hurts if I bump it into anything - and I'm klutzy, so that happens frequently.  I first chatted with him in his office about everything and he informed me that "big toes are different to little toes" so I shouldn't have assumed that they wouldn't have been able to do anything when I first injured it.  Then he walked me to the exam room, told me to change into the gown, and said that my wheezing "could be a couple of things" and he'd be right back. 

Of course, he wasn't right back, so like the good hypochondriac I am, I started to worry about what the wheezing could mean - I figured if it was just bronchial asthma, he would have just said so.  Once he came back and examined me, he sat down and said that likely each of my symptoms was caused by something separate.  Because I had gotten better from the bronchitis, and then after flying back from Europe felt worse again, the worst case scenario was that I had a pulmonary embolism (that's a blood clot in the lungs).  I watch enough television to know that a pulmonary embolism makes you a ticking time bomb and is a very serious thing.  He said that he wanted me to get a cat scan and when I asked him if there was anything that I should avoid doing before I had the cat scan, he said "Well, we're going to make sure you get it done today."  I knew he was concerned then, because my doctor is one of the most even-keeled people ever (which helps me avoid any hysteria).  He added that he wanted me to get an x-ray of my foot, but that we weren't going to worry about that right away and said that he thought my stomach pain was caused by an ulcer, and told me an over the counter medication I could take for that. 

I was still stuck on that embolism word though.

He told me they wanted to do an EKG there at the office, so I got to experience my first EKG - the nurse was very nice about it and explained everything she was doing.  She told me it would take her longer to hook me up than it would to run the test, and she was right.  In the meantime, I'd called my dad while trying to hold it together to tell him that I had to go to the hospital.  He said my mom would want to meet me there and I said I'd be in touch when I knew more.

The receptionist got me an appointment quickly and we both called to double check that my insurance wouldn't require any additional tests before approving the cat scan (they didn't).  I headed over to the hospital and my mom met me in the lobby - she's spent a LOT of time at the hospital in the past year because my grandmother has been quite sick, so she brought some crocheting to keep her hands busy and stayed very calm, which helped me.  I think it also helped that I really don't like to cry in public, so I held it together so nobody would see me cry!

I got signed in and got my ID bracelet, before a nurse took me in the back to put in an IV - I was getting a cat scan with contrast, so they needed to be able to give me the dye.  They also took blood first so that they could check my kidney function to make sure I could process the dye okay.  It was fine, so I waited a couple of minutes before they brought me in for the test.  I liked that I didn't have to wear a hospital gown or anything, and that the cat scan machine was open - I had an MRI a few years ago because of my migraines, and that was a TERRIBLE experience!  So this was much easier.  Until they injected the dye - they'd warned me that I would suddenly feel very hot, with the heat traveling from my head to my toes, like a hot flash (though my mom informed me that hot flashes are actually much worse - awesome).  But as the dye went in, my arm hurt terribly.  I thought that was normal, so I just held on and then I started to feel incredibly nauseous and as if I couldn't breathe.  I was trying to breathe through the nausea just to get to the end of the test, but I started to gag.  Fortunately, they'd gotten what they needed, and rushed in to make sure I was okay and not having an allergic reaction to the dye. I didn't get a rash or any itchiness, which was a good sign they said, but I felt weak and lightheaded for a few minutes.  They went to get my mom, and then put us in a little waiting room to wait for the results.  I had to keep in the IV just in case they had to admit me.  Fortunately, it only took a few minutes for the results to come back and the doctor to call and say they were negative.


So I did just have bronchial asthma, which seems to have suddenly gotten MUCH worse since I got all stressed out about the possibility of having a blood clot.  But I have an inhaler for that, so hopefully that will get better.  I did go for the x-ray of my foot yesterday, but I'm still waiting to hear back from the doctor to find out what the story is.  I have the all clear to keep working out - I just have to take a puff of the inhaler before I do - and once I know about my toe, I'll either be back to running or taking care of that! I'm hoping to sneak in the rest of the Shred before I would have to do anything about my injured toe :)

Only a few of my family members and friends know about what happened Tuesday, but I thought it was important to write a post about it for a couple of reasons - 1) I didn't know that chest tightness was a sign of a possible blood clot in the lungs and that really scared me, so don't assume that if you've had a lifetime of lung problems like I have that it's not something new - go to your doctor!! and 2) if I had had a pulmonary embolism, all the working out and the shoveling that I've done in the last six weeks could have killed me.  Really.  So I'm now a firm believer that it IS actually a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and it's not just a disclaimer because of the lawyers.  If I'd gone to my doctor six weeks ago, I still would have had to be tested, but I was fortunate that it turned out I didn't have a blood clot.  So if you're thinking about starting a new workout and you're not feeling 100%, do me a favor and check with your doctor first.

I'm feeling so very grateful that everything turned out the way it did, and I commend Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ.  They were all so very kind to me - everyone asked if I had had the test before, and made sure to explain what was going to happen at each step.  Everyone was very calm and pleasant there, and although I was still nervous and scared, I felt like I was in the right place and well cared for.  And the whole experience really puts things into perspective.  It definitely inspired me to keep up with working out and getting healthy, so that I can hopefully avoid some of the preventable health problems!  I must admit that I've taken the last two days off the Shred because I've been both tired and just recovering from Tuesday's stress, but I will be back to it tomorrow and hopefully back to running again pretty soon!


  1. Campbell HoffmanMarch 4, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    Glad to know you're OK! So scary!