What do you get when you combine a six hour flight to Oceana, a seven hour drive to BWI, a nine hour flight to Ramstein and a 12 hour bus ride to Vicenza?
Well, Lady Cat 6 (me) doesn’t know what you get, but I got to play the deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and multiple pulmonary embolisms game, with a week in a Greek hospital as a bonus prize! But the hospital is next week’s tale; this post is all about the fun of getting a DVT.
This past fall, my Sponsor and I embarked upon a slog from the west coast to visit friends in Greece. Sometimes you have to go where you have to go to get where you want to go, hence the Oceana flight and drive to BWI. We planned to hop to Ramstein, then travel through Italy to the ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa, GR, and on to Larisa, where our friends live.
The Ramstein flight was one of those contract airline planes so many Cat 6-ers seem to inexplicably love: a 747 jammed solid with passengers straining the very rivets of the outer skin. I was wedged into the middle seat of the middle row, with two passengers elbowing for space to my right, and Sponsor to my left leaning into the aisle in a desperate attempt to get a few extra inches of room. I literally could not get out of my seat without disturbing the slumbering soldier reclined in the seat in front of me with his head resting in my lap. We were Tetris pieces– once locked down, there was no moving.
By the time we arrived at Ramstein, I was having some difficulty breathing, which I chalked it up to an asthma flare-up. I also thought I had pulled a calf muscle from being crammed into my seat for so long. Just to be sure that’s what it was, though, we stopped in to the clinic on base at Ramstein after the walk to our room left me completely out of breath and my heart racing like a Belmont contender straining for the finish line. The nurse on duty was concerned enough to suggest I go to the ER. We took cab over to Landstuhl Hospital. After a perfunctory medical history and a few extraneous questions, I spent a couple of hours taking nebulizer treatments, was given a handful of emergency inhalers, and sent on my merry way.
The next morning, we boarded the medevac shuttle bus (as space a passengers, not medical patients) that runs from Ramstein to Vicenza, Italy. It’s a 12 hour ride, with three rest stops along the way. I noticed the calf muscle was not improving – in fact, it felt slightly MORE painful than it had the day before. The asthma flare-up continued, despite liberal use of inhalers.
By the time we got to the ferry the following day, my leg was killing me, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack running to catch the boat. Our train, being Italian, was late, and we were literally the last passengers to board, as the lines were being cast off.
The next evening at our hotel, feeling worse than ever, I became curious about one of the “extraneous” questions I had been asked when I checked into the ER (“Do you have a history of DVT?” No, I did not.), and decided to Google the symptoms. I read the most common signs: Pain in the calf that feels like cramping or soreness – Oh, sh*t. Swelling in the leg – Oh, Sh*t! Redness and tenderness – OH, SH*t! Shortness of breath – OH, SH*T! I had every one of them!
I knew I needed to get to a doctor, fast, but I was in GREECE.