The Story of My COPD, Part 2
I was in my mid-twenties and had just given birth to my third child - my third child in 3 years. This, however, was a very satisfying time in my life. I just had my first daughter and I felt more content and grounded then I had ever felt.
Problems after childbirth
The first health problem I had after this birth was low iron. I needed 6 blood transfusions before I was able to leave the hospital. It was a scary deal as AIDS had just been recognized by the medical profession and taking blood products was a risky business.
Shortly after I was home, I started to get a terrible burning pain in my upper back. My doctor sent me for an ultrasound that showed my gallbladder was full of stones. I was in pain because I was trying to pass a stone. This could have been fatal if a stone passed and ended up traveling throughout my thoracic cavity.
This was major surgery
The perfect storm was brewing but we did not yet know it. I had just started on birth control because my doctor was very worried about my multiple births and was adamant that I do not have another baby anytime soon. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and placed on bed rest to lessen the chances of stones passing. It would be another week before they did my surgery.
In 1983, there was no easy way of removing a gall bladder. This was major surgery. Doctors cut through muscle tissue in the abdomen from just under my breastbone to past my waist. There was no laparoscopy in those days.
I was always sensitive to drugs and they had given me some strong ones. Between the bed rest and drugs, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was complaining about pain in my chest and I started hacking and coughing and running a fever. The fever brought the doctors to my bedside. I remember them examining me and talking to each other. The surgeon asked if I was a smoker and I replied no. I had not smoked since I conceived my daughter almost a year ago. That is when they took a closer look and examined my legs.
A pulmonary embolism
There it was. A deep vein thrombosis in my calf. It appeared that it had traveled to my lungs and I developed a pulmonary embolism. At the time, doctors told me how lucky I was. If it traveled to my brain, I could have had a stroke, or to my heart and I would have died immediately. So, the lessor of three evils took this blood clot to my lungs.
According to research from McGill University, nearly half of pulmonary embolism patients will experience long term limitations to their capacity for physical activity and that this had a negative impact on their quality of life.1
This was a tough recovery with lots of blood thinners such as Warfarin. My convalescence lasted 6 weeks. My babies were separated and farmed out to the family. There was no visitation for anyone under 16 so I could not see them for the duration of my stay.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?