Dec. 30, 2019
On Christmas Day, I went to the emergency room with pain in my left chest and trouble breathing. After a series of scans and blood tests, the doctors concluded I had a blood clot in my left lung. Officially it's called a pulmonary embolism.
"So I won't be going home tonight?" I asked.
The doctor's serious, I-know-more-than-you look on his face answered the question.
Apparently a pulmonary embolism is serious. Each year 60,0000 - 100,000 people die from it and it calls for lifestyle changes and regular monitoring. Oh Chauncely, please fetch my luggage and bring it to my room, we're going to be here for awhile.
Since checking in, I've been plucked, prodded, CT-scanned, MRI-ed, ultrasounded, medicated, IVed, examined. It's a little more than my family and I wanted for Christmas. I'm not home yet, but hoping to go home soon, once my INR number reaches 2.5. The INR is how fast the blood clots and through blood thinners, they're raising mine, which at last check was 1.4.
But this experience hasn't been all bad. Here are 10 good things about my blood clot:
Now my grandma and I are on the same blood thinner, which will open up hours of fun conversations about coumadin like which celebrities are probably on it, our pet names for the cute pink pill, and our favorite references in pop culture. Doesn't Taylor Swift sing about it?
For years Colette has been trying to get me to eat kale and collard greens. But that train has left the station, baby. Dark green leafy vegetables that are high in Vitamin K actually thicken blood. So now I have a doctor's excuse to avoid such foods, which I will waive proudly should these veggies make an appearance at the dinner table.
This year I was in four developing countries--Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines. Although I love being in these countries, I prefer having a medical episode in the US. The clot may have started on a long overseas flight, but I'm glad it surfaced on US soil.
This was the first Christmas in seven years that we didn't travel. I could have clotted in the Magic Kingdom or on a cruise ship, but thankfully it happened at home. While Mickey Mouse would have been a nice visitor, I would have grown weary of his squeaky voice and his big clumsy shoes knocking over my IV pole every five minutes. Being at our local hospital is much better for my local family and friends and should I need extra underwear, it can be easily retrieved from my drawer.
Thank God the clot ended up in my left lung rather than my heart or brain. That could have been much worse. What's good about the lung, so say the doctors, is that it's like a tree with branches. The clot travels up the trunk and has to break off into branches, reducing the size of the clot.
When you're on your back gasping for air, there's not much you can do to help yourself. That moment comes and goes, but you've still got a clot in your lung, a dangerously thick level of blood that can still clot, a wife and kids at home, etc. Pretty quickly you realize you have to ask for help. For someone who is pretty capable (in some areas) and who supports a certain number of people, it's good for me to let go and let others help me.
Facing a life-threatening episode, laying on my back for hours, undergoing new tests, feeling pain I've never felt before, and facing such unpredictability that vanquishes a sense of control over my life, has reminded me of my life's real work--to abide in Christ. John 15:5 says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit." My real purpose is to remain in Christ; everything else is just details.
A few days before the clot happened, I said to a couple of guys I'm mentoring: "God is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He works all things for the good of those who love Him. Know what this means? We can't lose, we can only win." When I shared this, I had no idea it would minister to me a few days hence. This clot has restored my trust that God is indeed working for my good through unlimited love, unlimited power, and unlimited knowledge.
I "knew" people loved me and my family, but this clot has provided a tangible, taste-and-see, sight-and-sound, immersive experience. I don't just "know" it now, I've encountered it. We've experienced such amazing love through prayers, texts, emails, FaceTimes, visits, meals, playtimes with kids, flowers, calls, Facebook comments and likes, and emoticons from around the world. We are deeply loved. Thank you.
Facing one's own mortality changes things. I want to live on purpose, live from my priorities rather than other people's, manage my time so my days matter more, take more worthwhile risks, make sure people know what they mean to me, reduce the potential for regrets, enjoy where I'm at and what I'm doing, say no more often and say yes less often, do what I'm good at, drink of life, drink of love, now that I've tasted death.
This clot has taken a toll on me, my family, and others, but I'm convinced that it will, if we let it, deliver unto us life that we didn't see coming.