14 Jun 2017
When I was 16, I broke the two bones in my lower leg in a skiing accident. That was the first time I remember feeling real pain.
But even then, while lying in a Vermont emergency room after an hours drive in the back of my parents car to get there (long story), watching and listening doctors attend to all the cases around me, I realized how fortunate I was. There were some broken bones, but I would walk – and run – again. The experience felt more like a badge of honor, understanding what could have been. Yes, I keenly remember feeling bummed – but grateful.
I didn’t experience real pain again until I was pregnant with my first son: when morning sickness and violent retching led to a wrenched back and all I could see were stars. But again, there was the joyous prospect of a baby… and more gratefulness.
In my second pregnancy, I complained about searing non-stop pain running down my left leg. Living in New York City at the time, I had access to top doctors. The diagnosis from a neurologist was that it was nerve and back pain – maybe something to do with a disc or a back sprain, the origin unclear. I didn’t believe that diagnosis – something about it just didn’t make sense.
For six weeks, unable to even put pressure on my left leg, hobbling around on crutches, I took myself from doctor to doctor, convinced something else was going on.
In week six, I dragged myself to a vascular specialist. He pulled out a stethoscope, placed it on my upper thigh where the pain was most severe, and then told me my blood flow was being interrupted: most likely by a blood clot (DVT or deep vein thrombosis). They are common in pregnancies, but more typically occur below the knee.
The hospital was half a block away and he allowed me to walk there instead of calling an ambulance. I was admitted and not allowed off my back for 10 days. My obstetrician checked in on me daily – he should have figured this out and was now concerned about a lawsuit. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I just cared about the pregnancy and getting better. Feeling a little less grateful this time. But, again, thankful there had finally been a diagnosis and treatment was underway.
When I went to deliver that baby, the anesthesiologist on call saw I was on blood thinner and refused to administer an epidural. So yeah, some more pain in that delivery but wonderful Demerol took the edge off between contractions. Grateful again.
When I delivered my third son, not only were we stopped for speeding on the way to the hospital (and, subsequently, offered a police escort) – the obstetrician was pulled over as well (no escort for him though). No time for any drugs whatsoever on that one: another badge of honor.
I’ve been very lucky since then. Of course, there’s been the flu, a few food poisonings (one even requiring hospitalization), stitches, more neck and back issues, but nothing I haven’t been able to handle. And I am continually reminded how important it is to advocate for ourselves, especially when it comes to our healthcare. By now, we know our bodies pretty well, we understand when something isn’t right. And we should trust our gut feelings.
It’s hard to say what any of us will have to deal with in the future – life’s unpredictable and random that way. Even great genetics are no match for the twists and turns. I have no looking glass, nor would I want one. But I do think about these things. Sometimes it’s scary. More often though, I’m finding that I’m just trying to appreciate the “now” – feeling grateful and making the most of life today.