Thursday, November 10, 2011

Close Call

The last few weeks have been quite a ride.  My husband developed shortness of breath on October 18th.  He saw his doctor on the 19th, had an EKG and a chest x-ray (negative) and was scheduled for other tests in mid-November.  I kept asking him to go to the ER.  The shortness of breath got worse and worse, until we finally went to the ER on 10/26.  We found out that he had several large pulmonary emboli, and that the right chamber of his heart was greatly enlarged because it was working so hard to get blood into his lungs past the clots.

My husband had emergency open-heart surgery that day to remove the clots.  He spent the next 8 days in the Cardiovascular Unit (CVU) at the hospital.  Halloween this year is a blur to me.  He came home on November 3rd, and he is recuperating.  I have been fortunate to be able to take a good amount of time off to be with him.

My husband has to take Coumadin (and a big bunch of other drugs) for at least 6 months.  A visiting nurse comes twice a week to check his PT/INR level, to try to keep the dose of Coumadin regulated.  That's proved difficult, and he developed nosebleeds from the blood thinners.  We ended up taking off for the ER on Monday night (11/7) just after 11 PM.  We were there until almost 3 AM.  An incompetent ER doctor (he reminded me of all of the goofball interns on the medical shows we watch) left us in a cubicle for a couple of hours because he wanted to see if he bled anymore.  He did.  Then the idiot used Silver Nitrate to cauterize the bleeding blood vessels without numbing the area first.  My poor husband, who was less that 2 weeks out of open heart surgery, just about jumped off of the table.

The next morning, the bleeding started again.  We obviously were not going back to the ER.  We kept an appointment at the hospital with the surgeon that afternoon. His office sent us on to an ear/nose/throat specialist, who cauterized the blood vessels WITH the benefit of local anesthesia.  Unfortunately, the bleeding started AGAIN that night. We went back to the ENT the next morning (Wednesday), and he did some additional cauterization.  So far, so good (knock on wood).  It's Thursday night, and there has been no further bleeding of any significance. 

The visiting nurse came today, and the numbers are improving.  We actually got to spend the entire day at home today, and I got some cleaning done.  Life is returning to a more normal pattern, although there will be many doctor's appointments, as well as visits from the nurse and the physical therapist.  My husband still needs oxygen at night, and he won't be able to drive for at least a few more weeks.  He has to ride in the back seat for now, away from any possible deployment of an airbag.  He won't be able to lift more than five pounds for a couple of months, so I'll be busy taking care of the dogs, doing laundry, etc.  (That's OK!)

This week has felt like a bizarre road rally/scavenger hunt.  We found ourselves running to one place to pick up a clue which will send you on to the next place.  All the while we were hoping to make it to the prize.  Looks like we finally found it! 

Oh...and the cause of all of this?  The flight home from Italy led to a deep vein thrombosis in my husband's leg which, over the next few weeks, caused the clots in the lungs.  At the time of the heart surgery, a filter was installed which will prevent clots from the legs from ever reaching my husband's lungs again.