June 3, 1996
Gameboy was a colicky baby without a normal sleeping pattern. This was fine when I was on maternity leave, but I returned to work the Wednesday after Memorial Day. We were adjusting and starting to get into a routine. We had a friend nanny for the summer and I'd worked out a good set schedule with my assistant manager to keep Gameboy with me or Ed for all but 15 hours per week.
Since he was colicky, sometimes the best way to get him to sleep was beside me in bed. We'd catnap on the couch and that Monday night, we'd fallen asleep on the couch while he'd nursed. He slept a good 5 or so hours, then I got up and nursed him and got ready for work. I'd thought that I slept poorly on the couch, as my hip was in excruciating pain-like a constant muscle spasm. I probably put pressure on my hip and pressed into one of the metal bars of the sleeper frame underneath the couch cushions.
Walking around the apartment that morning, my left leg was in a lot of pain, but I figured that I could walk it off at work. I drove to the mall and made the decision to park on the lower level near the post office. I need to pick up the store mail before heading into work. I would take the escalator upstairs. The pain was still bad, but I was used to tuning out pain-this was going to be more of the same, right?
Once I got the mail, I walked (limped?) slowly to the escalator, but it was being serviced. Instead, I walked up the adjoining stairs and started getting lightheaded from the pain. At the top, I pretty much fell to my butt. If I were a cartoon, I would have had a ring of stars circling my head. One of the mall walkers stopped her morning constitutional, came over and asked me if I needed help. She stood next to me while I caught my breath (lamaze breathing works for more than giving birth) and helped me up. She offered to walk me to the store, but stubborn me declined.
The 100 feet or so from the stairwell to my store was more painful than the walk from the car or the one up the stairs. I sat on the floor next to my gate, again seeing stars. After a couple of minutes, I found it within myself to put the key in to open the gate (thankful that this store had an electric one) and lurched (a la Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein) back into the stockroom.
Lights turned on, I grabbed the stool I'd been allowed to use the last couple of weeks of pregnancy and dragged it onto the floor. For the first time in three years of working for Babbages, I was going to sit my butt behind the counter, instead of moving throughout the store.
My first order of business was calling Ed and letting him know that I was hurting. He's used to me hurting. In all the years we've known each other, I've had some issue or another. However, in all that time, he can count on one hand how many times I've said "As soon as Ray (my assistant) comes in, I'm coming home". I don't call out sick and don't leave sick.
We'd moved to Laurel the beginning of March. I was flying blind and needed to find a doctor. I'd called Ray and gave him the heads up that when he came in, I was going home. (He later told me that if I hadn't said this, he would have urged me to leave-I was looking very pale.) Part of the reason for calling Ray was to see if he had any suggestions on doctors in the area. He lived over in Rockville and had no advice on that front. I called a physician's referral service. They suggested a practice near my house, connected me and ensured I had the first available appointment. For a new patient, 10am the next morning was pretty good.
At 1:30, I left the store, lurching out to my car. It took three times as long to get to my car as it had to get from my car to the stairs in the morning, but at least I had a working escalator to use.
Once home, Ed saw how pale I was and offered to stay home. I said no, that I'd be okay, I was just going to veg on the loveseat with Gameboy. (thinking the couch caused a major muscle spasm). For all but three days of my maternity leave, I was stuck with two working tv channels, but now we had cable-I'd veg with my boy and watch TV.
When Gameboy went down for an evening nap, I decided that soaking in the tub would soothe my sore leg. Once in the tub, though, I noticed that my left leg looked like it was sunburned and swollen. It was strange-one pale, pasty white leg and one that looked like a solarcaine ad.
The night was a blur. I vaguely remember Gameboy sleeping very well and giving me very little trouble. I barely got up off that couch, just for potty breaks and food.
When Ed got home, we talked for a while, then he went to bed and I had a restless night. We both wondered if the muscle relaxants I'd surely be given for this would pass through breast milk.
In the morning, I got myself and Gameboy ready and went to the new doctor. I'd left Ed sleeping because he'd worked until 3am and got home at 4. This was no big deal and I was a big girl.
I checked in at the doctor's office, filled out the dozens of forms and had everyone oohing over my cherubic baby. Once ushered into the examining room, the nurse took my BP and it was not my normal 110/65. I described my symptoms, mentioning my red leg. She came back and took a look as soon as I'd changed into a gown.
Relatively quickly, I had Dr. C in the room. She had me lay back on the table, looking at both legs. She pressed on the inside of my left hip and I nearly passed out from the pressure, which really wasn't very hard at all. She seemed worried, but I didn't know her-was this her normal bedside manner?
She said she wanted me to see another doctor today, and asked me to wait while she called his office. She left the room, and the nurse told me to sit in one of the chairs and left with "Do NOT leave this seat". Uh, okay. Neither one had said why.
I sat in that chair, and sat in that chair. A good 25 minutes, I was still sitting in that chair (dressed, though-I was told to dress). I was bored to tears and had a sleeping child. I knew there were plenty of magazines (good ones, too) in the waiting room 5 steps away.
I ducked out the door and poked into the waiting room. The nurse came around a corner and saw me. She was mad when she said "Sweetie, I told you DON'T MOVE!" I protested that I was bored and wanted something to read. I should have gotten someone to grab one for me, she said. I thought that was weird.
