Friday, January 23, 2009

It's not my birthday

It's not. But it might as well be.

On January 23, 2005, at 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by severe pain in my abdomen. After an unsuccessful hour of wishing the pain away, my mom convinced my needle/blood/vein/hospital -phobic self that it was time to go to the emergency room.

Three hours and several unpleasant tests later, I was sent back home.

I woke up again a couple of hours later and got halfway to the bathroom before realizing my leg wasn't working properly. Suddenly I was in such blinding pain that I didn't even know what hurt.

I remember my mom and my brother awkwardly dragging me downstairs half-conscious and my dad stuffing me into the car wrapped in his coat, or maybe my brother's. I remember the horrified concern of the neighbour across the street I hadn't met. I was just home from school for the weekend.

It's hard to say now whether I was outside my body or if I retreated to some corner deep inside, but I know it was from far away that I tried to reassure my dad that I was still there, when he anxiously passed his hand in front of my eyes. I could feel my mom in the backseat, quietly trying not to give way to hysteria.

What hurt was DVT and a pulmonary embolism. A clot in the deep veins of my left leg that reaches from below the knee up to the groin, and a couple of pieces that travelled up through my heart and into my left lung for good measure. I don't know if it was the perplexed doctors (who needed a day and a half to find the massive clot) or just luck that saved me.

What followed was a week in hospital and about a month in bed at home watching my leg swell up to a grotesque and unrecognizable mass twice its normal size, and willing the clock to move faster while I lived from dose to dose of pain medication.

I remember the embarrassment and frustration of being exhausted by a walker-assisted limp down the hallway of the blood clinic. I remember the thrill the first time I was able to get from my bedroom to the bathroom ten feet away without assistance.

Suddenly I was forced to face my fear of needles every couple of days, as the doctors monitored my blood to make sure I was taking the right dose of Warfarin (rat poison). I had never bruised easily, but now I was black and blue at the slightest bump. Once I bit my lip and it just bled and bled. Shave my legs? No thanks.

I (insanely) insisted on returning to school, despite not being able to walk the distance from my apartment across the street to my classes. I just knew if I didn't finish my first year of college, if I didn't at least try, lying around thinking about what was happening to me would just kill me (ha). I was sick of feeling afraid all the time. I needed some distraction.

The night before my first day back, my boyfriend of four years called to say, "I don't think I'm in love with you anymore."

It was Easter when one of the doctors told me that because of the genetic mutation in my blood, I would be on the drugs for life. "You will suffer from internal bleeding and if you get pregnant, you will probably die, and so will the baby." And of course, I can never take birth control again. At 19, it was difficult to absorb.

I was already nursing a broken heart and a broken body, what was I supposed to do with that information?

I remember telling my mom, "I just wish it was 3 years from now." But there was no going around it, I had to go through it.

I threw myself into my schoolwork and finished an honours student. My hematologist decided that it would be just as harmful to keep me on the drugs, as to take me off and run the risk of another clot. So I'm rat poison free.

The ones in my lung have dissolved. The one in my leg is still there, and doesn't let me forget it. I wear a pain in the ass compression stocking every day to keep it from ballooning up. I can't run or crouch or sit for too long. Feeling uncomfortable has become the norm.

I miss my healthy leg. I miss being someone who doesn't wonder if every little twinge in her chest might be a rogue piece of the sinister clot monster lurking in her leg coming back for revenge. I miss the girl I was before. The one who never had her strength tested.

But. I am so happy to be here.

So today is my day to grieve and to celebrate. And tomorrow I'll go on living.

Don't worry, you don't need to send presents.


Leanne said...

Wow. You are such a strong, brave girl, my dear! Congratulations.

(big hug)

Felicia|DaLipstickBandit said...


you survived!!!!

Laila P said...

Wow. What a story. You are so strong. I don't think I could have coped with that, especially when I was 19. You deserve to celebrate! x

Anonymous said...

Oh My Goodness.

Such a powerful story, and you are such an amazing person.

Happy January 23th, 2009. So glad you are around to see it.


Mari said...

I am so glad you are here!

Andhari said...

You're a very strong woman, I'm glad you survive and everything turns better for you.

Kern said...

Amazing story. Glad to see you have a good outlook on it. Stay strong and keep celebrating life.

Lindsay said...

I posted about needles on my blog today, but reading about all you've been through makes me feel like a giant baby. You've been through so much, I really admire your strength. Thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

You're great. *hug*

Kyla Bea said...

This made me nauseous and chocked up to read. I can't imagine what you've been through, but the way you wrote that made me feel like I could imagine it.

I'm so glad that you're here. This is a huge reality check about the things we take for granted, lots of food for thought. Thank you.

Sarah said...

Wow. I wasn't expecting such a response. I just felt like I needed to write something to commemorate the day and it all kind of poured out.
Thanks to every one of your for your encouragement, sympathy and understanding.
You're just one more thing to be grateful for.

quarter-life lady. said...

Mmm. Thanks for sharing. It's amazing to think back to the hard struggles we've endured in our [short] lives. Here's to HAPPIER memories, but continued growth.

Leanne said...

I'm writing here because I don't think I have your e-mail address (or because it's early and I'm not looking in the right places for it). Thank you, miss, for your donation for Relay. It's an amazing, amazing experience and I'm so happy to be a part of it. You are such a lovely girl, thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you.

Stuart A. Thompson said...

You are an incredible writer.

(Also, apparently, I knew you this entire time, but never knew you were going through all this. Not sure if that's a testament to you or a knock to me.)

Sarah said...

Aw, thanks Stu!
Let's call it a testament to me. That way we both come out looking good. Heh.

Mr. Apron said...

Wow. When I was 20, my girlfriend of two years called to tell me she wanted to end our relationship the day after I had come home from the hospital, temporarily bedridden after surgery on my tailbone.

Isn't love grand?

Polly Syllabick said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. When you know something is going to be there the rest of your life, it changes everything...mostly your piece of mind. So relieved to know, even in a roundabout blog way, someone who knows what that's like so young.

If I could make you a baddass, stylized compression stocking, I would.