Sixty-five! I’d just attended a health and wellness fair and had learned that, in the six weeks since I’d started my new fitness program, my resting heart rate had dropped substantially. I was chuffed enough about the number to share the news with my wife.
“What’s you’re blood pressure?” she asked.
I dithered for a moment… trying to remember. “107 over 95. I think.”
“Um,” she said. “Probably not. If it were your heart would be exploding out of your chest.”
“Oh. Well, maybe it was 85. I wasn’t paying attention, really. I was impressed with my pulse.”
And that was that. Until the pain started a day or two later.
It felt like a muscle cramp at first… a charlie horse in the back of my thigh. I chalked it up to my workout program — I’d just finished a series of grueling rowing sessions — maybe I was trying to take on too much, too soon. I took it easy for a few days, made an effort to drink more water, and to remember to take my vitamins. Five days later the cramping had intensified, and no longer seemed just a muscle… there’s no muscle I know of that spans from calf to thigh along the back of my knee. There are, however, arteries, and veins. That’s when I went to the doctor. And that’s when they found the blood clot.
You’ve probably heard about Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. Several years ago it got some headlines under the banner of “economy class syndrome.” The cramped quarters and general immobility of air travel was revealed as one of the great vectors of the malady; such conditions can cause blood to pool in the lower legs… prime conditions for clotting to occur. You may recall the story of David Bloom, a bright, articulate and healthy NBC news correspondent, who died suddenly in Iraq in 2003 while covering the war. He’d spent much of his time working and sleeping in cramped conditions in a tank and developed a blood clot in his leg that embolized — it rushed through his vascular system to his lungs — he simply collapsed and died.
DVT kills more people every year than AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle accidents combined.
— Geno J. Merli, MD, Director of Internal Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA
The past couple of weeks I’ve focused on different numbers. The number of injections of heparin: two a day. Daily dosage of warfarin: five, then seven; now nine milligrams. Chances of the clot throwing off bits and pieces of itself to my heart or my lungs: 50%.
The numbers — and my prognosis — are much, much better now. What with all the rat poison coursing through my veins (funny isn’t it? the active ingredient in the medication that’s thinning my blood and making me well again is also considered a general purpose pesticide!) the chances of an embolism are shrinking every day, as is the clot, itself. By some accounts my risk of a life-threatening embolism are now down to 1 or 2%. I like those odds much better than the coin toss that is an untreated blood clot, and I’m no longer wondering if I’m writing my final blog post. (If I am, remember this… life really is too short for bad coffee.)
While this whole chain of events has played hell with my fitness program — I’m probably weeks away still from resuming my rowing regimen — it’s certainly been a shot in the arm for my pursuit of the whole work / life balance thing. I’ve spent nearly two weeks now completely unplugged from the office, from this site… from just about everything. I’ve read some really good books. I’ve written some scenes that I’m really happy with. I’ve spent some quality time curled up in front of the fireplace with my wife, just watching the snow fall.
Life is good.