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Unexpected Illness + Life Update

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Sometimes life doesn’t go as expected. You may have wondered where I disappeared to – or not, but whether you noticed my lack of posting and email over the last few weeks or not – It’s been a good five months since I was active online.

I turned 47 years old in November 2022, but at the beginning of August (2022) I had no idea how sick I was about to become. I had noticed earlier in the summer that hiking was harder than it ought to be. I felt weak hiking up hill. Hannah and I went on a hike in North Georgia back in April and I still remember thinking, “Man I shouldn’t be this out of shape!”

And then in June I went on a longer 7-mile hike with my daughter Sarah and thought the same thing. I try to stay fairly active and hiking is a favorite pastime of mine and it just didn’t make sense to me.

I don’t generally share much about my private life publicly, but I did want to briefly talk about what I went through over the last few months. I’ve always been a heavy bleeder. My monthly cycles are terrible and I’ve suffered from menorrhagia for as long as I can remember – probably all of my adult life.

Earlier, in March, I’d had an extra period which means my hemoglobin was probably getting low in June and it didn’t occur to me until much later that that was why I was feeling winded and out of shape. I was actually anemic.

So in mid-August, I started my period – only it wasn’t like a normal period and I was immediately concerned. However, I didn’t go to the doctor until about two weeks later when I started feeling like I was going to pass out just from picking my camera up or from walking up a short flight of stairs.

My kids became very worried and no one wanted me to drive the car anymore – with good reason. I was lightheaded and felt weak. I finally saw the doctor after I had been bleeding for about 21 days and my hemoglobin was very low. I needed a blood transfusion, but since my hemoglobin was not at critical levels yet and I did not have health insurance, I decided to forgo the transfusion as I did not want a hospital bill. Not ideal, but if you’ve ever been in a situation like that, you probably get it.

I bled for a total of 30 days before it finally stopped. My doctor ordered ultrasounds and other lab work and I was told I had an enlarged uterus and thickened lining (three times as big and thick as it should have been), they found a few fibroid tumors, polyps, and an ovarian cyst.

By this point, after having been bleeding for 30 days, it was hard for me to do much more than lay in bed. Some days it was hard to hold my head up and I felt really really bad. I was miserable. My strength was just gone.

My doctor decided to try treating me with progesterone to help my uterus shed the lining and hopefully shed the polyps as well so that my next period wouldn’t be as bad. I took the progesterone for 10 days – she told me to expect more heavy bleeding and warned me that I may need to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion if it was too bad.

Unfortunately, the progesterone did nothing. So after the first round was finished she decided we would try again. On the 3 or 4th day of my second round, my dad ended up in ICU down in Atlanta, Georgia. He had a number of issues, including a tear in his aorta and without even thinking about it, I jumped in the car by myself and raced down to Atlanta from my home in Kentucky. It’s about a 7-hour drive and it’s not unusual for me to make long drives like that – I do it often.

My precious parents praying while my dad was in the hospital.

The next morning I woke up at my parent’s house and noticed a pain in my upper calf, just behind my knee but I didn’t give it much thought as I drove my mom back to Atlanta to the hospital to visit my dad for the day. As the day wore on, the pain in my leg continued to bother me and I tried stretching and massaging it softly, but nothing would make the pain go away. And, in fact, by evening it was hurting even more and I began to worry I had a blood clot in my leg.

It was hurting so bad the next morning that I told my mom I needed to go home and go to the doctor even though I wanted so much to stay and see my dad in the hospital and help my parents at home. So, I jumped back in the car and drove the 7 hours back home. I will say that this was not the best way to handle the situation, but I didn’t have health insurance and I didn’t want to be in the hospital 7 hours away from home.

I had more than one anxiety attack on that drive back home because my this point I couldn’t put weight on my leg and was it hurting so bad. I didn’t know much about blood clots except that you can die if it breaks off and goes to your lungs. My husband met me about an hour outside of Harlan and drove me to see my doctor during the office’s after-hours and she told me to go straight to the ER.

