Just wanted to let y'all know what happened to me over the weekend, now that I'm out of the woods.
For a few days, I'd had what I thought was a chest cold
and I'd been diagnosed with a sinus infection on Thursday. On Saturday
morning before Ashley and I ran weekly errands, I took a shower and
broke loose some mucus and I couldn't catch my breath for several
minutes. I wanted to make sure I didn't have pneumonia or was having a
panic attack or, worse yet, one of the heart kind, so
I went to the ER.
oxygen level was 86, blood pressure 190/105 and heart rate was over
They did a chest Xray and EKG. They gave me a double breathing treatment
and put me on a bi-pap. If you don't know what that is, they put a mask
on your face and it forces air into your mouth and nose, even if you're
not ready to have that air. They didn't like the results of the chest
film and EKG, so I had a CT scan.
never been claustrophobic until two years ago when I had an MRI - a
process I equated to test-driving a coffin - and this looked roughly the
same. The tech assured me that my head would be out. Until she slid me
in and realized I'm so tall. I had to move down farther on the slide an
my head was indeed going in. The nice respiratory tech, a stocky guy
named Joseph, talked me through the procedure. I think he may have even
held my hand, but I can't be sure.
didn't mess around waiting for the results and the ER doc went down to
see for himself. Within a few minutes, he came back to deliver the news.
I had thrown blood clots into both lungs. Said another way: double
pulmonary embolisms. The way he described it, the clots hit my heart and
it ejected them into my lungs. The clots may have thrown at two different times. In retrospect, it makes sense now.
Let me back up. My office is on the lower part of
the Cerner campus and I had a meeting in the main building, which is up
a hill that is roughly the equivalent of climbing five flights of
stairs. It was the second time I'd done the climb that week, and it
really hurt. Both times. I'd also had meetings at another campus earlier
in the week and the parking lot is up a good sized hill, roughly the
same kind of climb.
chalked it up to a chest cold and I'd been diagnosed with a sinus
infection. Turns out, it was because of severely diminished lung
capacity. Thankfully, my heart was strong enough the clots didn't become
lodged, or the outcome would've been much different and you'd be
reading this in a different platform.
told us there were "many" clots on both sides. I was disappointed I
didn't set the record for number of pulmonary embolisms; you know me,
They gave me morphine to help my lungs relax enough to breathe. I didn't feel it and didn't feel any effect on my breathing.
moved me to the Cardiac ICU. Let me say, ICU is scary enough. Being
told you're going to CICU is a nut punch. As I transferred from the
uncomfortable gurney to a one-size-fits-most hospital bed, 10 people
surrounded me and very quickly and efficiently told me their names and
how they would be torturing me over the next few minutes.
went in, monitors were stuck on my chest, without shaving, a situation
that became a nuisance later, and eventually I looked like a very badly
wired home entertainment system circa 1989.
was put on a heparin-steady drip to thin my blood and six liters of
oxygen per hour. My nurse came in to introduce herself. Tresa expected
me to pee laying down into a jug, which angled up, but for me this
seemed like a logistical impossibility. I wanted to stand to pee, but
she said she's seen patients with blood clots who stand up have the
clots move on them. I asked how often it happened and she said it had
only happened once in her10 years as an ICU nurse. So I explained a
little about probability and we reached an understanding.
next nurse was in her mid 60s named Peggy. She offered me morphine
every time she came in. Kinda like a grandmother with a plate of
homemade shortbread, but with painkillers. Ashley went home at 2 a.m.
when she was convinced Peggy wasn't trying to hop me up on opiates.
Eventually I took the morphine because I wouldn't go to sleep. Mostly
because I had a rotation of people coming in for blood draws and
breathing treatments every four hours and they couldn't get on the same
schedule. And also because I was convinced that I didn't want people
talking about how I "went peacefully in my sleep."
that morphine was a donkey punch. Peggy talked me through it like some
whacky LSD monitor from the 60s. After about five minutes, it passed and
I dozed off for a couple of hours.
They started stair-stepping my O2 down and I responded well to the
next two days were a blur of poking and prodding in CICU, where I had
to stay because they didn't have a room for me. Although I was taken off
critical care at 4:00 Sunday, I think merely out of habit, they
kept treating me like one of the really sick people on the floor,
complete with the revolving door of techs putting needles in my arm and
breathing treatments. Tresa returned, followed by Brie, the night CICU
nurse. A floater nurse named Erin took care of me Monday, and she didn't
let me move around much at all.
Monday afternoon, a sonogram showed I still have one small clot
in my right calf, but the blood thinner will take care of that little
happy to see Brie return if only so I could pee in the stainless steel
prison toilet under the sink, like any normal prisoner. She informed by
that I would move to another room Monday night - one with a shower and
toilet. I could even change from the very fashionable (and revealing) hospital gown into regular clothes. I was off oxygen and heparin, so I was no longer considered a
fall risk, but the nurse still put me on a bed alarm. However, she
neglected to tell me. So when I got up to change clothes,
it went off and I almost had a heart attack.
I was settled in time to watch the KU-West Virginia game and almost have another heart attack.
Because I was no longer wired in, I got to sleep on my side for the
first time and slept like a rock. The nurse and nurses assistant kept
unneeded torture practitioners away from me and pokes and prods to an
to see me about noon and said I was being discharged. She also said when
she saw me Saturday, she didn't expect me to be leaving until Thursday
and that she didn't expect me to leave without an oxygen tank.
be on blood thinners for six months and the doc will reevaluate. Given
the Griggs family's genetic predisposition to sludgy blood, it may be a
rest of my life proposition. I'm also on a low level blood pressure med,
which should come as a shock to no one.
started off this adventure thinking I was going to die and then
transitioned to thinking that I could have died. Both are dark places to
go. (I blame the lingering effects of Mother Morphine.)
I didn't leave the mortal coil because I've got some shit left undone. I
was already making some changes to my diet and exercise habits, in
large part to working for a healthcare company that really focuses on
it, but also because I need to. This episode will just accelerate my
And I promise I won't become one of those dbags who gets all militant about being healthy because I hate hypocrisy.
I would've written this while I was in the hospital, but you can't joke
about this stuff when you're getting your blood pressure taken every 15
minutes and have to poop in a bucket. Did I forget that part? Oh
well... Perhaps that is as story for another time.