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  • I Thought I Was Having an Anxiety Attack, But it Was a Pulmonary Embolism

    March is Blood Clot Awareness Month, a great chance to remind people that blood clots can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. They can cause a potentially fatal complication called a pulmonary embolism. Here is Kelly K.’s story. She was just shy of 40 when a regular Tuesday morning, complete with rushing to get out of the house and get her kids to school on time, turned into a life-changing day.

    You’ve heard the saying “listen to your body” -- well, take it from first-hand experience, when your body is speaking to you, don’t ignore it! Two years ago, I had a pulmonary embolism. I had a sizeable blood clot in each lung and one behind my left knee. If I had not listened to my body and gone to the doctor when I did, things could have turned out way differently for me but luckily, I caught it early enough.

    One Sunday morning, I was watching tv with my kids, sitting on my feet like I always do, but when I stood up to readjust, I felt pain in my left leg. It felt like a Charlie horse or a bad cramp. As the day went on, the pain turned to a little soreness. This was my first sign, but I didn’t think anything of it.

    The next day, I felt off. My pulse was a little fast a couple of times when I was doing simple tasks, I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath, my chest hurt a little bit, and I was tired. I remember telling my husband that night that I didn’t feel good, but I couldn’t tell him exactly what didn’t feel good, just that I didn’t feel right.

    On Tuesday morning, I was hurrying with the kids to get out of the door and when I got in the car, I had a rush come over my body. My pulse was racing, I was sweating profusely, the sound in my ears went away, I was dizzy, my leg hurt, and I felt like I was going to faint. I started the car but just sat there for a few minutes to give my body a second to rest. Within those few minutes, I started feeling better and drove the kids to school. Once I got to work, I parked and started walking slowly to the building, but my heart was racing. I felt like I needed to take a break, and I was not even parked very far from the door. On a normal day, this would have been nothing for me. At that point, I started to think I was having an anxiety attack.

    I have never had an anxiety attack before, but I was familiar with the symptoms. Once I got to my desk, I asked “Dr. Google” for symptoms of an anxiety attack and “diagnosed” myself with that. I decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor, Dr. Jacob Wood, for that morning. Since I work at Baton Rouge General, I could just walk across the street for the appointment. But the walk that day, which would normally would have taken me about 5 minutes, was the longest walk of my life! I walked extremely slow to get there but when I checked my pulse, it was at 165!

    At the doctor’s office, I told the nurse my symptoms and mentioned the leg pain, but I still didn’t think it was connected to my other symptoms. The doctor came in and I told him I googled it and decided that I had anxiety, but luckily for me, that’s not how it works! He ordered blood work and x-rays and referred me to a cardiologist just to be sure. He made me the appointment and sent me straight there, but at this point I was still thinking it was anxiety.

    At the cardiologist office, my EKG came back fine. When I mentioned my leg pain in addition to the other symptoms, Dr. Darrin Breaux wanted to do an ultrasound, too. At this same time, Dr. Wood texted me to share that the results from my D-dimer blood test were high and that I needed to go to the emergency room right away. An elevated D-dimer test result may indicate a blood clotting condition. Sure enough, the ultrasound revealed a sizeable blood clot in each of my lungs and one behind my left knee, and I was sent to the ER for further testing.

    In the midst of all of this happening, I again went to “Dr. Google” and found that the blood clots had caused a pulmonary embolism. I was so glad Dr. Wood didn’t listen to my anxiety theory! Doctors determined that because it had been caught early enough, I could avoid surgery and be treated with blood thinner injections called Lovenox. I was admitted to Baton Rouge General for observation while receiving the injections and went home after a two-night stay.

    With some additional testing, we found out that I had a mutated gene that raises my risk for DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and pulmonary embolisms. I now take blood thinners twice a day and will continue taking these for the rest of my life. Luckily, blood thinners have come a long way, and I don’t have any side effects from them. The blood clots in my lung caused some lung damage, which can have an effect sometimes during physical activity but overall, I feel good. It’s an understatement to say that I am so glad I decided to go to the doctor that day. It’s so important to listen to your body and take action when something doesn’t feel right. You never know what it might be trying to tell you.

    - Submitted By Anonymous