I’ve been over weight for as long as I can remember. What can I say sugar is my downfall each and every time! Before we conceived our daughter my husband and I had changed our life styles. We’d both lost weight and I had begun running, actually really running. However, I’d struggled with asthma when exercising in the past so when my asthma started playing up as soon as I was pregnant I wasn’t surprised. It was a bit alarming that I had gone from running 100-200 metres (it was work in progress!) and regaining my breath quickly to walking up my stairs and needing to hold on to the kitchen bench for 60 seconds to be able to breathe again (Warning Sign). After furiously consulting Dr Google, I was diagnosed with… pregnancy hormones!!
At 5 weeks, pregnant I’d climbed up 3 flights of stairs at uni and it took 5 minutes to stop puffing, it was so extreme I didn’t enter the room I was going to for 2 minutes as I was gasping for breath (Warning Sign). After a rather brisk walk with my husband I dug out my asthma puffer I hadn’t needed for years to try and alleviate the tightness in my test. Unfortunately it had been expired for two years, which shows you how often I needed it! I made an appointment with the doctor the next day to get a new prescription. At this stage I was 8 weeks pregnant. I told the doctor my story about my asthma playing up and he does a check-up etc. Other than a higher heart rate (warning sign) not all that uncommon in pregnancy he can’t find anything wrong. He ran some tests for asthma. Conclusion, not asthma. Here’s my favourite part of the story! He told me I had anxiety about having asthma and that was causing me to have breathing issues… deep breath. I’m a fourth year psychology student… I know the signs quite well for anxiety, this ain’t it. I pushed with the doctor as it was alarming how suddenly I couldn’t breathe if it wasn’t asthma. Finally, he conceded and sent me to get an angiogram. I never heard anything about it so I went on living life at this stage I was working and studying… life was full. Oh, I should add both he and my obstetrician (at the time… not be for much longer) concluded it was pregnancy hormones causing the breathing issues.
Fast forward a few weeks of avoiding ANY movement that could increase my breathing as this equalled pain and discomfort I had to leave earlier to get to the bus stop because I was walking so slowly, I’m thinking to myself (‘insert swear words…’me) if I feel like this now what will it be like toward the end. I persevered with life as you do, I’d started wearing my Fitbit again as I’d noticed my heart was flying even when I was sitting on the couch (warning sign) At 11 weeks I had to write an assignment and as life had been full I was doing this in a weekend. I knew better than to tuck my legs under my chair for extended periods of time but we forget things and somehow I’d pulled a muscle in my leg extreme pain, on a Saturday afternoon. So, strange I’d done nothing (waaaarning sign, like seriously Amanda…) but maybe it had seized. So, me and my proactive new slightly fitter self got out a tennis ball to try and relieve the tension, this made it worse. By Sunday afternoon I was lying on my bed doing my assignment as sitting up even was hurting my leg. I recall walking one day that week from Queen Street Mall in Brisbane to Charlotte Street near the Victory Hotel. If you aren’t from Brisbane this is a 10 minute walk with a slight incline. I had to walk very slowly my leg was in agony and my heart rate peaked at 150 slowly walking. At this stage, I’d started getting some tingling in my foot (another warning sign), but I ignored it!
Tuesday my husband very kindly booked me a physio appointment I trundled along and explained my pain, that I was pregnant etc. She proceeded to massage my leg on my abductors which is the muscle inside your leg just above your knee. I think she tried some pressure point releases in my calf and sent me on my way I didn’t feel any better. On the Thursday, I booked in to a remedial massage place I regularly go. He massaged all of my tight calf and my leg expressing how tight everything was to me. Again, no improvement, I spent the afternoon at work with my leg up. When I left work I had to crouch down to lock a door, holy space cadets that hurt. Like took my breath completely away hurt, I’m walking to the bus stop and I’m seriously struggling to breathe by now (it felt like I could only get sips of air in). Should I go back? Call an ambulance? Go into the building and ask for help? Naaaaaah she’ll be right, take deep breaths the pain will subside. In hindsight, this was very very reckless and not calling an ambulance could have killed me and consequently my daughter. I have vivid memories of struggling to drive home from the bus stop and my leg was now noticeable swollen compared to the other. That night I text my sister who’s a midwife but doesn’t yet know I’m pregnant. “My leg hurts and is swollen, what should I do” general gist of it right. She’s a little alarmed as it’s all very odd and suggests I see a doctor. Matt insists on calling home doctor and proceeds to make an appointment dispite my ‘I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow’ protests. I’m rolling my eyes… yea whatever pregnancy hormones you know!
