The next step in my journey. This gets increasingly hard to write about and talk about. I have put it off for a while, but there is no avoiding it. It happened. It was Monday 14th December 2015 and my boy had just turned 2 months old when I started getting a lot of pain shooting down my left leg. There had been some warning signs before that I didn’t understand; if I knelt down my left leg would go quickly to pins and needles, but I thought it was just how I had been leaning on it. The pain seemed to start in my lower back and was all down my leg, ending in my foot. I told myself I’d just got a trapped nerve and tried to carry on. I was most comfortable lying on my back with my leg at a 90 degree angle onto a chair. I struggled on until the Friday, when I saw my Mother in Law, who was staying for the weekend near us. She could immediately see the pain in my face and was concerned something was wrong and that I needed to see a Doctor. I didn’t want to cause a fuss, but I did ring out of hours who told me all they could do would be to give me some slightly stronger painkillers for the pain, but I couldn’t breastfeed on them, so I declined.
On the Sunday morning I woke with a swollen leg and panicked that there was something seriously wrong, that there was a clot in my leg. I called out of hours again and got an appointment with a Doctor at the hospital. I went down, at this point unable to sit comfortably and unable to weight bare. Both me and the husband asked repeatedly if this could be a clot. We were told that it was not, it was just sciatica, and that I needed to take some stronger painkillers until it passed. The solid muscles she said were due to trapped nerves. We discussed breastfeeding, and I decided only to take what I could to feed the boy, as for me, it was very important. I couldn’t walk to the car, I only just made it out the door, and then stood crying until my husband brought the car to me. Although I was in so much pain, I was relieved it was nothing serious. I saw my family for a pre-Christmas party, but couldn’t move much and rested with my leg up, my family bringing the boy to me when he needed feeding. By the evening my leg was still swollen and I sent my family a picture; they were immediately seriously concerned. The next day was the Monday before Christmas and I could not get out of bed. I could only rest full of painkillers and with my leg at a 90 degree angle. My husband was looking after me, the boy and the house, he was also worrying.
I got another appointment at the hospital with out of hours, but this time my Mum came with me. I was dropped at the door, could barely walk in there, couldn’t weight bare and couldn’t sit. I cried walking into the room and this Doctor took one look at my leg and confirmed this was a DVT. She measured my leg and confirmed it was swollen. I was passed to A&E, where I was for the rest of the day. My husband brought me the breast pump, which I had to do 3 times whilst I waited. The boy was put onto formula at this point, because I just wasn’t there. I was admitted, given a private room so I could feed the boy, when he was in and I could. I was given, paracetamol and ibuprofen for the pain. It didn’t help much. I was given an ultrasound and CT scan. These confirmed I did have a DVT. At this point they said that there was a clot in my calf, behind my knee, in my thigh and in my groin. I was given fragmin and told to take it for two weeks until I could have an appointment with a vascular consultant. I was discharged Just before Christmas Eve with 5 fragmin injections, two left handed crutches, still in pain and unable to walk. On Christmas Eve my Mum arranged for me to have a telephone appointment with my GP for more fragmin injections. I told him what had happened and was told under no circumstances to take ibuprofen and fragmin together. He prescribed a different painkiller.
Come the morning it was Christmas Day, a day of celebration and joy. I was spending it with my family at my sister’s house. We had intended to walk over, but instead my parents picked us up. I cried on the way to the car, in the car, trying to get to my sister’s door and until I was on the sofa. I can barely remember the day. My boy’s first Christmas is just a blur. I had to get help to the toilet, help to eat because I could no longer sit. My nieces spent the day writing me get well soon cards. At this point my brother in law said I should probably have compression stockings on. He had some from when he had been in hospital, my Mum and sister battled to get them on me as I cried and yelped in pain. Again, scaring my nieces! Once home, I was put on the sofa. My husband blew up an airbed and the three of us slept downstairs.
The next morning I was having chest pains and so my Mum came over, I rang out of hours and they said someone would call me back in 8 hours. My Mum was furious and rang them back, actually speaking to a Doctor. At this point I was crying saying no one believed me. An ambulance was called for me. I had lovely paramedics. I was given gas and air and helped to the ambulance, where I was put on the bed and given more gas and air!! After a lot of hours in A&E I was admitted again. I was given morphine for the pain. I was still being made to walk to the toilet, even though I could barely walk. I was asked to stand for an x-ray, it caused me so much pain that had to be given more morphine and taken down in bed for my CT scan. I was sick afterwards, I just felt humiliated. They had found the pulmonary embolism. I had two cannulas in my arms and was pumping milk (just for dumping as the medication meant the boy couldn’t have it) with the help of my Mum. It was pretty cosy, but I’m so glad she helped me do it!
I got transferred by ambulance to another local hospital where the vascular consultants were. Once there I was put in a bed and tilted with my legs in the air. It was a bed that moved (so weird!) to prevent bedsores. Here I was kept on the morphine and a specialist came to see me that evening and explained that it was not four clots, but one long one running from my calf all the way up to my abdomen. She explained that I needed treatment the next day because it was time sensitive. The treatment was thrombolysis. This would involve a tube going into the deep vein from behind my knee and running up as far as my belly button. A clot busting drug would be pumped into my vein to break it down as much as possible. It came at the risk of strokes and heart attacks if any of the clot broke off and went wandering. But it was the treatment I needed. I was scared, my family were scared and I missed my boy more than words can say. Part of me was missing, but I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t feed him, I couldn’t do anything for him. At this point I honestly thought I would not see him grow up. I did not think I would see my house again. I did not think I would have time with my husband again. These were dark and scary days.
This is quite a factual post. It’s hard to share the pain, the fear and uncertainty that I was going through. I would not wish this on any new mum. But it is something that can happen. I’ll save the treatment and then the recovery for another day. It’s a painful chapter to relive, but I hope once I have finished it can help someone else spot the signs, or not feel alone through their own journey.
The swelling in my left leg can be seen clearly here.