HAVE YOU EVER HAD DVT or PE?
In March 2017 I noticed that my left leg was swollen when I arrived home from work. At first, I thought nothing about this, as my job entailed standing for most of my working day. My working week was thirty-nine hours (Monday to Thursday 08.00 to 17.00 with thirty minutes Lunch Break, Friday was 08.00 to 13.00 with no break).
A week went by and the swelling was increasing, my wife who is a nurse, told me to consult our G.P straight away. I managed to get an appointment and was examined by one of the doctors at the GP Surgery who confirmed the swelling in my left leg. He prescribed water tablets for me but there was no diagnosis mentioned to me.
After arriving home, I told my wife what the Doctor had said about my calves and the tablets which he had prescribed for me but she suggested we should seek further advice from our local hospital because there were no tests performed during the visit to rule out other conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis which can also present with swelling.
We went to the local hospital where a blood test was taken on my arrival by the triage nurse while I was waiting to be reviewed by the Doctor. To my surprise the Doctor who reviewed me confirmed that the blood test showed I had blood clots but wanted to carry out a Doppler Ultrasound scan. It was frustrating to hear the bad news but felt lucky to be given a proper diagnosis and treatment. I must say nurses and doctors were thorough and professional as I found out that they saved my life. The Doppler Scan showed that I had a large blood clot at the top of my left leg and I was commenced on blood thinners straight away for DVT. The swelling gradually subsided but it took a long time.
Watch out for side effects of blood thinners
When you take blood thinners, you can easily bleed for a long period of time if you have a cut or injury, so I was advised to watch out for that and take care. I also had to take other precautions such as informing my Dentist if I needed any dental treatment or check-up. I was pleased that I am being treated for my DVT but also apprehensive about the side effects of this medication, but the brilliant NHS nurses offered me a lot of reassurance and advice which I took on board. I carried on taking the blood thinners, but this was stopped by my GP after 6 months. I was told that I did not need anymore treatment. No tests done.
As I was about to travel abroad on a long-haul flight, I was a little concerned and contacted the doctors again for advice regarding my recent DVT diagnosis. I was advised to take aspirin dose before and after travelling which I did. I also tried walking and stretching my legs during the long-haul flight several times as I was not eligible for TED stockings. I was told there are certain medical conditions and circumstances that may trigger formation of blood clots, one of them being lack of movement over a long period of time as this predisposes us to poor blood circulation.
Why it is important to share information?
It is amazing how much I learnt about DVT and have since been sharing this information with all my contacts so that they can get quick and appropriate treatment if they ever experience the same symptoms I had. I really appreciate all the medical personnel who work very hard to save our lives, but I also believe that errors are inevitable especially when there is shortage of staff and too much pressure to see all patients within specific times. I understand GPs’ are allocated 5 minutes to review each patient and this is not enough for thorough assessment. Important things may be missed. It is therefore important for everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of various illnesses including DVT which can be fatal but curable if diagnosed early, hence the reason for sharing this information.
I enjoy travelling so I booked my holiday and was excited about the journey. This was a month after my DVT treatment was stopped. I felt good and did not experience any problems while I was away for 2 weeks. Unfortunately, a few weeks after returning, I started feeling out of breath when walking upstairs and this was unusual and new to me. I also felt lightheaded and weak. I had to hold on the stairway rail to support myself. I never experienced shortness of breath in the past so I was worried. As my wife was working, I decided to visit my GP Surgery for help and was able to get an urgent appointment. My GP reviewed me and ordered a chest x-ray and Spirometer test and advised me to go to our local hospital for the chest x-ray.
Pulmonary Embolism diagnosis
When my wife arrived back home from work, she looked at me once and told me that we needed to go to Accident and Emergency department straight away. On arrival to Accident and Emergency, I was quickly triaged by the nurse who took some blood tests and got a doctor to see me within a short spell of time. Unfortunately, the blood results showed that I had blood clots possibly in the lungs as I could not breathe well. The reading was extremely high, so I was booked an urgent Chest Scan called (CTPA) which revealed 2 large blood clots and small multiple blood clots in both lungs. It was scary to learn that I was that poorly. I was diagnosed with bilateral Pulmonary Embolism. The doctor administered a blood thinning injection into my stomach, immediately following the diagnosis. A prescription of blood thinning tablets was made. I have been told that I must take blood thinning tablets for life. I also had other tests to exclude other medical conditions and the results were all normal.
Pulmonary Embolism is a life-threatening condition which can be treated if diagnosed early. I was one of the lucky ones who was helped by my wife through making a quick decision to visit Accident and Emergency department. I relied on my GP and was not aware of the danger. Misdiagnosis or late diagnosis may affect patient care, so it is imperative that we raise awareness about our experiences and help the Medical professionals to avoid mistakes. Shortage of staff in the healthcare sector is an ongoing problem that affect those who need care.
There should be continuous training and updates to all staff about symptoms and treatment for various medical conditions that patients may present with.
My DVT and Pulmonary Embolism diagnosis was missed by my GP so let us all watch out for any symptoms related to these conditions.