Saturday, July 25, 2015

Of Curve Balls and Such

Curve ball: (n) slang. Something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive, usually unpleasant.

I have long thought that my history of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism were to blame for my hearing loss. Even though my otologist deemed my case idiopathic, I've never been fully satisfied with that explanation.

I lost my hearing suddenly one week, and the following week, I was diagnosed with a fully obstructive pelvic blood clot. I don't consider it to be random or circumstantial, in spite of what my doctors have told me. Hearing loss has been attributed to a loss of blood flow to the inner ear. And the loss of blood flow created by the obstructive thrombus was silently working in my body well before I knew of its presence in my leg the following week. It's too coincidental for me to think they are not related.

What I didn't expect was that the chronic deep vein thrombosis I have dealt with for many years was exacting an irreversible toll on other parts of my body, as well.

Summers are for resting. Swimming, vacations, sports, and play. Sitting in the office of a cardiologist wasn't exactly on my list of things to do this summer, but I found myself there several times as he searched for answers to a heart issue that arose almost as suddenly as my hearing loss. The sudden symptoms mimicked a pulmonary embolism -- the racing palpitations and breathlessness and tightness across my sternum -- and in spite of the filter deep inside my inferior vena cava, I am acutely aware that blood clots can still slip past this protective barrier and enter my heart and lungs.

But the CT scan of my lungs revealed no clots. It's another curve ball.

The cardiologist immediately focused on my heart problem as a symptom rather than a condition. Atrial flutter, enlarged atria, and premature ventricular contraction (PVC) are symptomatic of a greater health issue, he told me. Blood studies, ultrasounds, echograms, a Holter monitor, and a DNA test were ordered and medications prescribed to relieve the symptoms. He firmly believed my heart had been damaged by my DVTs -- those silent, invisible killers that form in the deep veins of both of my legs.

My diagnosis of chronic deep vein insufficiency was no surprise. When my doctor explained that the condition is linked to a recessive, genetic factor that causes DVT, it wasn't an earth-shattering revelation. I'd long suspected it. The surprise was how dramatic its effect on my body has been. I wasn't prepared for the words, "It's a progressive disorder." It can be managed and slowed, but ultimately, it will progress and worsen, he told me.

I'd heard those words before. "It's a progressive disorder." They'd been used to describe my Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss almost three years ago. It was a curve ball that altered my life considerably.

And now I'm thrown another. We caught this one fairly early -- before significant damage to my heart had occurred. But it's left me questioning and contemplating those awful "what-ifs" again. And it's left me a little sad. My new medications line my counter top and my online searches now include fashionable compression stocking wear. This is not the future I had predicted for myself. Not at all.

Life throws us curve balls. I seem to have my share of them. It's not, so much, the curve ball itself that surprises us, but the disappointment that our expectations have not been fulfilled. Curve balls force us to duck or dodge, and alter our game plan yet again. Maybe there's a greater plan in play. I don't know. 

But I'm still in the batters' box. And I'm swinging away. Who knows where the ball will land.

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