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Life Threatening Illness

October 10, 2011

Life Threatening Illness

As this is a chronicle of family life with the Wilson Blades’s I can’t really go without mentioning our recent adventure with Pete’s Life-Threatening-Illness, as it has now become known in the family. Now that we are able to, erhem, laugh about it so to speak…

Pete had a lot of field trips in August and proudly told me that, on one visit alone, he had acquired 53 mosquito bites. I should say that a lot of his destinations are very hard to reach so it can take days to get there and often involves long car journeys up to 12 hours (hence he had time to count the bites, ha ha). As a result of this he developed cellulitis in his leg, which is a very painful but very treatable condition, showing up as a very swollen ankle and calf (you can get it anywhere in the body). As a result of the pain he hobbled a lot, so when his other leg started swelling painfully he assumed it was a soft-tissue injury, such as a sprained muscle, done whilst compensating for the cellulitis.

Alfie and I were away for most of August so Pete had a lot to do. Quite apart from several field trips he had to, well; watch sport on TV and sleep and such. Therefore, he was ‘too busy’ to go to the doctor about his swollen leg. He does grudgingly admit he may have gone sooner had he had me here to nag him. What is it with men and doctors? And don’t even get me started on medical folk and their reluctance to consult their peers; it’s like pushing porridge uphill. So, despite working in an office full of doctors, it was a further 6 weeks before the swollen leg got examined.

In that time the pain receded, Alfie and I got home and Pete felt well enough to start cycling to work again. And it was on a visit to the doctor for another reason entirely, that she insisted on investigating the swelling for a suspected DVT – deep vein thrombosis. That was a Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday morning we were giving him a lift to the airport so he could fly to Bangkok for a more thorough examination and treatment. There is one hospital here in Yangon with the machinery, technology and doctor experienced enough to diagnose, but treatment would be limited so the insurers agreed that Bangkok was best and off he went to the Samitivej Hospital (where we are planning to have baby) flying Thai Airways business class no less.

Actually it all coincided rather neatly with the Rugby World Cup and our satellite TV box breaking so at least now he could lie in a hospital bed and watch the matches!

It was a DVT; a blood clot in a deep vein running the entire length of his lower leg and he also had a Pulmonary Embolism, which means a bit had broken off and lodged in his lungs. This can be fatal. Lots of people die of exactly this every year and sometimes, as with my friend’s mum, there are no symptoms at all. Usually though, you would notice some pain or difficulty breathing and the docs were amazed that Pete’s lungs were so clear and that he’d been cycling twice a day. A testament to his fitness, he tells me…

So, 2 injections twice a day into his tummy; heparin and warfarin to ‘thin’ the blood and break down the clot. CT scans and ultrasound to check the lungs and otherwise gentle exercise and compression stockings. The insurance people were fantastic, paying for me and Alfie to fly out and stay in hotel for 8 days. Pete stayed almost 2 weeks though managed to wangle a discharge and got treated as an outpatient for most of the time. You can just imagine what kind of a patient he makes. I think the first question he asked when he arrived was “When can I leave?”

We’re all back home now and the drama is over. I didn’t realise how stressed I had been until I felt the relief when he was safely diagnosed, under treatment and in the right place for observation.

Now it’s just daily tablets and regular blood tests to check clotting times and adjust the dosage, probably for another year. The swelling may take up to 6 months to go down and the compression stockings have to stay on for two years (I joked that we can’t live in the tropics if that’s the case!). They are still investigating the cause and checking for Factor V Leiden Syndrome which is a genetic condition, though we may never know why it happened. Obviously long haul flights or even car journeys are risky but extra injections and consistent exercise should help.
We have been very, very lucky this time. Let’s hope it’s the last LTI we ever have to deal with.

http://www.ibis-birthdefects.org/start/f5fact.htm

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