If I had known I was going to die, I would have made my bed and head better.
Monday night is my normal Spin Stationary Bike date. I usually have 2 or 3 during the week.
One hour of biking, indoors, with music and direction from an instructor. I like both the instructor’s music and he, as he not one of the ones that think screaming at you is motivation for you.
Instructors? Screaming is not motivation, it is just screaming, like a person out of their mind.
Well, I never expected to die that day, but I did. But, thankfully not for very long.
As a life long exercise person, I have always been active. My early life included boxing, swimming, biking, base and basketball, with tennis and table tennis thrown in.
(secret-I was very competitive in table tennis and boxing, where I could not allow myself to lose)
I was part running clubs for some 10 years with all kinds of road series, 2.5k up to marathon. Let’s say I ran a leisurely pace.
I am not competitive, I just want to play. It is good to win, but I can handle a loss.
More or less 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis. (blood clot)
Don’t let the big words throw you, it is a killer, and has been nicknamed the Silent Killer, as you might not have any outward signs that is coming. It is easy to diagnose after someone is dead, however. It is estimated that 1 of every 1000 can be affected. 10 to 30% would die within the first month after a clot breaks free. Many that live will have a repeat within 10 years. My hospital emergency room said that people in my state have about a 2% chance of living. One of the emergency room techs had to come up and see me for herself, that I had lived, the day after I was moved over to hospital.
Where the clot forms and breaks from is crucial. The highway path is from your lower legs to your lungs, which could result in a Pulmonary Embolism.
Or, it can hit your heart after to begin the heart attack process.
Or, it can travel to your head to give you a stroke.
None of these three are good for you, they are all dangerous and maybe life threatening.
Did you ever know anyone that took a long airplane flight and had a stroke or dropped dead an hour after the flight? That was quite possibly DVT and went undiagnosed in most.
I don’t smoke, do not take steroids (adds to potential), I take vitamins and mineral supplements and I exercise. My resting heart rate is generally below 60, my blood pressure usually on the good side of low. I have a very high good cholesterol count, average overall.
“For my Age!” I am healthy.
Why am I telling all of you this?
To scare you from taking Spin Class? Hell no!
I am recounting this because you might have the potential to die from it and never know of it. If you are reading this, I hope it causes you to read more and learn, and the next time you go to your doctor talk to them about your potential for DVT.
I was lucky. I knew I had the potential. It does not just pick out old white men like the cable news, it picks on everyone, young, slim or not.
There are all kinds of factors that feed into this including blood chemistry, so adding certain things to your body can make clotting in the blood more likely. Recent surgery, hormone addition, steroids, cause a blood chemistry change that might affect your potential.
But, there also factors like your family background, your DNA, a proclivity to clot. Physical attributes like how long your legs are, the size of your feet. The physical attributes can add to the blood pooling in your lower legs or feet, which is bad.
So, before a long airplane flight, I put on pressure socks, take my blood thinners and plan on moving those feet during the flight.
Now, back to my dying.
The class was an hour and it was very near the end within moments. I had a good warm up and was pushing my limits. According to witnesses, I fell off the bike like a bag of rice, hit my head on the adjacent bike and went down. The instructor first thought it was a head injury and started treating me for that until he noticed I was not breathing.
I am lucky in that that club has portable paddles to shock and allow the heart to beat again. Again, I was lucky that that club attracted an assortment of doctors, nurses, EMTs, fire safety and so forth.
So, depending on who you talk to, I had no pulse from 5 minutes up to 14 minutes. That is easily brain damage territory. I am leaning towards the lighter time period since I am obviously coherent.
But, the paddles and CPR were applied quickly, the ambulance arrived in less than 10 minutes. I have no doubt the ambulance ride was another abusive operation trying to keep this sick puppy alive, followed by the emergency room.
I lost myself Monday 6:30PM and did not find myself again until Wednesday 2PM where I was in a different place filled with pain, and what the hell happened?
Additionally, aggressive CPR generally breaks bones. Most of my pain came from the sternum area where they would have applied back of hands and muscles trying to get and keep the heart beating. In my case, it is very likely how the clot in my lungs was finally broken up via very aggressive CPR action.
Have you ever had Charlie Horse in your legs? You know, those muscle spasms that catch you in the middle of the night with complete pain that takes minutes to go away? Medical personnel kept saying my Sternum would be “sore”.
Sore is when you noticed you strained something.
What I felt stopped my breathing, thinking, and caused me to try to scream.
This was not “sore”.
For the next 4 days I had Charlie Horse activity to my sternum. It was excruciating, lasting minutes while I tried to scream. Heavy duty pain pills did NOTHING.
According to wife and friends that saw me soon after the event in the emergency room, they could not recognize me by my face, my wife had to use the scars on my feet to know it was me.
I met half a dozen doctors that were scratching their heads, while pulling every test they could think of.
Heart – perfect, no damage, better than most 20 year olds.
Brain – ok, it would never be perfect, but appeared to be mine.
Lungs – needed oxygen assistance.
Sternum – nutts in a vice controlled by someone else, was my best description.
By my 4th day, I had brought up DVT as a possibility a couple of times. “yeah, we could probably run that test.” But, the Doctors did not.
But, a lady doctor came in, I think on my fifth day. I repeated my concern and it went from probably to yes, “we will run that test.”
Doppler tech comes in looking down and a bit angry. “What makes you think you know what a DVT is?”
“I had one measured some 10 years back.”
“Whempf” was all he said.
He ran gel down my legs and began to doppler the region of my inside right leg where your first painful symptom might come from.
“There is one clot, sure enough top of calf….there is another clot lower….let’s try the other leg.” 10 seconds in, “Well, there is another!”
I said, “Dude, you might have saved my life!” I said that because the other doctors were stumped.
Doppler tech left out with his head held high, but I bet he was calculating whether I would live or not.
So, they ordered a chest scan and bimpo, 2 more clots in the lungs!
Now, we had a smoking gun. And, all of the doctors had relief, and my treatment went from guesswork to pinpoint, and that is good, John boy.
Summary, we all need to learn more about DVT whether a college kid, an old guy, a young girl from India or a dude from the Bronx. It can impact someone out of shape or in, it can impact a long distance airplane flyer or the couch potatoe.
I lived because I had previous knowledge and quick reaction when the clock alarm sounded.
Ignorance will cause an aftermath of pain, and the aftermath is huge.
Please do not be ignorant! You will die.