Pulmonary Adventures and Why I Continue to Hate P.E., Part 2

Pulmonary Adventures and Why I Continue to Hate P.E., Part 2

When I last blogged, I shared with you why you haven’t seen me quite as much here at my blog or on social media. I’d like to say life had simply taken my breath away and pulled me in another direction. Well, that is partially true, at least with the breath part. But that February day I was told that in fact, we did have an answer to my million-dollar question (why couldn’t I breathe easily anymore?), a new adventure began and this one started in a radiology office.


Imagine this. You schedule an early morning test because you have a work shift planned at the office for the rest of the day. You’re told to fast, so you do. And then, just as you’re finished and ready to hit the road with visions of an egg sandwich through drive-thru on the way in to work, you’re asked to be seated. The radiologist must check first to ensure you don’t have anything life-threatening before they let you go. And then — now here’s the fun part — they don’t. Let you go, that is. Well, they do, but with the caveat that you take this CD with your results burned on it straight to the pulmonologist who is waiting for you right now — even though your original follow-up appointment with him isn’t scheduled until a week later. Hmm.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist ( which it will not surprise you — I’m not!) to figure out that something is wrong.


I arrived at my pulmonologist’s office with only a banana in my digestive system that I scarfed down on the car ride over there, anticipating that I would be told some bad news and that I’d be calling my husband on the way in to work to share it. What I did not expect was that I would not be allowed to go anywhere else but the hospital just a few blocks away. After a 5+ hour stay in a doctor’s office waiting room munching on every fruit and trail mix nugget I could locate in my bag, I was admitted into the hospital hungry, tired and completely unprepared for a stay and facing the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism.


Now I must confess something right now, because I’m sure some of you are in the same predicament I was at that time. I had to look up pulmonary embolism because frankly, I didn’t know what it was. I first had it confused with an aneurysm and couldn’t figure out how something I always thought impacted the brain could have caused a problem in my lungs. I quickly educated myself via my phone and the Mayo Clinic website on what the heck it meant. P.E., for short.  I also just as quickly figured out how damn lucky I was that I didn’t find out the way most people did — by having a stroke first or heart failure, and ending up in the hospital. Nope. I was going to enter the hospital consciously and walking in (slowly) on my own two feet, huffing and puffing on them though I might be.


I spent the next 3 days getting leg ultrasounds, injections of blood thinner, constant monitoring and around 18 vials of blood taken for special tests to determine just how genetically predisposed I was to have such blood clots, an answer I’ve only recently received.  What happened over those next three days in the hospital was fairly uneventful. Compared to the people around me, I felt pretty lucky and not experiencing any pain. I also wasn’t much trouble or concern for the nurses as I could move about freely, use the restroom on my own, eat a regular diet, heck, I even had my husband bring my laptop and finished some freelance magazine work while I was hanging around and watching mind-numbing daytime television.



I was in wait-and-see mode, and for that reason, I chose not to share out there in the social media universe what was going on at the time as I myself was only coming to terms with it. I am a person that needs time to process and accept my situation before I can invite others to join me. I’ve always been that way. And while I appreciate people’s good vibes always when hard times happen to fall, I wasn’t seeking deep conversations, prayers or advice. The independent streak in me really took over. I only wanted those people immediately around me to know what was happening and I was staying laser-focused on getting my ass out of that hospital just as soon as possible. I also recognized that in those moments of uncertainty and fear, that I needed my Warrior Self to activate (picture The Bride in KILL BILL, only without any sharp objects) so my independent, action-oriented, get-it-done mentality that I always rely on when tackling anything could keep me focused on the battle before me, in the present, and not the scary, unknown future. I’m sure this side of me can be completely annoying to some, but when I knew I hadn’t gotten my meds dispensed by the time I was supposed to get them, I spoke up and reminded them. When one nurse would give her summary of who I was and my care needs to the next nurse clocking in, if they left out something I felt was relevant to my treatment, I inserted those thoughts, because I had long ago realized in this process that if I don’t advocate for myself, no one else will. And that was lesson #4.


Lessons 1-3 had taught me some valuable things: to listen to my own body and act on anything that felt out-of-the-norm; to assert myself and be an active participant in finding answers to my own health questions; and to not fight the unexpected because the better attitude I had in facing it, the faster I could get through it. Now here I was in the hospital, with an answer (finally!) and I could sit back and wait for others to treat me and hope it worked out, or I could be vocal in asking questions, sharing my own thoughts and opinions where necessary in terms of making key decisions (like which blood thinner to use). I chose to be heard — before, during and even now, after the care process. This has probably been the most valuable lesson of all.


So it’s nearly a month since I was in the hospital. And I’m slowly on the mend but I know there are still many things I cannot do yet and may not be able to for some time as my lungs recover and my body adjusts to its new chemistry. I know I have lots more I need to do in my life, changes I must make, to support this road to recovery. If I think about it for long periods of time, I get overwhelmed as any of us would. I try to refrain from “going there” and focus on that present moment. Asking myself from time to time, okay, Chris, are you doing what’s going to help you or are you potentially putting yourself back into harm’s way? That’s lesson 5  I’ve learned — it’s okay to monitor and survey where I am, to keep me headed in the right direction and to help me recognize the progress made, but it’s not beneficial to beat myself up for poor decisions or allow myself to drown in ‘what if” scenarios and second-guessing. Staying focused on forward, that is the key to feeling better — physically, mentally and emotionally. And, no, I don’t always make the right choices but it’s okay, because many times, I do, too.


I know things could have been a lot worse, and after a year of seeing too many friends — some my age or younger — pass away unexpectedly, this experience has definitely led me to contemplate my own mortality much more than I care to say. And stepping into a hospital a few days after learning of the loss of yet another inspiring friend, who I introduced you to in part 1 of this two-part blog, nearly 17 years younger than me, too, only made me appreciative that the universe gave me a shot to deal with this problem instead of making the decision for me.  My family were their usual wonderful selves throughout a very emotional and confusing time, my co-workers so supportive and understanding.  I write this blog not to elicit sympathy but to offer a window into what can happen when the unexpected shows up and changes your plans. You can let it cripple your positivity or detour you, or you can be your own best captain and help steer the ship and support the people who are there to help you. I sincerely hope that if anything at all happens to be hurling obstacles at you right now — health, home, relationships, career, whatever it might be — that you’ll remind yourself of your strength and stay dedicated to making informed decisions and taking whatever steps feel right to you.


And always remember when your mind, body or heart is talking to you — in a whisper or a loud cry — you owe it to yourself to give it a listen.  ~ Chris  xo


  1. Patty Chesser

    Love you Chris. Walking beside you in spirit. You can change things, even when you’re my age LOL. Take care of yourself. ~ Patty

  2. Leslie

    Glad you are on the mend, Chris! So scary!!

  3. Lycia

    I am so glad that you listened to your body and realized that we have to be our own advocates. This is what I tell people also, having learned the hard way in 1997 that doctors do not always take the time to figure out what is wrong. You have to be persistent and believe in yourself and what your body is telling you. Life teaches us so many things – if we will just listen! Take care and continue forward (even if you take some steps backwards, take a deep breath (well as deep as you can lol) and continue onward) ~ Lycia

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