The ER Story a.k.a. "My birth control is killing me"

“I think I may have pneumonia,” I told the nurse when she asked what had brought me into the ER that night. “Either that, or my birth control is killing me!”

Turns out, both may have been true.

The pain started on a Monday. I had called in sick to work that morning and had spent most of the day curled up on the couch with Morgan, watching TV and nursing our colds. At one point, when I awoke from one of our short naps that afternoon, I noticed a dull pain in my back near my left shoulder blade. Thinking I must have slept on it a little weird (being that both Morgan and I were squashed together under the same blanket on one end of the couch for several hours) I tried to work it out with a few stretches and didn’t think much more about it.

Later that night though, the pain had gotten much worse. It had spread about half way down my back and seemed to intensify with each breath I took. I began wondering if I’d somehow pulled a muscle during one of my coughing fits. The last time I remembered experiencing anything similar was in 2009 when I had a really terrible case of pneumonia. As I got ready for bed, I was feeling enough shortness of breath that I decided to use oxygen – something that is rarely necessary for me. Knowing only that I had stayed home from work because I was feeling some cold symptoms, Adam was surprised to come home and find me in bed wearing oxygen. “Is it that bad?” he asked, realizing this must be more than a cold.

I was finally able to get some sleep after a generous amount of ibuprofen and a back massage from Adam. On Tuesday morning I woke up feeling a bit better, so I took some more ibuprofen and went to work but about half way through the day, I knew something was seriously wrong.  By the time I’d talked myself into going into the local ER, I literally felt like I was being stabbed in the back with a knife each time I took a breath.

“So, it hurts when you take a deep breath?” the nurse asked. “No,” I told her. “It hurts any time I take a breath. Simply existing is painful right now.”

I explained how and when the pain started, and I also told them about the other strange symptoms I’d been having in the days leading up to that — heart flutters, a very heavy and loud heartbeat, my right arm aching and tingling for an entire afternoon and evening. I’d done a little research and learned that those things could all be related to the new birth control pill I was on, so I’d already made the decision to stop taking it. Unfortunately, I also discovered that birth control can cause some other very serious problems (blood clots, sudden loss of vision, stroke, etc. — seriously, Google your birth control, or don’t if you’d rather not be totally freaked out) so of course the irrational part of my mind (which, let’s face it, is a pretty significant percentage of my brain) was telling me that the very worst was happening.
Fortunately, the ER doctor took me very seriously and was incredibly thorough. After a few hours of testing (during which time the pain was getting worse and worse despite their attempts to control it with IV medication) she calmly came to my bedside, looked me in the eye and said, “Well, it looks like you do have pneumonia… and a Pulmonary Embolism.”
My reaction? A very un-ladylike “HOLY SHIT!”

The entire time I’d been there, I’d been making a conscious effort to hold myself together. I thought that if I could just stay calm, everything would be fine. Even though I knew it was a remote possibility, I really didn’t expect such a serious diagnosis. As soon as she said the words “pulmonary embolism” any and all self-control I had up to that point went right out the window. I was a wreck! The pain seemed to escalate with my emotions until it reached a point where it was almost unbearable; honestly, the worst pain I think I’ve ever felt.

Adam was at work and had no idea that I had even gone into the ER. My brother called the coal mine office to tell them what was going on so they could get the message to Adam underground. I wanted so badly for him to be there with me, and it was heartbreaking to think of what he must be feeling when they told him, “Your brother-in-law called and you’ve got to go home, dude. Something’s wrong with your wife.” (Which is how he tells the story.)

I was immediately hooked up to a heparin drip and the staff began making preparations for me to be transported by ambulance to the University of Utah. From that point on, all I wanted was to get out of there. My anxiety level was through the roof! I just kept thinking that I needed to get to the U and that if I could just get to my hospital with my doctors and nurses that know and love me, I’d be okay.

I took a few minutes to text Adam even though I knew he wouldn’t get the message until he was out of the mine and on his way home. I was terrified and wanted that message to convey everything I would have said to him if he were there by my side – that I loved him, that he has made me so incredibly happy, for him to be sure he’d give Morgan hugs and kisses and tell her Mama loves her very much. After I sent it, I realized it sounded like a goodbye… and maybe part of me thought it would be. I honestly felt like I was dying.

It took quite a while for all the arrangements to be made, but eventually it was time for me to go. I  hugged and said goodbye to my brother who had been in the ER with me for the past couple hours, then they wheeled me outside. As they lifted me into the back of the ambulance this strange sense of peace settled over me and I suddenly knew that whatever were to happen that night, everything would turn out okay. Right then and there I decided that whatever this thing was, it wasn’t going to win. I was ready for a fight!

To be continued…

3 thoughts on “The ER Story a.k.a. "My birth control is killing me"

  1. Wow, I truly can't imagine how terrified you must have been. Blood clots are so terrifying, and I am sending you hugs and prayers that everything is getting better and you are feeling better!! I'm so glad you decided to fight this!!!


  2. This is my total nightmare. When I have my really bad attacks of pleurisy, the pain is exactly like this, and every time it happens someone somewhere suggests that it might be a PE. It never has been (thank goodness), but it's always lurking in my mind! Sorry you had to go through all this!(And, now I'm going back to my internet-free week, LOL!)


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