Sunday, 24 July 2016

Dealing with Pulmonary Embolism - Part One

Three weeks in hospital, and this was how it happened...

It was a usual Saturday evening resting in bed when I realised I had pain at the back of my neck, of which I thought was just a tired/sore neck from improper posture or tiredness. Nonetheless, I went to sleep, though during the night, I woke up several times from feeling discomfort/pain in the left side of the body. I woke up the next day and noticed pain in my left shoulder. I thought I had slept wrong or pulled a muscle. I also noticed that I was always short of air, and always needed to take deep breaths, but whenever I took deep breaths, the left side of my body, including the neck, shoulder, and chest (the middle of my left lung) started feeling tight and painful. I thought I had strained something. At this point, I wasn't really concerned, and I wasn't into seeing a doctor, though I did call my usual GP to see whether my symptoms needed any medical attention, and he said that if was really worried, I could see a doctor, but just by the mere symptoms, he said I should be fine.That morning, I stayed at home.

Some time in the afternoon, I started coughing like mad, and when I coughed out the phlegm, there was blood. This happened twice, and it got me a little worried, though still not enough to make a visit to the doc's.  I started googling my symptoms, and came across this term "Pulmonary Embolism" - many people who had taken Yaz or Yasmin ended up having this, and had similar symptoms. I had been taking Yaz on and off since giving birth to my oldest son, and suspected it may be the cause of my discomforts. In the U.S., there have been many filed claims against Bayer, the company that produces the birth control pills, Yaz and Yasmin, and Bayer even "agreed to set aside almost US$57 million in a fund to settle Yasmin and Yaz claims outstanding as part of a multidistrict litigation program in Illinois federal court, and Yasmin/Yaz lawsuits that have been filed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California state courts. The settlement, which was announced August 6 [2015], will resolve arterial blood clot claims including heart attack and stroke". I figured that I really needed to have a check-up, but since it was Sunday family day, I decided to postpone my doctor's visit till the next day.

That night, we went out for dinner with the kids, and I didn't have much appetite. The pain on the left side of my body had increased, and even the back of my lungs had started hurting when I took in deep breaths. After sending the kids home, hubby suggested that I see a doctor, since the pain would not let me get a good night's rest anyway. Off to the doctor's we went, and after telling him my symptoms, by first glance, he suspected that I had Pneumothorax (the presence of air or gas in the cavity between the lungs and the chest wall, causing collapse of the lung), but needed to do tests to see what was really wrong with me, so he referred me to the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) at the hospital. With the referral letter from the doctor, I was admitted into A&E immediately, and they set up an Electrocardiogram (ECG), and had me stay the night at the hospital, where they had my blood tested as well as having a CT scan early the next morning. I was off food for the night, and was given a sodium drip. After the CT scan, I was feeling a dizzy and short of breath again, so I was given a nasal cannula for extra oxygen intake.

I was surprised to see my doctor by my side as I was being pushed back into my room after the CT scan - he obviously had some bad news to tell me. He looked very worried and was slightly hesitant to tell me what was wrong. He told me that there were blood clots in the left and right side of my lungs, and needed to refer me to a specialist to see what they could do. A few minutes later after settling back in my room, the specialist came, and I was very surprised to see her - she was the doctor I saw when I was admitted into the hospital back in February, when I was down with Norovirus. She showed me my CT scan results, and said that there were blood clots in both sides of my lungs. As I was staying at a private hospital, she suggested that I transfer to a public hospital where they could monitor me 24-7, otherwise I would have to stay at the Intensive Care Unit (around HK$30,000 per night, excluding the doctor's fees, medical fees, etc) for around 2 weeks, and yet, it still wouldn't be as safe, as there isn't a specialist doctor at the hospital 24-7. I was instantly transferred to the closest public hospital via an ambulance.

Nonetheless, off the nearest public hospital I went. With the referral letter from the private hospital, I was admitted into the A&E pretty quickly, and after having done the ECG, I was taken up to the Medical Ward. They put me in the bed that was placed directly in front of the nurse's desks, and continued with the sodium drip and nasal cannula. Before the actual reports from the private hospital even arrived, I was instantly given a Clexane injection on the tummy. Who the hell invented injecting into the tummy? It's insanely painful, and the pain doesn't go away instantly either! The Clexane injection is used to stop blood clots from forming within the blood vessels. For the 2 out of 3 weeks of my stay at the hospital, I was given this injection, and my tummy was full of bruises.

