I’ve got to tell you, last week was pretty scary. I’d noticed MW’s leg to be a little swollen for a couple of weeks – actually, it was much longer than that but they’ve swollen before and was told it was just benign swelling. I must admit to rarely thinking it’s *just* anything considering the severity of MW’s symptoms. So, when the District Nurse called to look at yet another pressure sore, I asked her to check the swelling. “Oooh, it is swollen, isn’t it? It’s about 2cms bigger than the other leg and it’s not hot or anything but when I go to the GP’s surgery later this morning, I’ll chat to her about it. It could be a DVT.”
Fucking hell! A DVT.
In a previous life, I worked in the Civil Service. An environment that loves to abbreviate words and phrases wherever possible – thus giving those phrases an implied importance way beyond their actual significance. I guess the health services do the same for speed in time-critical situations. But a DVT – or Deep Vein Thrombosis to give it its Sunday name – is a pretty frightening prospect and one that belies its otherwise harmless abbreviation. I felt a bit of a chill when she said it. Partly because I knew how serious it could be and partly out of guilt at letting this swelling go unchecked. Truth is, as a carer, I never know when to push the “panic button” or when to let something take its natural course and see what happens. I panic at the slightest change in MW’s symptoms but I can’t go shouting to the nurses or the GP for the smallest thing, can I? That’d be ridiculous. It’s tempting though. I’m no professional at dealing with this and there’s no training to help a carer cope with what gets chucked at them.
So, back to the swelling. The nurse rings from the GP’s surgery later that morning and said that the Dr wanted to see MW later that day. Appointment booked. We turn up and MW gets examined. The swelling is a cause for concern and the GP refers MW as an emergency admission to the DVT clinic at the hospital with a letter explaining her findings during the examination. Half an hour later (as it begins to snow like hell!) we’re at the DVT clinic waiting for a blood test. More examinations and bloods drawn, and an hour or so wait for the results. The possibility of a DVT is still there but they won’t know without a scan. MW is given a clot-busting injection and a scan is booked for the following morning.
Back at hospital for an ultrasound scan. Not easily accomplished given MW’s lack of mobility but we get there. They find a small clot in her calf but it’s not in a deep vein area, and there’s nothing above the knee – which would give greater cause for concern. Dodged a clot-sized bullet. A DVT can travel up the body and can be dangerous if it reaches the lungs. Fatally so. I’m no expert and I ain’t going to Google the damn thing but I’m content with what the Dr said. Actually, the Dr was very soothing when delivering the news to us.
I’d noticed that MW was very, very nervous about it all. I comforted her (well, I think I did) by saying that it’d been caught before anything dangerous occurred, she’d not displayed any of the symptoms that would tell us that the clot had moved, etc, etc. Although I don’t know who I was trying to convince. Her, looking pretty scared at the whole thing? And who could blame her? Or me, who was chewing himself up for not acting sooner. It’s hard work trying to give practical care and emotional support at the same time, while you’re shitting yourself at the responsibility of it all. Fuck knows how MW copes with it all in her head. She’s the one experiencing all these symptoms, and relying on me and others to make sure she’s not at risk. I know she relies on me and trusts me. I guess I’m scared of making a mistake and putting her in danger.
Anyhow, MW’s to have daily injections of a clot-busting drug for 6 weeks. She decided against taking Warfarin orally. That was a scary prospect too far, I guess. Plus she didn’t fancy having regular blood tests at hospital.
It’s made me think that I’m treading a fine line between being alert and being on-edge. There’s no way around it. I’ve just got to learn which to be and when.