April 9, 2008

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I’m back home now. I feel fine, except for the fact that I’m quite the bleeder. Just before I was discharged, a nurse removed a … whatever they call it… one of those things they keep in a vein, so they can swap bottles of fluids that drip into you. And put a cushion of absorbent material over the wound, held down with a tight bandage. As I was wrapping up the power cord for my laptop, I noticed that blood was dripping on the floor. It was mine, coming from the puncture on the back of my hand. We stopped it with fresh dressing, but it was interesting to watch spilled blood that dried faster than it clotted. That was wierd.

Anyway, other than that, I’m cool. Or so I’m telling myself, anyway. Very eager to press on with work.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get some good rest tonight, take it easy for the next few days, and count my blessings. That the clot went to my lungs rather than my heart or my head means I won at a kind of scary roulette.

Thanks to everybody who has written, called, texted and posted their best wishes. All of it helped, tremendously.

The short of it is that I’m in a hospital with a blood clot in my right lung.

The long of it is that I don’t have other blood clots, that I’m on blood thinners for awhile, and I’ll be fine. I might make it out by this afternoon, and I’ll even be able to get back to work by tomorrow and make VRM2008 and EIC2008 in Munich two weeks from now.

Meanwhile I’m having an educational tour of the health care system at Harvard and Cambridge. Very impressive, and reassuring.

This thing started with pain under my left shoulder blade on Saturday night that I assumed was a stretched muscle or something skeleto-muscular. It was uncomfortable but not debilitating. The next couple of days it spread to various places around my chest, so that breathing became a bit difficult at times, just because it was painful. Still, I felt otherwise okay. I didn’t suspect heart problems because just a few months ago I had a bunch of heart tests and came off looking quite good.

Then yesterday I had trouble finding a comfortable sitting position, because the pain, especially at the bottom back left of my rib cage, became too intense every time I breathed in.

So I called the health care center at Harvard Law School. The folks there were concerned just because “You’re sixty and have chest pains. That’s warning enough. Can you get in here, or should we send an ambulance?” I got in there, accompanied by the good Dr. Weinberger. The doctor there listened to my lungs, said things weren’t quite right — one of my lungs wasn’t moving air as well as the other — and ordered an ambulance.

Long story short, a CAT scan showed a “mid-size” blood clot in my right lung, plus the other stuff I said in the first two paragraphs. The only remaining mystery is the source of the blood clot, which additional tests they hope will eventually show. (Though they might not find out. If it came from a leg, there’s no remaining sign of one there now. Meanwhile, they need to eliminate other possibilities, including cancer somewhere, though they say the chance of that is low.)

Anyway, the warning sign I should have observed was the presence of chest pain that was clearly not the result of minor injury (such as stretching). When I pressed on pain locations, nothing happened, yet breathing normally was painful at those locations. Shoulda been a give-away that it was deeper than muscle or skeleton, meaning lungs.

Interesting discovery: pain from blood clots in lungs does not necessarily occur at the location of the clot. It can show up anywhere around the chest. That’s why it hurts in the lower left back side of my ribcage even thought he clot is in the upper part of my right lung.

I feel good enough to work here, though it’s not easy with tubes hooked up to one or both of my arms, at different times. So far this post has been interrupted more times than I can count, mostly with tests and other visits from medical folk. (Since this is a teaching hospital, I am a subject of sustained curiosity.) That’s why, even though I started writing this post around 6:30am, it’s now 9:43.

So I think I’ll just read some of the stuff that Nicco brought over (along with much more…the man is an ace), and hope that all this testing & stuff gets done enough for me to get out of here soon.