As Pulmonary Embolism is VERY UNCOMMON in young Chinese females, the doctors all were very shocked to see my scan results! I was the one who told my doctors that I had been taking Yaz, and I read online that Yaz can cause Pulmonary Embolism. The doctor then went to do some research to confirm my findings, but said that the pills only triggered the illness, and is not the sole cause of PE.

Most people who have Pulmonary Embolism, usually also have Deep Vein Thrombosis, so I also had an ultrasound on my legs to see whether I had blood clots in my legs, but results turned out negative. I was forbidden to walk around before having done the ultrasound, but was encouraged to start walking a bit when they found out that there were no clots in my legs. It had been over a week since I had just stayed in bed, and my legs felt weak, and I needed to hold something or have someone hold me when I walked to and from the toilet.

After I had started walking around again, I noticed that my right leg always felt tingly, and my right hip had felt painful every time I had walked around. The pelvic area became so painful that it had often disrupted my sleep. I had an X-ray on my back and also a CT scan on the pelvic area. The CT scan results showed that there were blood clots in the right pelvic area, and I was forbidden to walk around again.

Two weeks in hospital with most of the time unable to walk around, I had not taken a shower at all! I had my body wiped with a wet towel every now and then, but my hair had started becoming very oily. These two products absolutely saved me - the Foresta Curo Refresh Styling Powder helped to minimise the appearance of hair oil, but it was the Shills Jasmine Damascus Voluminizing Dry Shampoo that really did the trick to make my hair feel non-greasy, looks dry & voluminised, and also smells of jasmine! Even the nurses there had complimented the way my hair looked!

After two weeks had gone by, it was time for me to choose my anticoagulant medication that would help to reduce future blood clotting. I would be required to take this everyday for a period of one year. After some discussions with my dad, taking into consideration of its effectiveness, its known side effects, and whether an antidote existed (in case of any accidents of internal bleeding), I decided to take Warfarin, despite the doctors asking several times why I didn't choose the newer ones. Warfarin has been around since the 1950s (so there have been many clinical tests, and we know of all its side effects already). The Warfarin treatment has several shortcomings though, for one, many commonly used medications and foods (particularly dark leafy vegetables, since they contain large amounts of vitamin K) interact with Warfarin, and its activity must be monitored by blood testing for the International Normalised Ratio (INR) to ensure that an adequate yet safe dose is taken. This means that I have to follow a strict Warfarin diet by eating the same amount of leafy greens everyday, and going back to the hospital for regular blood tests and doctor visits to see whether my INR is stable, and to see whether my medications need adjusting.

Despite still feeling weak and occasionally feeling short of breath, chest pains, and dizzy, I was finally discharged after spending three weeks at the hospital. I have been told to avoid all sorts of exercise for the year, and to take everything super slow.

During my stay at the hospital, I'm so glad to have had these with me...

Frankincense Pure Essential Oil
Whether it was because of the nasal cannula or the medication, I had a few nosebleeds. I poured a few drops of Frankincense onto my nose for instant relief! I even noticed my pores to appear smaller too!

German Chamomile Pure Essential Oil
Due to the lack of movement, I often experienced constipation. I took medication for it as well as drinking Yakult and eating lots of bananas. When I managed to get my intestines working, I started having severe tummy cramps, and German Chamomile absolutely saved me from all the discomforts!

Protec Blend
After a few days of not taking a bath, I started feeling itchy down there. My solution was to pour some Protec onto a cotton pad, and wiped down there. Protec contains Frankincense, Myrrh, Sage, and Cumin essential oils! Godly blend!

Lavender Pure Essential Oil
A drop of Lavender essential oil on my undies really did the trick to calm the skin, and help avoid any further itchiness down there.

I only use essential oils that are pure and are of therapeutic grade. The only brand of essential oils that I use is from Young Living. For more information on Young Living, please see here.

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  1. Wow, this must have been extremely scary. I am glad you're doing better. <3

  2. I can't believe you're going through something so serious. Warfarin is what we give our hospitalized critical patient so it is certainly effective, but challenging to monitor, so please be careful.