A few minutes later, Dr. C comes back and asks if I am here by myself. I explained that my fiance was home sleeping. She says that I need him to bring me down to Holy Cross Hospital ASAP, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I was handed the office phone and call Ed, explaining that he needed to get to the doctor's office and that they say I need to go see a Dr. R, who's at Holy Cross and will see me as soon as he gets out of surgery.
Twenty minutes later, Ed has arrived and we're given some pretty stern orders. You will not stop for any reason. They're expecting you at the ER and will have a wheelchair for Suzanne-she must use it. Then they tell me that I probably have Phlebitis. I had no idea, but Ed did-his sister Nancy had previous bouts with it.
We drive down to the hospital, me in the back seat of the Saturn because Gameboy's car seat only worked with the front seat belt. Once at the hospital, Ed drops me at ER and I am loaded into a wheelchair and take Gameboy while Ed tries to find a parking space among all the construction.
I am checked in rather quickly and get to bypass the crowded ER into a curtained off room. A nurse is aware of the situation and I'm given a bolus of something. Ed, Gameboy and I are pretty much left alone and clueless as to what the heck is going on. Gameboy wakes up and cries, hungry. I start to nurse him, and the nurse that was attending to me happens to come in to the room and freaks out. "You can't nurse him, you just got a bolus of Heparin!"
I'm a nursing mom, I don't have anything to feed my 7 week old! Just like that, my nursing journey with Gameboy stopped. In the ER, while I waited for some answer to the confusion that was happening to me. I honestly have blocked out what happened regarding feeding Gameboy, but I do remember later on sending Ed to get a certain brand of powdered formula because I had coupons for it.
After being in the ER for an hour, a Ultrasound Tech came and took me for a Doppler study. Now, I'm well acquainted with them, but then, not so much. He spent a good 45 minutes to an hour rolling that transducer over my leg from knee to hip and back again. I asked a lot of questions and got the same general answer over and over. "You've got a clot. It's big. Your doctor will tell you more." The doctor I haven't even met yet?
I was wheeled back to the ER. I don't know how Ed dealt with the worry about me and the feeding of a small child without bottles or anything on hand. My head was swimming and I was in pain. Since childbirth was so recent in my mind, I was telling them that this hurt tons more than having a baby. It did. I never saw stars or passed out in labor, but that's where I was with the leg pain.
Maybe ten minutes after I was back in the ER, my doctor arrived, fresh from surgery. He was still suited up from it, booties on shoes and all. Dr. R was short and arrogant and very matter of fact. You have a deep vein thrombosis in your left leg, gave the measurement of it and said he was admitting me to the hospital.
He'd asked where we came from and when we said Laurel, he apologized that he wasn't doing surgery over there that day, that the luck of the draw put me at Holy Cross. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out what to do about work, how was Ed going to care for Gameboy and how long was I stuck in a hospital bed. I'd survived 29 some years without being in a hospital bed, and here I was, about to go through my second stay in two months.
I called my District Manager and my former District Manager, Ed called his mom and I called mine, then we called Kristin. Work was squared away rapidly (my DM's girlfriend was a nurse and gave him the horror stories about DVTs. Thanks to that, he didn't rush me back to work.). Kristin headed over to take Gameboy and Ed's mom and sisters quickly headed down to Maryland.
It was an interesting nine days in the hospital. I was roomed with a nice young lady who'd just had her second tubal pregnancy and knew she'd never have children. She was sweet and asked to hold Gameboy one afternoon when Ed was there with him. We bonded over that. When she want home, I had a woman in end stage Alzheimer's for most of the time. She called out for the nurse at all hours. The last night, I had another younger woman who spent the night on the phone with everyone she knew.
When you're an active person, being stuck in a hospital bed is torture. I was tethered to a drip of heparin. My doctor wavered on whether I'd be there a week or ten days. He ran a lot of tests to try to figure out why I'd had the DVT. They're not uncommon in postpartum women, but not this late. When I was pregnant with Chef, my perinatologist told me that 99.5% of postpartum DVTs happen in the week after a C section.
For a long time, we wondered if it was the Pregnancy, the C section or the Depo Provera shot I'd gotten two weeks after having Gameboy. It wasn't until I became pregnant with Chef that the most likely culprit was discovered: I have Factor V Leiden, a clotting abnormality that 10% of the population has. Lucky me.
Nine days in the hospital wasn't the end of the road for me. For the next year, I'd live in a hip high compression stocking and I would take a daily dose of Coumadin. I went for weekly prothrombin times, a test to see how fast my blood was clotting. It varied wildly, and was a pain to regulate. (OTOH, the Heparin was much easier to dial in an accurate dosage)
Dr. R didn't have a lot of information about nursing mothers, only explaining that Heparin didn't pass through breast milk and I could give myself shots. This was after three days of pumping and dumping milk, so I opted to stop the nursing. If I'd known then that the shots weren't so bad, I would have done it. At least my perinatologist knew a lot about nursing moms and blood thinners and could answer those questions when I was pregnant with Chef.
The visits to Dr. R's office were a lesson in how damn lucky I really was. I'd sit in the waiting room, a fairly healthy woman with a baby. Others would show the signs of strokes and other vascular issues. If I hadn't gotten medical attention quickly, that could have been me, I'd think. Dr. R was not the most pleasant person to deal with (I had a shouting match with him on the phone at one point when he bitched me out for calling the office for a pain medication refill the day after getting home from the hospital), but he was good at what he did.
Thanks to some quick thinking doctors, I don't have to live with what might have been.