For the next 5 or so days, my husband was given blood thinners in an effort to thin the clots in his lungs. We were told that the clots might take years to dissolve fully, and as a result, he was put on coumadin in order to continue the thinning of the clots, and to keep more from developing. Before discharge, he was given a doppler test on his legs, to make certain there were no clots there. We were given the all-clear, and went home.
We were now dealing with the first significant treatment regimen with coumadin. It required my husband to have his blood tested frequently to make sure his INR (International Normalized Ratio) was right for him. If the number was too low, his blood would clot, too high and he was at risk for bleeding. It was tough for him to get accustomed to having to be more proactive about his health, especially at his young age.
We had been home less than a week, when he began complaining of pain in his left leg. It was difficult for him to walk on it, and was tender to the touch at some points. Even with our limited experience, we knew that wasn’t normal. And, of course, pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong. We were puzzled, though, because he was now on blood thinners, so there shouldn’t be a problem. He had been pronounced clot-free just a week before, so we couldn’t imagine what could be going on. He made another appointment, this time with another group of doctors.
So for the second time in two weeks, I received a call at school and was told that they had found a sixteen inch clot in his left leg, and he was being admitted into the intensive care unit. This time they did a procedure where they delivered blood thinners directly into the clot, essentially “washing” the clot with the thinning medication. There was some danger that as the large clot thinned, it might break off into smaller clots. At some point they installed an inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter), which is a device made of mesh that will trap blood clots, keeping them from entering the lungs. We felt some relief knowing that he had this protection. Once the clot was dissolved to an acceptable level, he was discharged from the hospital. Once again, we jumped back into our routines, this time VERY grateful that we had dodged some very big bullets. We celebrated our son’s graduation with a renewed respect for the gift of life and the blessings of family.