So, by this point, it’s mid October, and I’m still weak from all the bleeding, and I was now in the hospital ER. They ordered an ultrasound of my leg and didn’t find a blood clot (DVT) but I was in excruciating pain and just barely touching my leg was terribly painful. They ordered a CT scan and a few other tests – the blood test indicated a blot clot, but the CT scan showed nothing.

The ER doctor told me they were going to send me home with some suggestions about managing the pain since it was probably just a strained muscle. But I knew – I was positive – I had a blood clot and I asked them to redo the ultrasound explaining that I had almost all the symptoms and it was my opinion that the tech did not scan the right part of my leg.

I asked them to redo the ultrasound.

Thankfully, the ER doctor listened and when the shift changed at midnight and a new tech came in, they ordered another ultrasound. This new lady was so good and so patient – she spent 45 minutes looking for the clot and finally found it behind my knee.

I was admitted to the hospital and they began treating me with blood thinners for the DVT. I couldn’t walk without pain and I was very weak, but within a couple of weeks of me going back home, the pain eased and I slowly started to feel a little stronger. I skipped my period that month and that definitely helped my body build up more blood that I desperately needed.

As you can imagine, being on blood thinners when you are having excessive uterine bleeding is not ideal. And I would have to be on blood thinners for at least three months. As my doctor said more than once, “We’re between a rock and a hard place.”

She decided to send me to a hematologist because back in 1999 I was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand’s disease and she wanted to get more information on how to help me. The other treatment options she had considered to stop the bleeding were now off the table because of the blood clot.

She couldn’t give me medicine to help me stop bleeding because it would make my blood clot. I couldn’t have surgery because of the risk of bleeding from the blood thinners. I couldn’t come off the blood thinner because of the risk of the blood clot breaking loose.

When I went to see the hematologist on November 21, my hemoglobin had risen considerably and I was feeling stronger. My hemoglobin was at about 11.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I was doing better. I was able to cook and clean my house again after months of being too weak to do much more than lay in bed and watch YouTube or Netflix – and if you know me, I rarely watch television. I really like to be up and busy!

I finally started bleeding again on December 10. I had driven down to the Chattanooga area (about a 4-hour drive) for a few days to take Christmas photos of my daughter Laura with her horse, Theo, (you can see the album of photos here.) and to spend time with my four daughters who live in the area. I started bleeding the night I arrived (Saturday).

Only this time, the bleeding was even worse – most likely because I was on blood thinners. For the next four days, I basically hemorrhaged. Without going into a lot of detail, I was bleeding A LOT. And by the time I drove back home on Tuesday, I was weak and feeling terrible.

On Wednesday, I went to see my doctor to have my hemoglobin checked. Two hours later I was on my way to finish up my Christmas shopping (I’ll tell that story later) when the doctor called to tell me to go straight to the ER for a blood transfusion. My hemoglobin was at 6.9.

I was so frustrated, it was almost Christmas, and I had things I wanted to get done before the ice storm hit on Thursday night (Christmas was on Sunday). My first thought was, I’ll just get my errands done and then go to the hospital (I can be stubborn), but then Laura called me and asked me to go immediately to the ER.

So I listened and turned around. By the time I got to the ER my hemoglobin was 6.5 and an hour later it was at 6.0. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t wait to go to the ER. They admitted me and gave me 2 blood transfusions before morning.

If you know me, you know I love Christmas. But even more than that, I love making Christmas special for the people I love. I bemoaned the fact that I was in the hospital four days before Christmas with an ice storm moving in and I hadn’t finished my Christmas shopping. I mean, I didn’t start my shopping until December and I hadn’t been feeling well so when I was shopping I was moving pretty slowly.

I just wanted to go home.

I heard these words repeatedly from the hospitalist who was in charge of my blood clot during my hospital stay, “We’re between a rock and a hard place.”

