I had just graduated from college and I was moving back home to Helena, MT to start my career as a registered nurse. I woke up one morning and noticed pain in my left shoulder. I thought I had slept wrong or pulled a muscle.
The pain continued for the next few days. I noticed that my left side was hurting, about in the middle of my lung, but again thought it was because I was out of shape or had injured myself.
The pain lasted about two weeks and increasingly became worse. The pain when lying down was so intense that I slept in a recliner sitting up. My shortness of breath became worse so I continued to work out at a gym for as long as two hours a day.
I saw my primary care provider, who recommended I get an x-ray. He said I possibly had two broken ribs and sent me home. The pain continued and my mother and I began our research.
I went back to my doctor, who did another chest x-ray and diagnosed me with my pneumonia. As an RN myself, when I looked at the x-ray it appeared to be infection invading both of my lungs, as worse as I’d seen any pneumonia. A Z-pack (antibiotics) was prescribed and I was told to come back in three days if it did not get better. I was also given pain medication, which did not even touch the pain I was having.
Three days later, I went to urgent care because it was only getting worse. I was sleeping at a 90-degree angle, I could no longer work out, and the pain of working was more than I could handle. I could hardly walk around my unit in the hospital without feeling like I had run a marathon.
I saw a PA (physician assistant) who finally decided to complete some blood tests, checking my D-dimer (a blood test that measures a material released when blood clots break up and helps diagnose blood clots) just in case.
He called me an hour later to tell me I had an appointment at the hospital in an hour that I had to go to. After a contrast CT scan (an x-ray that can take detailed pictures of the blood vessels of the lungs), the radiologist told me I had multiple pulmonary emboli in both of my lungs.
I was immediately transported to the cardiac ER, and shortly after admitted to the hospital. After one night, I was discharged home to give myself shots twice a day, followed by Coumadin therapy (oral blood thinners or anti-clotting medication) for three months.
My pain slowly went away and my life returned to normal. This illness has changed my life, I can no longer take estrogen-based birth control, and I am extra keen to any pain I experience in my lungs.
Two years later, I still experience daily pain based on my damaged lung tissue. My only risk factor before I developed PE’s is that I was on estrogen-based birth control pills. I read every label of every medication I take due to my history of blood clots. I have had my blood thoroughly tested and I do not have any genetic abnormalities or clotting disorders.
Today, I take progestin-only birth control and am almost back to normal regarding lung function.