Finally, at 10pm the hottest doctor I’ve ever seen steps into my house. He would have been 6’4, South America, buff as, accent too, I didn’t know they made doctors like that. Here I am in my pyjamas, with unshaved legs feeling very unpresentable. As far as I’m concerned this man saved my life. He asked me a lot of questions carefully touched my leg and then stepped back. “I don’t know what it is, but I feel you should go to the hospital and make sure it isn’t a DVT” “I’m sorry what?” “Deep Vein Thrombosis” “Yes I know what DVT means… but you seriously think that it could be that?!?!?” “Yes”. He left and I was a bit lost, do I go to hospital now, or wait till the morning?! I rung the local private hospital I was booked into have my daughter at, and the advised they were unable to help but thankfully the midwife on the phone said. “If the suspect a DVT you need to go now”. So, we pack up, I downed a bowl of cereal and my husband promised me a cheeseburger on the way home as I was starving.
When we arrived at hospital they got me into a bed pretty fast, I just thought it was because I was pregnant, however I realised later it’s because those emergency staff are very skilled at working out quickly who needs to get into a bed and who can suffer in those wildly uncomfortable chairs. We missed ultrasound by 20 minutes, but they did other tests, blood tests, urine tests, a chest x-ray (much to the techs annoyance when I told him I was pregnant). They asked me about how life had been and I told them about the pregnancy hormones making me have breathing issues etc. They nodded in agreement… hormones you know! What I didn’t know is they were connecting dots I hadn’t considered. At 3:30am I finally got to see a senior doctor. “Amanda we want to admit you over night” for 4 hours sure… cause to me that is all that’s left of ‘the night’. “We highly suspect you have a blood clot in your leg, and you’ve potentially had them in your lungs, but we need ultrasound to confirm tomorrow”. Much doesn’t sink in at 4am. Ok sure if you think that’s best. They administered blood thinners straight away just in case, if there are no clots no harm no foul, but if there is it’s better to stop them forming straight away. So, I’m admitted overnight and Matt finally gets to go home to bed.
I manage to grab a few hours sleep before I texted my sister “They admitted me?! Are you working today?” She naturally calls me straight away with a WTF… This was May 20th, May 27th was my 30th birthday we had decided to share our news with everyone at my birthday party however spanners where being thrown! Even though it was my sister’s day off she packs my nephew off to school and comes to see me.
At 10am I was taken for the ultrasound; I was still in good spirits this was a strained calf muscle and I’d be home by lunch. Mmmmm no. So, the ultrasound tech found that three different veins in my calf were full of clot, even worse than that there was a 10cm clot above my knee. Above your knee is very serious this is a direct path to your lungs and heart, as below the knee clots take time to work their way up and are often dissolved before they’re a problem. I’ll always remember this tech as she let me see 12 week in-utero old Rose. She was perfect, beautiful heartbeat, she did a brief check of her nuchal fold and found that it looked good but she obviously couldn’t confirm (really all I heard was bla bla clot bla, baby looks perfect haha). However, she wouldn’t let me walk or stand on my leg, as until further investigation was done there was no guarantee that a clot wouldn’t break off and ultimately kill me.
They decided not to scan my lungs for clots as the treatment was the same either way and any radiation is a risk to the baby so no point scanning. I spent the day in bed, being ferried to the toilet by my sister (thank goodness she came!) and naturally had to wee more that day than I had ANY other day of my pregnancy. After a day of testing and threatening a 72 hour to 7 day admission, they finally deemed I was ok to go home. This naturally came with strings… I was to report to an outpatient’s clinic and now have regular catch ups with the obstetrics physician. The best part I needed to inject myself twice daily with blood thinners. Luckily I don’t have an aversion to needles. So, for the next five month I inject myself with needles daily (350 odd needles in total), and dutifully attend soooo many appointments at the hospital I felt like I should just move in. Most things went smoothly for the next few months little Rose grew perfectly and pregnancy its self was generally run of the mill. Until 37 weeks.
Oh that incident I had locking that door at work, they suspect I broken off a chunk of clot when I crouched down, which went straight to my lungs. Yes I should have just called an ambulance.
Part of telling this story is to highlight the signs of a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) for pregnant women.
Sudden loss of breath (similar to asthma), chest pain, swollen leg, red leg (although I didn’t have this), extreme pain in your leg (a cross between a muscle cramp and pulled muscle but it does not alleviate), tingling in your foot, racing heart rate when resting. I’m sure there are a few more signs but these are the most obvious ones.
Part two coming soon!