One month out of the hospital (Post Pulmonary Embolism)

It is one month out of the hospital for me since my Pulmonary Embolism.

*does a little dance and gets winded*

It's going to be a loooooong time before I feel like my old self again. But I'm making progress every day. Or at least I think I'm making progress every day.

time heals all wounds

For the first few weeks I had very tangible evidence that I was making progress. My chest, lungs and ribs hurt just a little bit less every day. I went from a week sleeping almost completely upright to sleeping at 60 degrees to sleeping at 45 degrees to finally being able to just use a pillow like the good old days. Coughing slowly hurt less, laughing slowly hurt less, and life became more manageable.

Hell, I even stopped taking my stupid Percocet after the first week. It's beyond me how someone wants to take that stuff for recreation. That stuff melts my damn soul away. No thank you.

For those that have been following along with my Youtube videos, you know I've been walking now for three weeks. The first week was really exciting. The second week has seen me settle into a daily routine. The third week has me already desperately wishing I could actually run or ride or swim. And for those of you who are just reading about my PEs for the first time you can check out the progression of my posts over the last month and change with post one and post two.

I REALLY miss real exercise.

But, I fully understand I need to take this crazy slow. People spend months in the hospital and even die from PEs so I should keep my mouth shut and carry on like a good patient.

Post-PE doctors visits

I've met with my hematologist and had another few appointments with my Pulmonologist in the last few weeks. All appointments have gone well and I've been following their advice as prescribed. It always comes with a a healthy dose of take it slow.

I learned a great deal while meeting with my Hematologist too. Here's the run down:

  1. A lot of PE's come from internal complications from a major accident or surgery (and the resulting inactivity) and they typically start in your legs (there is no evidence of this for me).
  2. A lot of PEs also happen due to fluctuating estrogen levels, like taking birth control or after the birth of a child (totally not me).
  3. Then a good catch-all category of PEs happen due to genetic factors or family history (nope, still doesn't apply to me as far as we can tell).
  4. Some people get lucky and PEs just show up for no definable reason (ding, ding, ding, winner!).

Soooo what does opening door #4 mean for me?

  1. I'm on blood thinners indefinitely because without them I have a minimum 30-40% chance of another blood clot in the next five years. This applies to the moment I stop taking the thinner, at any point in my life. Lifestyle factors at any point in my life can increase this percentage.
  2. If I stay on blood thinners #4life I only have a 4% chance of blood clots.
  3. I guess I'm on the 150mg 2x daily train #4life.

clot free veins
And this is what the veins in my lungs are supposed to look like.

What happened with my clots?

I've still got them. If I don't have all of them I certainly still have most of them. My body is slowly working with them though so I'm able to function at some portion of my previous self. If my walking "workouts" are any indication of what's currently going on in my lungs... I've still got a looooong way to go.

There is the real possibility that some of the clots will hang out forever. I'll lose that part of my lungs for good. I'm hoping my persistent exercise will help get enough blood pumping through my heart and lungs to break these bad boys up though.

And you're probably thinking, "but you're on blood thinners, don't those help break things up"? No, they don't. They only help stop new ones from forming. And why didn't I have invasive surgery in the hospital to destroy all the clots? Because I'm too young and too healthy (I was told). The damage done from the "blasting" wouldn't be worth it. They thought a strapping young lad like myself could pick myself up by the boot straps and work through the clott-i-ness. So here's to these fuckers moving on out in the next few months!

Nick Brodnicki
A picture of me after TriRock Philly years ago when I made my lungs work REALLY hard

Will my lungs ever function at 100% again?

Dear jebus I'm going to try to make them. I don't think I can handle a life without competition in endurance sports. I might not be able to compete at the elite level anymore but I'm sure as hell going to try. I have no idea how long it'll take for me to work through all of this too. It can take people multiple years. Actually, the majority of people who experience what I experienced don't typically live the same life ever again.

There is an incredibly high rate of some sort of heart failure, significant loss of cardiovascular capability, and lose of overall capacity for anything.

So I'm going to keep walking and exercising because if I just force enough blood through my lungs that'll be my natural-blaster-path for destroying these clots. The logic works for me...

What's next

Hopefully some running and riding in the coming few weeks. I've added stairs and short runs to my daily workout routine already because I feel like I can handle that now. I've got some great post-recovery goals brewing and I need to start running if to make them happen!

Today is a good day!

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Nick Brodnicki

March 16, 2021