He said things like, “We’re going to take you off the blood thinners for now because your risk of dying from bleeding to death or having organ failure is greater than your risk of dying from the blood clot right now.”

And then when they had me stable he said, “Your risk of dying from the blood clot is now greater than your risk of dying from the blood loss.” So they put me back on the blood thinners.

I was so thankful when they sent me home the next day. My hemoglobin was at 9.7 after the transfusions. My husband drove me down to meet my daughter Laura in Knoxville so I could finish my Christmas shopping as soon as I was discharged. I still felt terrible and I wasn’t able to do much – but I was able to do what I needed to do so that I could make sure each of my 4 grandchildren (we have custody of them) would have a good Christmas.

Christmas was wonderful. I didn’t bake anything – I usually serve tons of baked goodies and meals to my family over the course of the holiday. My kids wrapped all the presents for me because I was too weak and still bleeding. But I was home and with my family, and I was alive, and I had so much to be thankful for.

Christmas morning it was hard for me to even stir the eggs for the breakfast casserole I made for breakfast (yes my kids would have cooked for me – but I wanted to do it and I’m stubborn). And by early afternoon I was in bed and I stayed there for the next few days until Wednesday, one week after my last hospital stay, I went in for another check on my hemoglobin. I was back at 6.5 hemoglobin having dropped from 9.7 or 10 when I left the hospital on the Thursday before. (Normal for women is 11- 12).

My doctor told me to go to the hospital and tell them I needed to be immediately transferred to the UK hospital in Lexington, KY because our small town hospital just did not have the blood and platelets needed to treat me for emergency surgery – and they wanted me to have emergency surgery.

I did what she said and she even called ahead to let them know what she wanted but, instead of transferring me out, they admitted me to the hospital again. I was given two more blood transfusions and told that the accepting physician in Lexington did not think my case was enough of an emergency for them to accept me.

The next morning (Thursday) my doctor came to see me and said that she was going to try again. She called Lexington and pleaded my case. This time, they agreed. I was transferred by ambulance at 8:00 pm to make the 3-hour drive to the UK hospital. The doctors got to work on my case immediately. Everyone was so kind.

I was able to get a shower around 2am and felt so much better on Friday when I woke up. It’s amazing how being clean helps lift your spirits!

But by this point my veins were tired and every time they had to stick me, they couldn’t get a vein to give up blood. I ended up having every vein stuck – including below my thumbs, my wrists, the back of my arms, etc. I already had the 2 IVs in each elbow, and before surgery, they needed more blood, They couldn’t get a good vein so they brought in an ultrasound machine and a special tech who used the ultrasound machine to guide a third IV into a vein deep in my arm so he could draw the needed blood with a syringe. It was traumatic lol. I was stressed and very glad when they gave me something to knock me out.

On Friday afternoon, I had a surgical procedure that will hopefully keep me from bleeding excessively again – although time will tell. I am very hopeful.

In the photos below you can see my meal of ice chips before surgery, how I felt after surgery, and the BBQ dinner they brought me at 6:00 pm after almost 24 hours of no food. When I saw it, I burst into tears – I’m vegetarian and I was exhausted and emotional and hungry.

The nurse felt so bad, they wrangled up this beautiful fruit plate and vegetarian dinner for me. 🙂

You can also see some of my grandkids helping pick me up from the hospital on Saturday evening plus some of the sweet notes they wrote on my get well cards. 🙂

It’s been a week since the procedure. I’ve had no more bleeding since. I have dealt with weakness, nausea, and dizziness since the procedure and I have spent most of my time this week resting and trying to recover. I’m still on blood thinners but hopefully, in a few weeks, the DVT will have resolved itself. If you actually read all of this, you’re a trooper. It’s been a long five months. But I’m so grateful to be on the road to recovery and I’m looking forward to being healthy and strong in 2023.

