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34 Centimeters, Baby!

By Dave Fox
Seattle 

I was talking with my friend Darbi on the phone yesterday. She asked me how my fractured foot was doing.

“Oh, fine,” I said. “Except that it sometimes gets tingly, and swells up really bad at night, and my calf feels like it is going to explode. I think I pulled a muscle from hobbling around on crutches.”

“No! No! No!” said Darbi, who is very knowledgeable about medical stuff. “I think you have a blood clot and are going to die! You must call your doctor immediately!”

I am, of course, taking a little bit of poetic license here. She did not mention the death part. But in my hypochondriacal mind, I embellished.

I called my podiatrist and talked to him on the phone. “It doesn’t sound like a blood clot. I think your fine. But if you want to come in, I have an appointment available at 3:30.”

At 3:30, Dr. Y. prodded my leg, told me I was young and in reasonably good health, and was not “a good candidate” for a blood clot. He then measured the circumference of my calf, which you will be excited to know is a whopping 34 centimeters. Thirty-four centimeters! Dude! That’s like more than 12 inches!

I felt secretly proud.

“I think you just pulled a muscle,” Said Dr. Y. “But if you’d feel better, we can order an ultrasound.”

“Well, no,” I said. “I mean, if you don’t think it’s necessary.”

That’s when he got the deer-in-the-headlights, fear-of-malpractice-lawsuit look in his eyes.

“I think you should get tested,” he said.

I could tell the test was highly unnecessary.

“Look,” I said, “I know there are no guarantees, but if you think it’s really not likely, I don’t really need to….”

“I would hate for you to be the one-in-a-million exception,” he said.

So this morning, I went off to the hospital, where a nice lady told me to lay on a stretcher while she slathered warm gel all over my  calf, which, by the way, has a circumference of 34 centimeters. She then started the ultrasound procedure. I watched the screen closely as she scanned from  vein to vein. It was cool to see the inside of my leg, though I was terrified that she might announce, “Mr. Fox, I have delightful news! It’s a boy!”

Once she got down to the ouchy part of my leg, she started scanning back and forth, over and over, mumbling something about a computer problem.

“Are you sure it’s the computer and not my leg?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “It’s the computer.”

But it turned out the computer was just fine. “Unfortunately,” she told me as she was finishing up, “you do have a deep vein thrombosis.”

“What exactly does that mean?” I asked.

“You are going to die.”

That is not exactly what she said. What she said was more along the lines of, “If you do not calm down right away, I will have to call security, and/or slap you.”

Four hours later, I was at a new doctor’s office. He gave me two options for treating my blood clot. Option one involved injecting myself with blood thinner medication twice daily for several days, and then jabbing myself with more needles and drawing my own blood twice daily to ensure that the medicine that would save my life was not, in fact, killing me.

Option two involved popping an aspirin.

I chose the aspirin route, which is less likely to save my life, though Dr. A. reassured me that as long as I monitor the clot in my 34-centimeter calf with frequent ultrasound treatments, to ensure that it has not taken a road trip up into my lung, that I will be fine.

Published on Thursday, November 15, 2007

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