I thought I had reached the epitome of metal sometime before 7am this morning, I’d gone from dying my hair to dying my blood! Alas, the blood dying was merely for the purposes of an abdominal CT scan and by 4pm in the afternoon I was shedding bucketloads of tears, being forced to make a rushed choice between pain and … well, pain.
Today has not been my finest day, in fact, I don’t recall a time in my life when I have ever felt as tested as I was today. You’d think that a bold statement considering the situations I’ve been dealt over only 32 years on this planet but I stand by it. In fact, I am now certain that the biggest test in life is one that will challenge every fibre of your being, one that forces you to choose between health or death. Dramatic perhaps? Not entirely, this was my afternoon.
It was 2am this morning that I woke with the most unimaginable leg and groin pain. Having been diagnosed with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) a little over a week ago, I was concerned that I had further complications which, when left unchecked, can lead to certain damages to the body. I woke up my husband and asked him to take me to A&E, we were not past this hurdle yet.
On arrival, I felt like I was reliving the story I’ve told for days on end since waking with a swollen leg last week. I was quickly taken through where the most amazing night doctor made the call to push a CT scan through on my abdomen, she feared a possible bleed surrounding the area or even a septic clot. After the scan I was moved from the emergency department into the AMU (Acute Medical Unit) and this is where I waited to hear my results.
Dr Tim saw me fairly early this morning, approximately 9ish. He was pleased to tell me that there was in fact no bleed or sepsis on my clot so that was good. Unfortunately, there was something far more sinister revealing itself on the scan…
The CT scan revealed that I had indeed presented with an Iliofemoral DVT (a clot that extended from my femoral vein into my iliac) but also, I had Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) clotting as well. The scan showed that there were already existing Pulmonary Emboli (PE) on my lungs and not much left by way of blood flow in this doomed vascular system of mine.
It was a blow to the gut, despite all of the acronyms I knew full well that this was just not good. I was working with a blood clot here that reached from just above my knee to just below my kidneys, threatening the very integrity of surrounding capillaries, I didn’t know how to fix this. I just didn’t know the way forward.
Turns out, Dr Tim wasn’t too sure either. He went off to seek counsel of his colleague and I sat waiting impatiently, doing my best not to fall asleep.
A few hours later, post lunch and some sleep deprived snoozing, Dr Tim came back. He reconfirmed everything seen on the scan and discussed a procedure with me to attack the clot from the inside, directed thrombolysis. It sounded like a good idea at first, the thought of going in by way of a catheter and releasing medication to thwart this foreign body in my veins. The process would reduce the risk of post thrombotic syndrome, annihilate the clot and allow my inferior vena cava some rejuvenation for the rest of my days. Of course, some risks were involved but I was advised they were minimal and the choice would be mine to make. Dr Tim sent Dr Matthew over (consulting radiology specialist) to discuss this process with me and my mind instantly changed.
Dr Matthew outlined the choices available to me and the risks involved. The reality is that the condition I have, IVC thrombosis, was one that was not often seen for this treatment. My clot also ran from below the groin (above the knee) instead of excluding the thigh completely, thus giving us less of a chance for efficacy of this procedure.
And what were the risks? Well, despite being small, the risks included death (PE), stroke (bleeding on the brain), internal bleeding and kidney failure.
“So, Mrs du Toit, I’ll give you 10-15 minutes to think about it, however time is of the essence as we have almost reached our 2 week window period for a higher success”. End scene.
In the 3 seconds it took for the doctor to turnaround and leave, I was sobbing into a box of tissues knowingly provided by the attending nurse only moments before. I was being asked to choose a possible lifetime of debilitating pain and swelling versus a near fatal procedure with a low chance of success but if successful, life could return to normal.
You may think it’s an easy choice but I can assure you, it wasn’t. All I could think was that I hadn’t even seen the girls today and the doctors are wanting to do this procedure within the hour. What happens if the worst scenario is realised? What happens if I die or stroke on the table (a story that the doctor did actually give me as a risk comparison) knowing I never had the chance to say goodbye to my children?
For 20 minutes I sobbed and mulled over all the risks and benefits in mental lists in my head. Not only was I being asked to make the decision (as best educated as I could be with the 3000 questions I had asked), I was being asked to make it now. As you all know, don’t tell Shevy what to do or when to do it.
Dr Matthew came back and I told him I would not be going ahead with this surgery. Simple as that. As difficult as this decision was, it was also easy.
I would choose a lifetime of pain and suffering in the company of my children and family, over death or stroke any day.
As quickly as the offer presented itself, so was it removed. The doctors agreed that there was no wrong decision and either way, the treatment would do all it could do, only I’ve opted for a slower (more painful) route. Home I was sent, armed with Heparin injections, morphine for pain and a lifetime prescription for anti coagulant medication. This is my new life. So mote it be.
I spent most of the day questioning the cruel joke the universe is having at my expense, feeling sorry for myself and wounded. That faded quickly when I walked in the door of my home and normality resumed, the perils of the day quickly under rug swept in favour of what was for lunch, who was played with at school, astounding achievements and goodnight hugs.
I know I made the right choice, I chose life. Albeit a tricky, painful, unsteady one with many speed hurdles yet to come… but if I can do something in life that doesn’t deprive my children of time with their mother, I’m winning.