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I’ve been home for twelve days, and though the recovery process is agonizingly slow and rife with pitfalls, I am showing signs of improvement.
First, I don’t need as much oxygen, or need it as often. I was on 5 liters per minute pretty well nonstop in the hospital, 3 liters per minute except when sitting up at rest when I went home, and now down to 2 liters per minute and only when exerting myself or sleeping. I’ve gone through my first tank, and got 3 more tanks to replace it. I’m mostly on an air concentrator (so within the house my life largely revolves around how far my oxygen hose reaches), but need the tanks for doctor visits, which involve a lot of exertion (since “Walking” and “Standing” both count as exertion atm.)
(You don’t have to like it, but this is what Peak Older Game Designer looks like.)
Second, my chest finally stopped hurting 24/7. The doctor’s best guess is that my pulmonary embolism did not permanent heart damage (though “cardiologist” is one of those appoints I have to go to), but for more than a week after my hourlong event gasping for breath while my heart thundered, my chest hurt. Like I had pulled a muscle, but the muscle happened to be my heart.
Having that pain fade is a real plus.
I have having better luck sleeping… but it’s mostly still not long blissful bouts of restful unconsciousness. Part of that is my normal insomnia, part of it is struggling with oxygen cords and having to keep my legs above my heart when I sleep… and a chunk of it is psychological.
When I was discharged from the hospital last week after my pulmonary embolism I knew, at least in vague terms, what the recovery process was going to mean physically. I had no clue what it was going to mean psychologically. How that trauma would blend with my existing issues.
In specific, it’s latched hard onto my cPTSD, and my social anxiety. I keep reliving the experience of not being able to get enough air, my heart pounding, purple creeping into my visions, the sense that I was going to pass out and die, and being unable to call for help.
The nightmares I expected — nothing bad happens to me without leaving a template for my nightmares to build on. But the flashbacks, the fact that catching my breath for just a second sends a shock of panic through my body, *that* is an unpleasant surprise.
One of the most traumatic events of my childhood was when I was lured into the woods by a girl, then ambushed by a camp full of boys who threw me into a ditch they’d dug, pinned face-first in the dirt, and told they were going to bury me alive. I’ve done a LOT of therapy to cope with the feelings of breathless panic that came from having people kneel on my back as I struggled to breathe. It looks like I am going to need more to get over how the embolism stole my breath, and left me shuttering in voiceless panic.
It’s not just a physical feeling, there’s connected veins of betrayal. I was lured into an ambush when I was young, and now suddenly anytime I am short of breath for even a second, I am expecting someone to turn on me again.
Home health has a psychiatric RN coming to see me Friday 3/3, so we’ll see how that goes.
Otherwise my endurance improves, but the improvement is measured in seconds, feet, and paragraphs. With oxygen I can walk 45 feet before getting winded, instead of 35. Showering is a chore, rather than impossible unaided. I managed to sit with friends for 3 hours, though after that i had to lay down. I can write for 10-15 minutes at a time, and manage several such bouts in a day.
I can see the improvements. They are just tiny, and going even a mote beyond them leaves me gasping and exhausted.
But they are improvements.
Posted on March 2, 2023, in Health and tagged Mental Health, Pulmonary Embolism. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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