"You've got smaller than massive pulmonary embolism [blood clots] on both lungs; the left is worse than the right" he said. "They're as a result of a deep vein thrombosis. At this time, we need to give you a large amount of a very strong drug to dissolve the blood clots which may cause internal bleeding including a stroke". "Oh I'm not dead then, that's good news because I haven't allowed for it in the diary" she said. "When can I go back to work?"
So this was what I was faced with on Friday 1st October. No warning apart from a sudden lack of breath after walking 6ft which prompted me to call NHS Direct and then my neighbour Lorna, who basically saved my life through her stubborness. Well actually, it was my stubborness.
So the nickname for this DVT/PE thing is 'Economy Class Syndrome'. What a load of marketing tosh that is. Fair enough it's highlighting it as a health danger but the association with air travel might make people think it only happens when you're in the air - it doesn't. So my conspiracy theory is this; it must be a psychological ploy to encourage the less knowing travellers to buy a business class ticket - surely?
Someone referred to it as the "Couch Potato Disease" which apparently brews heart disease. As a result of the extensive tests I had done at Maidstone Hospital, I'm relieved to know I have a good heart in more ways than one. In any case, like my family and friends, my couch hasn't seen my gluteus mahoosiveness for quite a while because I've been working hard trying to be successful.
So where's it come from then? Congenital or lifestyle? Why am I writing about it on a driving blog? I haven't had the results of the congenital yet, so let's have a butcher's at my lifestyle:
- I've commuted on a coach to and from London for 20 years (averaging about 4 hours travel a day with that one). Being a big bird, I've always had my knees pushing the seat in front so plenty of opportunity for a clot to gather in my lower leg there.
- Then for the past 3 years, driving and working every hour Elvis sends, to pay my bills (123,000 miles is a lot of driving). Minimal leg movement, minimal exercise, minimal help for my blood cells to be pumped up from my ankles.
- Living off chicken and stuffing sandwiches and coffee at odd times, from Shell petrol stations, which hasn't provided a sufficient enough environment for my blood to do it's job properly.
- Having a fag puff or ten at rest, in the aftermath of Polish and Irish lorry side swipes at high speed, has possibly given me furry tubes and sticky blood thus restricting the flow round my body Autobahn.
- I am overweight for my height but always have been, so nothing new there. If I was the medical weight for my height, I'd be a bean-pole and I don't want that. So I'll stick with the in-proportion/voluptuousness that is 'W-O-M-A-N', thanks very much.
- I had recently had a night cramp in my left calf - you know the ones that make you jump out of bed in agony and take ages to stop feeling sore.
- I have also banged my shin a couple of times with an heavy metal Give Way sign (that's another story) which was excrutiatingly painful, producing a mark but no surface bruising.
All that and I'm 43 and never been kissed - a Jeremy Kyle nightmare.
So looking at some of the causes of DVT/PE, I unknowingly ticked most of the boxes for sudden onset. There's me thinking it was a persistent chest infection due to a bit of coughing and wheezing for the couple of months previous to Doomsday.
In efforts to highlight what I've been through and perhaps nudge other stubborn driving gîtes into having a little look at their lifestyle habits or get checked out, I tried to find a website that advised on general driver health (pre-emergency); anything that affected any driver (ie, male/female, young/old, long/short haul driving). I AOL'd and Googled the following simple searches:
'Driver's disease', the only thing that came up was Legionnaire's disease caused by dirty windscreen wash-water.
'Illnesses caused by driving' highlighted accidents caused by sudden illness.
'Driver illnesses' highlighted older drivers; illness and medication
'Healthy driver' highlighted truck drivers
'Healthy driving' highlighted Men's health and Taxi driving
And, as you can see, came up with a big, fat clotty nothing, zilch, nil point, for general driver health.
I dare say, some clever ar.. person will come up with something but how are you going to find something hidden on page 10 of a web search if you're like me (if it's not on the first page, it's not important enough etc). I mention the web a lot, that's because there's nothing in the helpful leaflet boxes in Doctor's waiting rooms other than "How to die quietly", "Living with haemarroids", "Hairy lady chins; how to cope", that kind of thing.
I've only been prompted to look up DVT/PE post-event which appears to be a case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted - it's something drivers of any type wouldn't even consider. A prime example of "it'll never happen to me syndrome" - didn't even give it a first thought, let alone a second. Perhaps because I wasn't aware.
90% of us drive (don't quote me but it's a lot, let's face it). There should be more freely available collective information. We have health for sport, health for pregnancy, health for work, health for holidays but no health for driving (from day 1 of passing the driving test) - it's something most of us do everyday.
Yeah, I think I have a point Houston.
A BIG THANK YOU
The NHS care I received at Maidstone Hospital was second to none. Thank you to everyone there; A&E, Resus, CCU, Culpepper Ward, the Phlebs and the Pharmas. Not to mention the porters who had to lug my carcass around.
Lorna and Jackie and family and friends who will have to put up with me for a bit longer. Not to mention my pupils for being patient (no pun intended). I'll be back soon, I promise.