I had been feeling bad for more than six weeks, experiencing shortness of breath while doing light exercise, like walking up a flight or two of stairs. I had gone from being able to run 8+ minute miles comfortably to struggling to walk at a normal pace in a matter of weeks. My resting heart rate increased from below 50 bpm to something closer to 70.
My primary care physician thought the symptoms might be related to a recent respiratory infection, or maybe even a bit of undiagnosed COVID-19 that was lingering. On April 4, 2022, I returned to the doctor’s office because I felt like I was drowning during my attempt at my morning workout.
This time, I saw a different doctor who sent me straight to the hospital. I was diagnosed with multiple pulmonary emboli, including two large ones in each of the descending pulmonary arteries.
The doctors that reviewed the CT were shocked that I came in under my own power. There was a discussion of administering clot-busting drugs via a catheter as well as less aggressive treatments. Ultimately it was decided that I would get an IV of heparin with frequent PT testing.
My only risk factor is that I tend to be chronically dehydrated. I am 60 years old, male, non-smoker, 6’2,” a distance runner, have a BMI of 22.5, and have had no cancers or trauma, no surgeries, or extended periods of inactivity. I have none of the known genetic clotting disorders. I currently take a daily therapeutic dose of an anticoagulant, and probably will for the rest of my life.
This experience has changed my lifestyle. Due to the need to take an anticoagulant, I am more careful about engaging in activities that can lead to bleeding, like mountain biking. I’m much more careful about where and how I ride than I used to be.
My advice is to be clear and persistent with your health care professionals if you’re not feeling right. Don’t ignore your symptoms.