In the early 1920s, there was an outbreak of a previously unrecognized cattle disease in the northern United States and Canada. Cattle were hemorrhaging after minor procedures, and on some occasions, spontaneously. For example, 21 out of 22 cows died after de-horning, and 12 out of 25 bulls died after castration.* All of these animals had bled to death… [It was] determined that the cattle were ingesting moldy silage made from sweet clover.
* I’m not sure exactly what constitutes a “minor procedure” but we won’t argue that now.
The chemical cause of these deaths was determined in the 1930s: an anti-coagulant called dicoumarol. By mid-century, it had been modified into a form commonly known as Warfarin, and marketed as rat poison. Warfarin and similar compounds are still popular today as rodenticides.
And it’s helping to protect my life.
Seven years ago, I developed a blood clot in my leg. No idea why. It’s not typical for someone younger than thirty to get a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) without some good cause. If you are a medically trained person, you’ll probably know all of the questions to ask, but believe me – I’ve been asked them all multiple times. Even multiples of multiple times.
I was in the hospital for three days and took medication for six months after that. And that was that. A fluke in my medical history.
Until this past week.
I noticed the pain in my leg before we left for Laurelville last Wednesday. I tried to discount it – I’ve had pain off and on in that leg for seven years. Lingering damage from the blood clot. It usually showed up when I was active (jogging or long walks) and was never real severe. It usually didn’t last longer than a day and usually much less than that. But last week, you might have guessed that this was not a typical pain, even if I tried to downplay it. The fact that I bought a bottle of aspirin before we left would tip you off: aspirin is a pain killer and a blood thinner. In the back of my mind, I was slightly worried.
Nevertheless, we were off to Laurelville. And by the middle of the weekend, I was pretty sure I had another blood clot. (It’s an interesting coincidence that seven years ago, I was also at Laurelville walking around in pain.) On Saturday, I predicted to Ordinary Spouse that I was going to be treated by Monday. On our way home on Sunday, she clarified for me: “You are going to call your doctor when we get home. You aren’t waiting until Monday.”
And that is how I found myself in the emergency room Sunday night, followed by my first ever ride in an ambulance**, and then three nights in my “$1000 per night hotel room”. I was immediately treated with heparin to keep the clot from getting any larger and to allow my body to start dissolving what wasn’t meant to be there. Pain killers also helped. (Seven years ago, I experienced the worst pain that I’ve ever had. This time around, the pain helped me to know what was happening early. Hence, it didn’t get to the same level of severity.)
** It wasn’t an emergency ride. I was just being transported. No lights were flashing on my behalf.
I’m out of the hospital again – discharged Wednesday afternoon. But since the doctors still don’t know the cause of these clots, I also need to be treated long-term with a blood thinner in order to keep other clots from forming. And that blood thinner is…