I nearly died once. Actually, that’s not true. I nearly died quite a few times. The time I crashed a motorcycle, the time I walked into the middle of an Israeli Defence Forces ambush – and don’t even start me on the bullshit behind that name – or the time I jumped onto some railway tracks to rescue someone. Or the more fundamentally stupid time I jumped onto Tube tracks to rescue my hat. Or the time a friend and I got a lift in what we still call the Blue Mazda Truck, whose driver steered up Limpley Stoke hill st 70mph, steering with his knees while he rolled a cigarette, laughing to himself.
Or the time I actually saw a bullet ricocheting towards me and somehow in that slowtime of big accidents skewing how time goes had the time to reason that if I could see it then it was heading toward me and moved and heard it spin through the air by my ear. Ok, that one probably wouldn’t have killed me. It probably wouldn’t have done my eye much good either.
Stuff, you know? Stuff. Everyone has stuff. It’s what you have.
The time I nearly died for four years I was reminded about this week. Someone I sort of know a bit on Facebook (as in we’ve PM chatted but not met) broke a leg in a minor accident. All well. She didn’t fall outside and get left in the snow or drowned in the floods or anything like that. She posted pictures of her cast and what a bore and never mind.
The next thing she knew was the elephant sitting on her chest. Or that’s how she described pulmonary thrombosis, the result of a deep vein thrombosis springing itself loose and going on a wander around your body. The “get well soon”s and “have a glass of wine and sit down” didn’t seem to cover it.
Having a glass of wine is good way of killing yourself if you’re on warfarin, probably the most common emergency anti-coagulant. Except it’s not. A good way of killing yourself would involve things being quick and painless and clean, rather than the long-term cold and pain and messily massive haemorrhaging that screwing-up with your warfarin dose usually brings.
I knew about deep vein thromboses because I had five of them. They took four years out of my life thanks to a series of doctors at Leiston surgery in Suffolk who refused point blank to do a blood test that would have cost about 80p, let alone refer me for a scan. Which would have told them exactly what I told them: I was doing a lot of long haul flights. I’d had the word thrombosis in my head since I was fourteen. I don’t know why. Nobody in my family had had one.
I kept getting sudden skewering pain that dropped me to my knees and five minutes later I was fine. Except I wasn’t. For some reason I couldn’t fathom I’d often, or if not often then regularly vomit for no reason I could see, but associated with the stabbing pain attacks. I felt cold all the time. My pelvis ached and I didn’t want to move. I felt colder and older and slower and sadder, feeling that I was dying. For the simple reason that I was.
DVT is massively serious. Your blood stops flowing. It clots because it’s not flowing. That’s bad enough. If the clot breaks away from where it formed it goes first to your lungs, where apart from being excruciatingly painful it can kill you. If it moves on from there it will go to your heart. Quite often it goes through your heart but gets stuck the other side, so your heart will be happily and very soon unhappily pumping blood into a blocked artery until it literally bursts or gives up wasting its time. If that doesn’t happen your clot will continue its way to your brain and block a blood vessel there, which means if you survive that you might have to learn how to talk again and eat with a plastic spoon. You might want to have a think about whether you actually do want to survive and do all that again. And leave some written instructions for your next of kin, somewhere they can find it in a hurry.
There is nothing good about DVT. In the same way there is nothing good about a Suffolk health service which refuses to even acknowledge DVT as an issue. It should be obvious to anyone that someone with a broken leg is a major DVT risk candidate. In France they’d get an anti-coagulant jab as a precaution. But not here. That would cost about £2 a day. Far cheaper to wait until you have a proper bill for treating a pulmonary embolism. Or the person just quietly dies and stops bothering the doctor, the way the government and some clinicians would apparently prefer.