Al Roker and Me: And the Trouble with Those Pestering DVTs.
Day 19: My second day at the hospital
There are very few things Al Roker and I have in common: we both write books, we love to chat it up and Mr. Roker loves to tell jokes and I can’t get one before it has flown way over my head. We also love to walk. In truth, I am a former 5k, 10k and half-marathon kind of gal, but I started at almost 280 lbs as a walker.
And we both enjoy The Today show. Mr. Roker gets to work there. I get to watch the fun and informative show that energizes me every morning.
In December 2016, I was on the third hour of the Today show. When I celebrated losing over 100 pounds and joined the Joy Bauer weight-loss club on Hoda and Kathie Lee. The appearance marked my first time on television, national television, outside of my work as an extra in television and films in my younger days. And my first time in New York.
I watched as crowds of holiday visitors made their way around New York city streets and their way, posing as we all do–in front of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. During my visit, no snow stuck to the ground. I was grateful to feel a few flurries hit my face as the stinging cold froze my feet and numbed my fingers.
I would do no runs in Central Park this time around. If only I knew then what I know now.
Maintaining our weight loss is another thing Al and I have in common. I watched his success on the daily, and being 13 years my senior, has inspired me to do more. He served as an inspiration I never knew I needed until I joined the Today show walking challenge–the easy version. Currently in recovery month number four, my doctor advised me to slow down and shorten my walks.
Because Blood Clots—is the other thing we share in common.
How to Solve a Medical Issue When You Are Not a Doctor
On day two of my hospital stay, I was told a lot of things, given options and asked tons of questions. Many, I had the answers for, but the answers I did not have would sit with me until the end of my hospital stay.
#1. How not to get another DVT for the rest of my life? This was DVT #2.
#2. How do I make sure I am never admitted into another hospital again?
Nothing to do with the care from the wonderful team at Queen Emma Clinics in Honolulu. I am not a fan of hospitals. Laying in bed all day when I could be a productive contributor to society is not something that makes me feel good. And being sick, something else Mr. Roker and I dislike. Maybe we have more in common than I thought.
But on this day, much like Mr. Roker was rushed to the hospital for a second time because of the blood clots. This was my third time in Queens. On July 17, I entered the ER with side pains. I had an appendectomy procedure five hours later.
Four days later, my left leg hurt. The same leg they discovered a DVT in 2019 from a bicycling foot injury. I returned to the ER on Saturday, a week after the surgery.
They gave me a blood thinner. I thought I would be fine. In a week feeling back to normal, in two weeks back at the gym, and in three weeks attempting to run as if nothing had happened. I never healed well enough to run another mile, let alone a 5k, and that was three years ago.
The medication was another type of blood thinner than the one I took in 2019. It did not agree with my body. My leg expanded three times its size. I was in pain when I stood and walked.
Ten days later, I called 911.
And so here we are.
This is the thing about hospitals. The food is not as bad as they say, but the television viewing options are straight out of the 2000s. Not a Netflix or Prime Video option in sight. No more Kdramas (Korean dramas) or Donny Yen flicks to get my mind off of the hard issues, just regular television with an obsession for Marvel movies and long-standing series like The Closer and Charmed on repeat.
Somebody help me.
How could I solve this medical issue? For me, the answer was simple. I needed a Hysterectomy. Losing my female organs also meant no more fibroids. No more pain. My veins would return to normal without the pressure of the fibroids and blood would circulate as normal. Right?
If their medication and surgeries do not work, we have to try what has worked for me already. The old medication. No more blood clots. How do we keep this from happening?
From the article, Keep Blood Clots at Bay, on the Foothealthfacts.org website, the article reads:
“Each year in the United States, pulmonary embolisms (PE) kill more people than AIDS, breast cancer and motor vehicle crashes combined. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, this little-known condition occurs when a blood clot in the leg travels to the lungs, blocking one or more arteries. The blood clots that cause PE often originate in the deep veins of the leg, a condition called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.”
I have been told by my doctors to workout, but not too much or too hard. Eat a healthy diet. Who hasn’t heard that before? And I know this is the key to remaining out of the hospital permanently. But this is life. Anything can happen. The more you know about your health and your risk factor, you have a better chance of being on top of your health.
How to Become an Expert of YOUR Own Body?
Al Roker knows his body well. How can I say this with such confidence and conviction? Because, like me, he has battled the bulge for most of his life. Fitness answered his rescue call, in the form of walking, among other activities. The littlest spark of pain, strain, soreness, yells out for attention as it does with me.
When you have been healthy despite being overweight, you come to know what feels out of the ordinary. Blood clots don’t feel ordinary.
I waited most of the day for the OBGYN team to arrive. When they did, they asked many questions. Felt around my stomach and lower abdomen and asked about my pain threshold, as did every nurse and doctor who entered my room.
“What is your pain level right now?”
I am grateful that the stigma of Black bodies and pain is slowly losing its power. No one ever disputed whether I was in pain. They took me at my word.
The attending physician and the Hematologist/Oncologist physician both agreed my leg would be on the road to a full recovery with a hysterectomy. I had to have the surgery.
The OBGYN team disagreed.
I asked for a third opinion from the head honcho. The OBGYN department Chief.
To put yourself first and your wellbeing, sometimes you have to get a third opinion and talk to the one above everyone else. You see, I have been here before. Not in this hospital or this hospital bed, but in a position where I let others make the decisions over what was best for my body and my well-being. Not anymore.
I needed to be proactive. And I wanted to continue living the life I had full of running and walking, with no limitations.
The Chief agreed. They would schedule me for surgery in a few days after my thrombectomy, a surgical procedure to remove some blood clots. For more information about blood clots and how to prevent blood clots, check out this article here.
My high from watching the Today show did not last. They would schedule two surgeries in one week. The appendectomy occurred just two weeks ago. That night, I wiped away the tears and put on my fighting gloves. My leg looked horrible. The doctor said some patients' bodies never return to normal.
The image of this huge leg altering my walk and forcing me to redirect my path and halting the activities I love to do sat with me until my release. Now was the time to take charge of my body.
Still, I was grateful to be alive and to be in the hands of the staff at Queen Emma Clinics. My ‘thank you’ cards were not enough.
How much can the body endure?
Many have endured far worse than I, and I am sure Mr. Roker is having a tougher time than I did. My blood clots did not break off, pushing their way to my lungs, resulting in a PE (Pulmonary Embolism). I am sending nothing but great thoughts out there to you, Mr. Roker. I know you will get well soon and return to give us all much needed laughter.
After all, we are athletes (Serena Williams, Al Roker and, yes, me) with powerful bodies and minds to help us overcome our obstacles and heal our wounds. Healthy bodies can withstand a great deal, but you hold the power of how strong your body, mind, and spirit can endure. I have always been a very positive person. Not that those who succumbed to the disease were not powerful, healthy bodies with a positive attitude. I can only speak for myself and what is working for me.
Goofy, my friends call me. Full of too much energy, my family says. This is something they thought could never happen to me, but it did. And I am surviving.
December 17th will mark four months since my release. Today, my leg looks and feels better than before. I can’t sit for too long or take long walks without the ankle swelling, but each week gets better and better.
The medicine and my resolve is working.
Be an advocate for your own health, your own well-being, your body, YOUR HAPPINESS!
Al Roker is doing it. I am doing it. You can do it too.