Ever have those days… wake up from a much needed good night of sleep, someone brings you farm fresh eggs in bed, you kiss the kids goodbye as they scurry off to school, then quietly catch up on news and correspondence over a cup of Earl Grey and milk? That was my amazing morning. Heaven, really. ‘Cept for this darned relentlessly throbbing leg.
A lovely friend and her beautiful mum pick me up and graciously take me to my surgery consult. They are both comforting and calm. I feel nurtured just being in their presence. I get a great surgery date (April 26), miraculous really, based on what I'd heard about getting into surgery with this guy. He’s apparently quite the ACL/MCL rockstar, and after meeting and talking with him, I find myself officially thrilled... jazz-hands-happy that he is my surgeon.
Before I leave him, I mention that my leg and foot have been throbbing, cramping, aching for a solid 36 hours, as if growing pains were galloping on Charlie horses. I asked him the question that another concerned, dear friend asked me, “Could it be a blood clot?” “Well…” he says. “maybe, but unlikely… but… you know… let’s just get an ultrasound to rule that out.” Uff. Now my afternoon is not what I was planning at all, and I actually find myself sort of wishing I hadn’t said anything… you know, ‘cause I really feel too fragile to Uber to the hospital, and I also don’t want to impose on friends who MUST be overdosing on doing nice things for me as of late, and my hubby isn’t anywhere nearby where he can ride in on his white steed.
So, yet another lovely friend, instead of driving me the 5 minutes home where my tea is still warm and waiting, is kind enough to haul me (and pack me a heavenly cheesy, seedy snack… God bless her) into Berkeley, on a Friday afternoon, to the hospital where the super nice ultrasound tech in the surfboard scrubs wands my tender leg, deeply, for an hour. I find out I have 3 blood clots. Awesome. At least I wasn't imagining the pain, I think to myself.
So down to the ER to await blood tests. Within seconds of entering the ER waiting room, my heart starts racing anxiously, and I instantly recollect that I’d been there before, only once, 7 years ago when I dragged myself to the ER, weeping in pain with a bucket of puke and a headache that was worse than death, in the back of a yellow taxi… the day I came down with meningitis. That was one of THE worst days of my life. It was certainly the most physically excruciating. I glance across the room and lock eyes with the bathroom door, the public ER inner city bathroom where I had sprawled on the floor and pulled the emergency string to call for help because I was in too much pain to sit, stand, walk, exist, and certainly too much pain to pee in a cup. I wanted to throw that stupid cup at the nurse who… never mind. That’s another story. So today… I’m trying to suppress a PTSD anxiety attack as I sign my name in (again) and describe my symptoms (again). I take some deep breaths, blink back the swell of tears that are involuntarily choking their way out and try and focus on the task at hand. Blood clots. I can totally do this. None of this knee stuff is really a big deal.
Now I’m sitting there with the Friday afternoon ER crowd of the angry and inebriated, homeless and high. Despite the seriousness of my situation, I find myself feeling guilty for being there with this stupid issue, this byproduct of such a “1st world problem,” falling on the snowy (icy) slopes of Squaw Valley while on a lovely skiing vacation. I find myself wondering how the nurses do it. Man. I mean, so many hurting people in there. So many different needs and emotions and states of coherence. And smells. The conversations around me range from getting stabbed and shot by the Chinese mafia to heroine withdraws to having a cold. The very jolly homeless man next to me pulls down his pants to show me the scratch on his calf that has turned into a giant pus filled abscess, then longingly asks me if I have insurance. If I have a job. If I have a house.
1st world problems, I think. I have healthcare and a “job” I love so much that it’s hard to call it a job, and an incredible husband who works his tail off to support our big funny family. We have healthy, children… sure we have some special needs, scoliosis, ADHD, broken bones, dyspraxia, lots and lots of stitches, but all of these hurdles, while challenging for sure, are at least not so high that we can’t clear them, even if we trip a little. We have a home with all kinds of extra goodness... furry and feathered friends, fruit. I find myself feeling lucky there in the ER. Lucky tinged with that underlying guilt of privilege.
Blood tests are good. The nurses, doctors and staff are compassionate and helpful. Everyone seems calm. I'm given an anticoagulant which I will take for 3 months. My physician father and mother across the country check in with concern in their voices, are especially grateful to my surgeon for being prudent and sending me in for the ultrasound. I’m especially grateful to my friend for suggesting that I ask the doctor about it in the first place.
Life is good again. Sweet friend comes back for me and delivers me home. It is dinner time and another sweet friend (they are everywhere) has dropped off a delicious dinner of homemade tostadas, and I am sooo ready to eat. Emotionally exhausted, I get in the tub and start to cry. Messages from a day without cell service flood my phone with care and concern… what did the surgeon say? why aren't you responding? have you fallen? drown in the tub? Another sweet friend comes over to make sure I am alive. I am. She is relieved. She is lovely. She leaves, and the tears flood out.
Sweet hospital driving friend texts both me and our sweet nurse friend to square away the dos and don’ts of blood clots. She wants to talk. She knows how I panic at the end of the day. She googles Deep Vein Thrombosis for me and reads me the un-scary helpful bits when I start melting into anxiety again as the sun slips away and the day’s worries creep in, multiplying exponentially with each passing minute. Lovely, nurturing clinic driving friend checks in and is horrified to learn of the day's turn of events. She knows how I get at night, too. Another calls to see if I'm home from the hospital or if my kids need somewhere else to sleep. How are there so many people in my life who care so much? I feel undeserving of this love. Then I remember what I learned in church, what I learned in yoga, what I try to teach... we all deserve love. We are creatures of God or nature or however you choose to name the miracle that is life, and we all share the same breath, the same light, the same humanity.
So. After a thorough therapeutic cry (well, cries) I’m here journaling to bring my rational thought back to the forefront of my brain and stop my amygdala (omg… spelled that right first time. sweet.) from sending me down the spiral of fight or flight. Literally every day, life reminds me of this phenomenon. Presence: being in the moment, not the past (7 years ago on the bathroom floor) or the future (picturing my 9 year old struggling to call 911 if my clot decides to take a road trip to my lungs). I’m returning again to the here and now...
… and maybe just a sliver of the future as I dream of tomorrow’s farm fresh eggs.