Saturday, November 27, 2010

Some facts about Pulmonary Embolism

Interesting information, courtesy of emedicine/Web MD:

  • As a cause of sudden death, massive pulmonary embolism is second only to sudden cardiac death. Autopsy studies of patients who died unexpectedly in a hospital setting have shown approximately 80% of these patients died from massive pulmonary embolism.

  • Approximately 10% of patients who develop pulmonary embolism die within the first hour, and 30% die subsequently from recurrent embolism. Anticoagulant treatment decreases the mortality rate to less than 5%.

  • The diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is missed in approximately 400,000 patients in the United States per year; approximately 100,000 deaths could be prevented with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Which is why I am going to stay on this Coumadin for a very, very long time. "Recurrent embolism" is not something I want any part of. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

How all of this got started

It's not often that somebody just goes from eating the worst possible diet you can imagine one day and then eating as healthy as possible the next.  But that's what happened to me.  So what was the motivation?

I almost died.  Here's the story.

On Saturday 6/19/2010, I took my Mom to lunch. Stopped for gas. Walked a short distance from the gas pump to the gas station and felt like I had run a marathon.  Completely out of breath.  This made absolutely no sense.

I should have gone to the hospital then. But I didn't. I thought it would go away.  Maybe I was dehydrated, I thought.  My decision to not go to the hospital that day ranks as the dumbest thing I've ever done. But, I went home and went to bed.

The next day. I go to work. My van was being fixed, so I enlisted my parents to drop me off. They drop me off and drive away. I walk around behind the building to go into the back entrance and start my day.

With every step, I became more and more out of breath. Then I couldn't walk anymore. Then I realized I wasn't taking in any oxygen. I started turning white.  Imagine walking 5 steps and feeling like you had just run up 10 flights of stairs....carrying a refrigerator.  That is how it felt.

My first thought: heart attack.  The big one.  I was sure it was happening.  How long will it take? What is going to happen to me?

Then I began to think: so this is where it ends. I'm going to collapse and die in the parking lot.  How embarrassing.  There wasn't anyone around.  My legs got weaker and weaker until I couldn't stand up.  I leaned against a pole, gasping for air....except there wasn't any to be had.  I was about to drop, so I looked around for a soft place to fall too. 

I was suffocating, I knew I had to go to the hospital. I would've dialed 911, but I decided to call my Mom. Somehow, I dialed the phone.  They were still close. I told them to come back and get me and take me to the ER.

About 30 seconds later, my parents came around the corner. I fell into the car and Dad drove me to the Trident Medical Center ER at about 100 miles an hour.

To understand my thinking at this point, I'll have to take you back to 2004.  6 years ago, I was having tightness in my chest and went to the ER.  I was hospitalized. They never found anything, but I remember the cardiologist telling me that because of my size, no hospital would ever do heart surgery on me.  If I went into cardiac arrest, the options would be limited. They wouldn't be able to do much for me.

So with that in mind, on the way to the hospital, I considered that this could be the end.  I gave my Mom my phone, my wallet, told her the PIN to my debit card and said if anything happened to me, to empty out my bank account.

We got to the ER and I must have been white as a sheet, or turning blue when I stumbled in...the receptionist says "Can I help you?" And I remember whispering to her, out of breath "I can't breathe."

I have never seen so many people move so quickly in my life.  They had me into a wheelchair, into a room and on a table in about 30 seconds. I had oxygen, an EKG and an IV going in another 30 seconds.

There were probably 5 people in the room at that point, but the main ER tech's name was (I swear I'm not making this up) "Bryan G." How's that for fate?

They continued to run tests. I was in the ER for about 6 hours. A few hours into it, I had to go to the bathroom.

I asked Bryan G. if I could go to the bathroom, he said OK. So I took off the oxygen mask, went and came back completely out of breath. They checked my blood oxygen level and it had dropped 30 points.

No more going to the bathroom. "You're not going home anytime soon with oxygen levels like that."

From then, it was endless tests. Chest X-Ray.  EKG. Ultrasound on my legs looking for blood clots.  For that test, you take your clothes off and somebody squirts warm gel all over your legs. They then push a wand into your legs really hard while a computer that sounds like Darth Vader makes noise.  I'm laying there with my pants off and the lady with the Darth Vader Wand is pushing it into my legs like she's trying to get to the other side.  It's then that I'm reminded:

There are no secrets in the hospital. 

Modesty, privacy and dignity are the price you pay for getting better.

This lasts about 30 minutes. then back to the ER room.

Finally, after some more hours, the ER doc comes in. We don't think it's your heart, Mr. Ganey. Everything looks good there.

That's a relief.  So if not a heart attack, then what?  Another doctor will see you soon.

After more time, here comes one of the best doctors I have ever spoken to: Dr. Christopher McCarty.

He ran me through the diagnosis, the tests, explained everything in detail. Impressive. He said they suspected blood clots in my lungs and were going to admit me and treat me for that.

How long? 2 or 3 days, on the low end.  They're going to try to avoid operating.

Operating? If the blood clots in my lungs that were suffocating me didn't break up on their own, they would have to cut me open and take them out.

For now, the treatment was blood thinners, or more specifically anti-coagulants.  They shot me full of something called Heparin and started a Heparin IV drip, which would last for a week. I must have gone through 20 of those bags. In addition, they started a fairly high dose of Coumadin.  This would take a few days to take effect.

So I was admitted.

We get to the 7th floor where I met Nurse Lynn.

"We didn't know you were coming and aren't ready."

After the miscommunication is sorted out, I am put into my room. This is when I realized I hit the hospital room lottery: I had a private room with a nice window view of the highway.  It was while I was being set up in my room that I laughed the hardest I had in a long time.

Nurse Lynn said "I need to move your bed."  I responded "Do you need me to get out of it?"

And she said "Well, I'm sure not going to move it with you in it!"

I laughed so hard, I had to reach back and turn up the oxygen.

During my time in the hospital, I met several doctors, 2 nutritionists, specialists...everything.  After some more tests, the following became very clear to me:

1.) I came very, very close to dying.  I was told 1 in 3 pulmonary embolism victims die within seconds.

2.) The #1 risk factor for what happened to me was my weight.

3.) I had a choice: lose weight or die.

I'm only 37. I've got things to do. There is more to life than eating.

And so, I was discharged from the hospital after a week and have been following the eating plan the nutritionist gave me at the hospital. I do what the doctors tell me. I take the medications on time.

And so that is my story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The treadmill is not for me

After working out in the gym last week, I have come to this conclusion:

I hate the treadmill. I hate everything about it. Chief among my complaints:

1.) You aren't going anywhere.

2.) There's nothing to do. No scenery. You can't stop easily and start again.

3.) The terrain is the same. Sure you can raise and lower the incline, but it's not the same.

I am not a hamster and I don't run in a wheel. So no more treadmill for me. I'm going to walk outside exclusively from now on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I had to do it my way

There are probably millions of ways to lose weight.

There are thousands of ways to exercise. Endless diet plans.

But I'm realizing, as I approach the 6-month mark of doing this, I am doing it all my way.

I created my eating plan. I created my exercise plan. I decide what I'm going to do.

But it's hard not to be influenced by others. You see someone in the gym running at 12 miles an hour and think "why can't I do that."

Well, I will be able to do that, just not yet.

I'm not sure if this post means anything, I just want everyone to know that I'm doing it my way.