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36 Comments

  1. Wow!! Thankful that you had a Dr. that kept pushing for you. Its so hard as moms to put ourselves first (even medically). I had ITP and when your numbers are down you feel it. Praying this is resolved completely now!
  2. I am so sorry for your health issues. I know what it is like to not have health insurance and need to go to the hospital. I will pray for continued healing and for God to resolve the medical bills for you. Thank you for opening up to your audiance... I also pray that it will speak to the person/persons that God needed to reach. Lisa PS.... I read it all the way through!
  3. Oh my goodness Melissa, you have been through a very difficult time. I thank the Lord that you are doing better, and I am praying for you to be completely healed.
  4. Wow, Melissa…you have been through so much! Yes, you have been missed! Yes, I read through your entire post. : ) I was wondering just the other day about your posts, or lack thereof. I’ve been a follower of yours for a couple years now, incorporating your posts into my quiet time. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve suffered from heavy bleeding, but not nearly as you have. Women need to know there is help out there for them. Perhaps you will help other women with similar issues. Thank you for your ministry and outreach to all of us in your community. You are a blessing! Here’s to a new year of health!
  5. First and foremost, I'm glad you're OK. Secondly, just something to think about - I hope you consider sharing your story to encourage blood donors. I have 2 children with Sickle Cell Disease. Many people with Sickle Cell depend on regular blood transfusions to live and prevent complications like stroke (their hemoglobin is often 7-8 on a good day). However, when you receive chronic transfusions, the blood has to matched on a much deeper, more molecular level, and often you will find your best match with someone who has a similar ancestry. Since Sickle Cell Disease is common among the malaria belt, it mostly affects people of African, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean decent, which are all ethnicities grossly under-represented in the donor pool. I have watched as friends had to wait days on end to find 1 bag of blood that they matched, that had to be flown in from across the country! You are blessed that you were able to receive so many blood products, in a large part because of your ancestry. January is Blood Donor Awareness Month and I think your story would be an amazing testimony to encourage others to consider donating blood and saving lives.
  6. Bless you friend. I am so glad you are on the mending side of things. Thank you for sharing your story, you never know who needs to hear the testimony. Praying over you and yours.
  7. I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling so terrible and had such health struggles. You are a bright beacon and I pray you are back to full strength soon!
  8. Oh my goodness!!! I have been wondering where you were! Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. I am praying for a full recovery ❤️‍. What craziness!!! May God continue to give you strength and rest.
  9. WOW ! Yes, I was wondering where you went. I've been following you for a couple of years. Your teaching is what helped me get back to church. Love using the Sermon Notes. Started Bible study in 2021 and use your Bible Notes as well. (received a lot of compliments on how pretty the are) You also helped me get organized in a lot of areas of my life. You certainly did have some challenging times. Praise the Lord for your good doctor and a good outcome. THAT YOU ARE ALIVE !! Thank you Jesus. Thank you for sharing. I also believe that your story will encourage more blood donation. God bless you Melissa. Stay strong in your faith and never ever stop believing. I love you and pray for your complete recovery.
  10. Happy Strong and Healthy New Year to you. Continue to heal and smile. I’m sending you and your family extra hugs, smiles and prayers.
  11. Praise be to the Good Lord for bringing you through this horrible trial. I am so glad that you are improving and will keep you on my prayer list as you go through your future medical ordeal. So much of your story hits home but I won't go into details, only say that WE need to do what needs to be done before WE end up like your story but I have a feeling that WE won't . Like you, I was stubborn but have made it through. God bless you and keep you.
  12. I am sorry to hear of your health struggles, I had wondered why there were no posts. Praying for you and for your issues to be resolved without further problems!
  13. HUGS!!! You are a strong woman. I am so glad you pushed for the second ultrasound and that they believed in you. (And being a vegetarian, myself, I totally get that food dilemma. Ugh.) May God continue to restore you this 2023.
