Published on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 15:35
Written by Chantal Guevara
Something different, for a change. Those of you who follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend will know that I've recently acquired a surfeit of blood clots, so I might as well write about them - seeing as I can't do much else while I wait to recover from them.
To most people, blood clots seem to be mythical beasties of sorts, which rarely exist outside of those lists of potential side effects. When we do hear about them, it's usually because someone's died from a clot: the Grey's Anatomy fans among us will never forget Denny's untimely demise due to a rogue clot. Damn. Other notable deaths include those of Frida Kahlo, James Stewart (actor) and Charles Chaplin Jr (son of Charlie Chaplin).
For all that dance is a somewhat accidentprone industry, thankfully the majority of injuries are muscular and ligamentary and not fracture-based. While there are other factors which can stimulate clot growth - for example contraception, air travel, surgeries, pregnancy and genetic predisposition - fractures are pretty high up on the list, and this country's method of clot prevention is ridiculously inadequate.
In at least several European countries, and presumably other countries too (I haven't researched this), doctors will automatically follow up any fractures with a two-week course of blood-thinning treatment to prevent clot formation; in this country, they simply give you a short questionnaire to determine if you are at risk of clotting. Thanks to a side order of concussion, I have no recollection of what was on that questionnaire, but I think we can all agree that I'm proof that not being at risk of clotting in no way means that clotting isn't going to happen. Also, if you pass the clotting questionnaire, the doctors don't give you a list of symptoms to watch out for, just in case.
I was recently reading about pulmonary embolisms (one of the resulting conditions of clots), and apparently one of the initial symptoms is "sudden death". The other symptoms (if you survive that first one, that is) are fairly vague, which means it's either hard to diagnose - eg, I did go to A&E complaining of the early symptoms, but was told it was probably concussion-related and to go away - or you risk dying before it's diagnosed because of course clots kill people. They kill lots of people.
Even if it is caught, diagnosed and treated in time, you still face an extremely long recovery period: the body uses all its resources to repair the heart and lungs, or any other affected body parts, which takes a very long time and leaves little leftover energy or stamina for anything else; an inability to work for an extended period; and having to take rat poison (warfarin) for at least six months, with weekly hospital checkups and the added "bonus" of not being able to take anti-inflammatories, many vitamins, supplements, medications, alcohol or even herbal tea until the treatment is complete, because warfarin is crap like that. I had never appreciated until two weeks ago what bloody hard work it is to sit upright for any length of time.
It's not even because blood thinning medications are expensive and because the NHS is trying to save money. No: they're worried about that negligible percentage of people who might react adversely to blood thinning drugs, so they don't administer them to anyone on a preventative basis unless they absolutely have to.
So if you fracture a bone, have a surgery or do anything which puts you at risk of clotting, make sure you're one of those people, and make sure you get that preventative treatment (unless haemophilia runs in the family, of course), because our lives and careers are far too short to be put on hold for months on end because of a medical oversight.
And also, if I've got to go through all this crap, at least it should be so that others can avoid going through this too in future.