In the middle of the night Thursday night (December 17th), Christen woke up with severe pain in her left calf. You have to understand, this isn’t all that abnormal. With her Fibromyalgia she often has rather severe inexplicable pains. They usually pass after a day or so, especially if she gets some good sleep. We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday applying heat packs and massaging the leg, but by Monday morning it was still hurting so she called her doctor.
Christen has a great doctor and he understands her unique medical history, so he made room for her the same day and she went to see him at 1pm on Monday. When she explained the pain, her doctor said he was worried it might be a blood clot. He called all over the valley to find an imaging center that could do an ultrasound right away. The closest one that could get her in was on 3rd street and Virginia Ave, and she had to go straight there from the doctor. Unfortunately, we only have one car and I hadn’t gone with her because we didn’t think it was going to be anything major.
Doug to the rescue. Christen’s dad was able to leave work (thanks Curtis), go switch cars with Peggy (Christen’s mom), and come pick up Xavier and I. He took us all the way to the imaging center, which was great because it allowed me to drive Christen home afterward, especially since all the pushing on the already painful leg left her limping pretty badly.
By the time the imaging center got the results back to her doctor’s office, they had gone home. The next morning when her doctor read the results, he consulted with a hematologist and then called us to let us know that she did in fact have blood clots (plural) in her lower left leg, he wanted her to get another ultrasound on the leg, and he’d be prescribing blood thinners. He explained that she’d start with two injections a day for four days and then transition to oral medication that she could be on for up to three months or more. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be that easy.
Later that day (Tuesday, December 22nd), before we’d even gotten the prescription for the doctor, Christen started having a burning pain in her hip. She called her doctor and he said to go straight to the emergency room at Banner Estrella Hospital in case the blood clots were moving.
We arrived at the emergency room around 3:30pm, and again it was Doug to the rescue. He met us there an picked up Xavier. The emergency room got us in so quickly that Doug almost didn’t make it there in time (even though he was only a few minutes behind us). After taking her medical history, a doctor met with us and said that she’d be getting another ultrasound of the leg (they didn’t have the first one) as well as a CT scan with IV contrast to see if the clots had moved up to the heart or lungs. We were then moved to another waiting room, which is for people waiting for tests. We were only there for a few minutes when we were called back to get her IV put in and blood taken. Just as the guy finished, a lady appeared to take us back for the ultrasound. Things were moving really fast, and unfortunately we’ve been to this emergency room before so we have a baseline for comparison. I think blood clots are like having a Disney Land FastPass.
In the ultrasound room, the tech was very nice. I was full of questions and she was quick to offer answers. As she started at the top of Christen’s leg, she explained how they look for clots. First they find the vein and look at a cross section of it so they can see it’s open. Then they push on it and make sure it pushes flat. She said to imagine that the vein is a garden hose. If you step on it, it will flatten and the sides will push together nicely. However, if there’s a rock in the hose it won’t close or will only partially close when pressure is applied. After a few more questions and lots of pointing on her part, I was able to follow along and knew what I was looking at. However, I didn’t know that what I was looking at was the easy stuff. Just below the the knee the main vein bifurcates into two slightly smaller veins. At that point I could still see them. Then each of those bifurcates again. I was lost. Even the tech (who had years experience) was having a hard time. She called in another tech for an extra set of eyes. It seems that one set of these smaller veins (I think she said they are the “Peroneals”) were basically full of clots. From a couple inches below the back of the knee all the way to just above the ankle. While this was obviously not great news, it was better than the alternative. If the clots were gone, we’d know that they had moved, and the lower leg is a far better place for them to be than further up the body.
After the ultrasound, we went to a third waiting room which is for patients that are waiting for test results. We were only there for a short while before they called her back to get her CT scan. I wasn’t allowed into the scan room, but I only waited in the hallway for a few minutes and they were done at about 6:35pm. We were told it would be about 30 minutes until we got the results, and were put back into the waiting room we’d just come from.
Just as promised, the doctor came to us with results about 30 minutes later. The news, however, wasn’t good. The CT scan showed blood clots in the lungs. He sent us back to where we’d gotten the IV put in, and they gave Christen a shot (100mg) of Lovenox, a blood thinner.
At this point they told us that she’d be admitted to the hospital, but it takes a while to get that processed and they wanted to get her hooked up to a heart monitor. They had to clear a room (process a discharge) because they were completely full, but they worked until they got us into a room inside the ER and hooked her up to a monitor. We stayed watching the heart monitor until they got us a room upstairs in the Telemetry ward.
They didn’t want her to be off the monitor even just for the time it took to go up two floors and down the hall to her room. Instead, they brought a portable machine and plugged her into that for the trip upstairs. Once we were in the room, she got a new set of wires hooked up to her, and instead of having a monitor in our room the data is sent straight out to the nurses station. At roughly 9:30pm we were finally in our room. Peggy was able to stay with Christen while I ran home to get clothes, toiletries, laptops, phone chargers, etc. I was back in the room by 10:30pm, and by about 11:30pm they were done taking care of Christen, logging in all the medications she takes, etc.
During the welcome to the ward, we were told that she wouldn’t get a lot of rest here. The nurse said there would be doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, lab techs, etc in and out of the room regularly. She was right. We probably had 6 people through here between midnight and 6am, including a lab tech that took 7 vials of blood from Christen at about 5:15am. He apologized that he had to take so much, which he explained was because some of it needed to be sent out while some would be processed here, but I think he missed the obvious “sorry to wake you up at 5am and then immediately stabbing you with a needle.” Still, they were all nice and all seemed to really know what they were doing.
At just after 6am, one of Christen’s doctors came to visit. He explained that we’re waiting on some results from the blood work to find out how long we’ll be here. The treatment will be pretty much the same no matter when we go home. Christen will get injections of Lovenox (the blood thinner I mentioned earlier) in her stomach twice a day, and this afternoon she will start taking Coumadin, which is an oral blood thinner. I was told that there’s a good chance that I’ll be giving her the injections still after we go home, so at about 8am this morning the nurse came in and showed me how to do it. She said that I’ll give Christen her injection tonight for practice.
That pretty much brings us current. We still haven’t gotten the results of the blood work. I do want to say that we really appreciate all the support from our friends and family. I had someone call 10:30pm last night to ask me if I needed some company if I was going to be sitting up all night. I declined, but the thoughtfulness of all the people that have called, E-Mailed, texted, etc has been overwhelming and we are extremely appreciative. We’ve already had a few visitors, and if you’d like to visit please feel free (just call Christen or I to get the room number). We’ll try to keep everyone updated as we get news, but it’s hard to make all those calls and send all those E-Mails, so please feel free to spread the information as you get it.
Read the update: Christen’s Clots – The Beginning of the Next Stage