  14. Thank the LORD God Almighty for restoration and your continual recovery. God's plans are for our good. This experience is and wiill be a testimony to His grace and mercy. You will be in my prayers!
  15. Sending healing prayers!!! Thank you for sharing your story. It helps us all put things in perspective when we hear stories of what others are dealing with! Wow you went through so much and yet you still have your drive to help and love others. You are so amazing and such an inspiration! God Bless You and thank you for all you do!
  16. Melissa, Omg! your story sounds very similar to my health scare 3.5 years ago but adding to the story I was pregnant with my son!As I lay in my hospital bed in tears waiting to start my heparin trying to take in all the bad news of the dvt an angel appeared an reminded me that God was with me and he loved me and that everything was going to be alright!I immediately changed my tears to confidence and even the doctors were amazed when I told them yes I know things look bad but everything is going to be alright! Through it all my baby and I made it! Lashun is now almost 4 years old and he is a wonderful energetic happy toddler who keeps me on my feet . I now know it was all part of God's plan!I'm still on blood thinners Xarelto. Every day I thank God and count my blessings! Mellissa I can only tell you to trust God through your healing and to believe that everything will be alright with you as well! ,Sow down and allow God's miracle workers to take care of you! Consider getting a leg lounge that you could order online it really helped speed the process for me as my blood clot resolved!!!Praise God ! Happy New Year and take care!Many blessings to you,Kind regards , Kari
  17. So sorry you’ve been dealing with all those issues! Praying for your healing. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” Psalm 103:2-3
  18. Melissa, I’m so glad you’re on the mend now. Praise God! I’m glad you pushed for the 2nd ultrasound on your leg. Looking forward to hearing from you soon, make sure you rest :) Happy New Year to you and your family!
  19. Ohh what a journey it’s been for you and your family. I’d been wondering about you but it makes sense now. May God grant you a speedy and total healing in Jesus name. Our God is faithful. Wishing you a wonderful 2023
  20. So sorry you have gone through all that, but praise God that He brought you through!!! Praying for complete recovery for you!
    1. Definitely. I'm sure I'll share more as time goes on, but I was often reminded of the story in Bible of the woman with the issue of blood and how hard it much have been for her. I also felt very humbled receiving life giving blood and it reminded me of Jesus giving His blood so that we might have everlasting life. I also learned sometimes you just have to rest even if you don't want to - our bodies need adequate time to heal from illness.
  21. Thank you for your story. It had yo be so hard on you and your family. You still somehow took time to get things for your grandkids who you have custody of. They look so handsome and adorable and blessed to have you as their custodian. And you are so blessed to have them, such sweet cards written from them. Praying for your complete recovery.
  22. I've enjoyed your emails and info for years. My prayers are with you! And I'm in hopes you are on the mend. <3 Maggie
  23. Wow! I'm so sorry for your whole ordeal. I'll be praying for you and your family. Hopefully this year will be better.
  24. Hi, I'm a new reader from Australia. What an ordeal! It's so strange to think that something could be so wrong with your body, and just because you don't have insurance, that you would just not go to hospital and get it sorted before it blows out into a life-threatening situation. That aside, how are you going now?
  25. Sounds like a terrible ordeal, but God is so good!!! May I ask why you do not have health insurance? My sister passed away 2 months ago bc she did not have health insurance and she didn’t have the money to get the help she needed. Her infection got really bad and she became septic. Isn’t there a group insurance company for ministers? Vicky R.
    1. It was just a matter of me being self-employed, making "too much money" according to health care .gov and my husband being a pastor with no health coverage. So the government said we made too much, but in reality with all of our expenses and health care being so expensive, it just wasn't working out for me. I don't understand it all. I had doctors tell me I should just quit my job (writing here at A Virtuous Woman) but I really did not want to do that. So we're just doing the best we can with the bills. It's complicated but I think we've finally got it worked out and I have health insurance now - now that I'm on the mend and not needing to see the doctor... ;)

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