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Yippee, I’m out of the hospital! After spending the last six days couped up in a hospital bed, tethered to all sorts of wires and tubes, it feels great to be standing free on my own two feet. Let me recap what happened over the past week…

Last Tuesday morning, I checked back in to Providence hospital after finding out that the blood clot in my left leg had reformed. This time around, the doctors used a different technique to clear out the clot. A special catheter, which releases the clot-busting drug like a sprinkler while simultaneously emitting ultrasonic rays, was placed in the popliteal vein behind my knee and threaded up to the top of my iliofemoral vein (upper pelvic area). Dr. Inamputti (an Interventional Radiologist) also did some work with angioplasty balloons to try and widen narrowed parts of the vein. I was semi-conscious through the process. After a couple hours, I was taken up to the CVIU (Cardio Vascular Intervention Unit) for around the clock monitoring, attached to all sorts of machines monitoring the ultrasonic catheter, IV fluids, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. For most of the day I slept. The first night I had severe spasms in my left leg that were quite painful. The nurse gave me morphine for the pain and apparently I was quite out of it for the next several hours, speaking gibberish and blaming everything on “the Canadians.”

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A shot from the Cath lab, you can see the “sprinkler” catheter up in my vein.

Each morning for the next three days I was wheeled down to the Cath lab, where dye was injected into my vein to gauge the status of the clot. Slowly but surely, the clot was breaking down.

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Then I would be taken back up to the CVIU where I spent all day and night stuck in bed, attached to the machines and restricted to a liquid-only diet.

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Friends and family came to visit and Jeff spent each night with me.

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Coaches Erik and Frode came by to visit.

Lab techs would come in every four hours to draw blood, even at 3am.

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Holding pressure on yet another blood draw (over 30 during my stay).  Looking a little beat up.

On the Friday morning (day four), I figured I was going home. I was wrong. While a majority of the clot had been cleared, there was still one major narrowing right at my hip joint that was concerning. Dr. Inamputti decided that they had pumped about as much clot-busting drug as was safe into my body, but that it was time to pull the main catheter out and let my body take over for a couple days. After more angioplasty balloon procedures and a quick blast with the angiojet, I was put on a heparin drip (a blood thinner) and sent back up to the CVIU for the weekend. It was certainly a blow to my morale to have to spend at least two more days in the hospital. At least I was allowed to eat solid food and get up and walk a little bit.

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Returning victorious from my 300m lap of the hallway!

Saturday crept by. My highlight was when I got up for 10 minutes to slowly walk about 300m around the hallways while pushing my IV pole. Then back in bed.

Sunday I awoke with much anticipation, ready to make a final trip to the Cath lab and get discharged. When the nurse came in with breakfast she said they would take me down at 10am. 10am came and went. Then she came back and said an emergency case had bumped me back to noon. Noon came and almost passed and then at last, they came to take me down to the Cath lab. Once more I was injected with dye to check the status of the clot. Thankfully, the narrowed part of the vein had cleared over the previous two days and I was deemed fit to go home.

I was taken back up to the CVIU for a few hours. Then the nurse removed the catheter sheath and I spent a couple more hours waiting oddly enough for a clot to form where the sheath was removed. Finally, at 6pm I was officially discharged. I got to change out of that horrid hospital gown and back into my real clothes. After being in the hospital for six days, I couldn’t wait to get home and take a shower! I said good-bye to the nurses and headed off with Jeff and my parents.

Just as we were approaching the elevators, my pant leg suddenly felt warm and wet. I looked down and my calf was soaked. I lifted up my pants and found my calf and ankle to be soaked in blood. Dang, I sprung a leak! (A hazard of being on blood thinners!) I quickly hobbled back to the nurses station. The head nurse rushed me over to my recently vacated bed and jammed her fist over the wound (not a pleasant experience!). Blood poured out from underneath the bandage.

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Initially there was talk of keeping me overnight. No way!!!! After consulting with the doctor, the nurses reasoned to just get the bleeding under control and maybe send me off in a wheel chair the next time. On the way home I was careful not to put pressure on my leg and luckily no more spontaneous bleeding occurred.

So, home at last! Now the recovery process begins again. The site where the catheter was removed is very sore and bruised, and it feels like I have a giant knot in the muscle behind my knee. That will hopefully improve day by day over the next week. I am walking with a limp, but none the less walking! I will have to wait for my leg to heal before I can get back to exercising, although I was cleared to lift weights with my upper body this week.

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I will be on blood thinners for at least the next six months. In eight weeks I will go back to the Cath lab for a check-up to see if my veins are staying open in those areas where the narrowing occurred. The doctors are convinced that I have May-Thurner Syndrome (where the vein is compressed by the artery) and will be looking to see if that particular area has stayed open after the angioplasty procedures. If there is still narrowing/compression, then I may need to get a stent put in or have surgery to re-route the affected vein. Neither option sounds that pleasant, so I’m crossing my fingers that everything stays open!

I will try and post updates as the recovery process goes on. Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories and encouragement!

arthritis

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