Time and life has gotten away from me. It’s been almost 4 years since my last post. Since them, I met someone named EJ and got married. I am now stepmom to three awesome kids. I found a job that I really like. Life has been good. But then yesterday happened.
Yesterday was quite an eventful day for me. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the doctor to establish care and to maybe get a couple things looked at. Nothing major. This is a new doctor for me, but since I now have insurance through EJ’s work, I can start going on a regular basis. The visit went well. I had the typical bloodwork, plus a few others based on our conversation, I needed to do and a couple of somewhat routine tests that I needed to have to determine some things. Again, nothing major. One of these tests is because I was having chest pain that felt like I couldn’t breathe properly, so the doctor wanted me to have a pulmonary function test (PFT) to see if I have asthma. Again, no big deal.
Fast forward to the next week. Over the weekend, I had sudden chest pain that had corresponding pain on my back. My inhaler didn’t touch it. I decided I needed to go in again. I wasn’t able to actually see the doctor, so I made an appointment with one of the nurse practitioners there. She became very concerned when she heard about my family history for heart disease, and ordered an EKG and a chest x-ray to be done there in the office. In the meantime, she did a physical examination of my back and chest. By that time, the pain had subsided from about 8-9/10 to about 2/10, which was a relief to me. She determined that I wasn’t having a heart attack (whew!), nor was I in enough pain to have pleurisy. She didn’t think I had a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lung) because my breathing wasn’t labored enough for it. My chest x-ray and EKG were both fine, so she determined that it was musculoskeletal, but I still needed to have more bloodwork done.
I was finally able to get that bloodwork done yesterday morning before work. I went to work, pleased with how quickly they got me in and out of the lab and that it looked like I would still make it to work on time. Two hours later, I get a call from the doctor’s office. They have the results of the first round of bloodwork. I have both celiac and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I was expecting the celiac, but the rheumatoid arthritis was a complete shock to me. And both are autoimmune diseases that, though treatable and manageable, have no cure. My grandmother had RA. I saw what it did to her. And the same thing will eventually happen to me.
I got home from work, and EJ was home. We talked for a few minutes about it all, but I was so overwhelmed that I was barely holding it together. Then my phone rang again. It’s the nurse practitioner I saw last week, and she informed me that the D-Dimer (measures the coagulants in your blood) bloodwork came back and it was super high. She wanted me to go to the emergency room immediately to get a CT scan because it’s an indication of a possible pulmonary embolism. I was already quite upset from the news of my earlier diagnoses, and that along with her abrupt bluntness to the point of being rude, I was done. I handed the phone to EJ and asked him to talk to her. Then off to the ER we went.
The nurse practitioner had called ahead, and when you come in with “chest pain,” they sit up and take notice, and you get taken care of right away. They did another EKG on me, took yet more blood and inserted an IV into my arm (my poor arm!), then took me to a room to wait for my turn at the CT scanner. I didn’t have to wait long, and soon a lovely lady who goes by the name of Twinkie took m to the CT scanner room. The tech who did the scan was another lovely lady, was thorough in explaining to me what would happen, and in 10 minutes we were done. I was taken back to my room, where I joked around with EJ and the nurse for a little bit while we waited for the results to come in.
After what seemed like a short amount of time, the ER doctor came in and declared the all-clear. There was no embolism! I was free to go home. The relief was great, yet at the same time I felt vindicated because deep down I knew there was no embolism. The doctor told me that about 3/4 of patients that he sees come in with high D-Dimer do NOT have embolisms, and the reason I do could quite possibly be related to the RA. What fun.
So here I am, a day later, still struggling with the fact that I have not one, but two autoimmune diseases. And there could quite possibly be a third, but that will probably take yet another round of bloodwork and tests. I am so not looking forward to that.