I woke at about 3 a.m. with the most intense stabbing pain in the right-hand side of my chest, towards the back. I assumed that I had slept funny and that I had simply trapped a nerve or something. The pain was unbelievable, though. I took acetaminophen but it did nothing.
At 8 a.m., the phones for my doctor’s surgery opened and I rang to see if one of the doctors could do anything to deaden the pain. It was December and I had arranged a team lunch at a pub near the office with about 12 people turning up. I was looking forward to it as we hadn’t got together much since lockdown.
About 11 a.m. I got a phone call back and I described my symptoms to the doctor. I expected her to dismiss them, but she told me she would like to see me immediately.
So, I jumped in the car and headed there, thinking that I could go from there to the pub. She saw me straight away and we went through the symptoms again. She told me she thought I had a pulmonary embolism and that I needed to go straight to the ambulatory care unit at the local hospital.
I asked if I could go after lunch and she said no, I had to go straight there. After several tests, they injected me with heparin and told me I needed to come back the next day for a scan.
When the results came in, I was called in to see the doctor. He said that he was prepared to bet I didn’t have clots in my lungs, but the scans had shown that I did. He put me on apixaban immediately, and I will be on it for the rest of my days.
I have read a lot of other people’s experiences, which has really brought home the fact that a PE really can be life-changing. It all happened so fast, and it was only after I had the diagnosis that it hit me that the outcome could have been so different.
I get tired a lot more easily now and I am frightened of long distance travel. I recently had the chance to go to Hong Kong for work but I declined due to the fear of clots developing.
I am so grateful to the GP I saw who reacted so quickly and the excellent National Health Service (the publicly funded healthcare system in England) team who worked to get to the diagnosis.