The Best Care is Self-care and Asking for Help When YOU need it.
I don’t know why I waited so long to call 911. The weekend of my second visit to the emergency room held onto my vision like a fog. The gray murky skies in sunny Honolulu were out of place in July. I welcomed the somber feeling of doom and gloom.
At this point, the leg had swollen a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary. By the time of my follow-up call on the 27th, that Wednesday it was a different story. Each day, the swelling got worse. I had never been on this type of blood thinner before and I was not entirely convinced the reaction was from the medication.
They had given me medicine for pain, Tylenol and now the blood thinner. For all I know, any of those meds could have caused the reaction. Instead of getting better each day, I got worse. It became harder to walk down the street for food or to the pharmacy for a refill.
The recovery for the appendectomy went well. I had no side pain, very little soreness related to the surgery whatsoever, except for the swollen leg that had become taut. My pores showed.
Keep Your Records Straight
I say this now, because I believe I mentioned in a previous post that the Zoom call with the ER surgeon was on the 20th, which would have been only a few days after the surgery. In fact, I now believe it was on the 27th. Because I had been on the blood thinning medication for a while by the time we spoke and mentioned the swollen leg.
After surgery, I remember recovering for about three days before noticing a soreness in the leg. The left calf, to be exact. I had slept through most of those three days after being released early that Monday. It is no wonder a clot formed as I got up only to use the bathroom and eat.
When the doctor and I spoke, other than a sore leg, I felt fine. I actually felt healthy everywhere else but my left leg. Not a hematologist, the doctor thought nothing of the reaction to the medicine, but advised me to come back if my feet or toes showed signs of numbing or the swelling got worse.
By Saturday, it got worse.
However, I held off going back to the ER and I am not sure why except to say that in my mind; I kept thinking things would get better. So, I am here to shout: ask questions. As soon as you know something is wrong. Get a second opinion. In this week of prayer and meditation, I should have been on the phone asking for help.
I remember a little about that weekend. The Tylenol and the pain medication stopped within days of returning home on my account. I did not like the way my body reacted to the pain medicine. Monday was August 1st, and I had planned to be packed up and off to Okinawa, yet here I could not walk a block and was unable to fit into my clothes because the size of my leg had ballooned to double its normal size.
Depression, guilt, loneliness, all set in. I needed to pack up my apartment and move out. I needed a new place to stay. Now, I was on blood thinners and could not fly. This meant I could not leave the island for weeks, if not longer. Now what?
Plan for Emergencies
Easier said than done. Yes, I had a nice saving stored for Okinawa and traveling for two months, but nothing else. I could use that money to rent an apartment or an Airbnb, but then what? I felt confused and disappointed, but what else could I do at this point but move forward? And how do you do that with a leg that can’t help you pack?
I shopped around for days for moving companies. How to sell my stuff online. Only a few items moved on Craigslist and I encountered nothing but scams on Facebook Marketplace, though I have heard many people have had success on that platform. If not for Craigslist, I would have had to give my stuff away and paid to have that done.
There was so much to do that the leg injury had stalled my every move. Now, looking back, I realize why I didn’t go to the ER sooner. I told the apartment manager I would be out by Wednesday. Having only sold my sofa chaise and not boxed up a single item, I knew I was in trouble. Letting go is hard to do. But sometimes it is all you can do to keep your sanity.
On Thursday, I visited the apartment office to ask for an extension. They had already rented out the apartment as of August 6th. They gave me until Tuesday, Wednesday, the latest to check out.
By Tuesday morning, I felt like crap and knew there was no way I could be out of this apartment in one day, especially since I could not move or walk. Why did I not go into the ER on this day? I am not sure myself. I think I was still trying to do it all. I wanted to get out of the apartment, sell my things. I even listed my bed for sale thinking I would stay at a hotel or hostel as of Wednesday. Your life can change in an instant.
By the time evening rolled around, I felt worse than I have ever felt in my entire life. I could barely walk down the hall to use my bathroom. I had no appetite. And I was scared, really scared. That night I went to bed early. I woke every two or three hours in constant pain. Around 6 am, I informed family and close friends that if going back on the pain meds did not help, I would have to go back to the ER. I would let them know soon.
Your First. Everyone and Everything else comes second.
I texted everyone 90 minutes later. I could not make it to the bathroom without immense pain. An Uber or Lyft ride was out of the question. I had to call 911.
And I sat there for several minutes before calling them. I felt guilty to need someone else’s help to get the help I needed to feel better, to feel like myself again. “Was this really an emergency?” I made the call.
They asked me several questions: all a blur now. They connected me to the ambulance team. The man asked me if I could get to the door to leave it open so they could enter. “I can manage that, at least.” I said.
“We will be there soon.” He said before hanging up.
I collected a few things I thought I might need. Comfortable pajama pants, several pairs of underwear, my purse, phone, and headphones. In hindsight, and knowing this might happen, I wish I had thought to pack my computer, notebook, and more underwear. I did not and trying to get my hands on these items would take days, several texts to neighbors and several more emails to the management office.
While sitting on the edge of my bed, I cried. Just then, my older brother called. He lives in Omaha. God must have had him reach out to me because once I heard his voice, the tears fell.
“I am scared,”
“Don’t worry, sis. You will be alright.” He said.
Okay, Okay. I kept saying. Then there was a knock at the door. It was time to go; I told my brother. When I can, I will call again. I remember before picking up my brother’s call; I heard an ambulance nearby.
Two Emergency Medical Technicians entered and four firefighters. Six men in total came to help. One of them appeared to be a supervisor. For the EMT’s, or the firefighters, I am not entirely sure, but he asked all the questions.
“Do you have Covid?”
“Not anymore,” I said. “I had it on July 17th, but I have been fine for over a week.”
“Where does it hurt?”
“My left leg.”
They could clearly see the difference between the two legs.
“Tell us what is going on.”
“From the beginning?” I asked.
The short version was simple. On the 17th, I had surgery at Queen Emma Clinic for my appendix. I suffered a complication afterwards and returned that Saturday to the ER. I had developed blot clots. They issued me blood thinners and now I can’t move my leg or walk.
Take the HELP when it is offered to YOU.
They assisted me onto the gurney they had in a seated position. I needed minimal help. Once in the elevator, the four firefighters went their way and the three EMTs stayed with me. On the street, the firefighters check to see if they needed anything else before they loaded me into the ambulance. They did not.
The supervisor went on his way as well. With whom I am not sure, but I hope it is the last time I have to see firefighters up close, other than to wish them a great day. I hope we don’t encounter one another again.
The EMTs lifted me into the ambulance. They told me what was going to happen next. “We are taking you to the hospital emergency room. You will go to the head of the line because of the seriousness of your injury.”
They asked me a few more questions identical to the ones asked my the supervisor in my apartment. What is your name, your address, your date of birth? What is your injury? When were you last at the hospital? What medications are you on? Are you allergic to anything? Do you have Covid? And a few new questions and before I knew it, we arrived at the hospital.
Before getting out, I cried again.
The EMT assured me I would be fine and running 5ks again in no time. In the seven-minute ride from my apartment to the hospital, we had chitchatted about my once active lifestyle. How I had run 5ks and 10ks every other month and half marathons every January for my birthday celebration. He laughed.
“Who tortures themselves with a 13 mile run on their birthday?”
“I do,” I cheered. The first time I had smiled in days.
“And you will again,” he said, “and you will again.”
They took me to the head of the line, sort of. Wished me well. Their goodwill carried me the rest of the day.
When I returned to California and sent the hospital staff of nurses and doctors thank you cards, I wish I would have included them.
It is never too late to issue out well deserved ‘thank you's.’