At no point of this process did I think I would have thoughts that my life may be at risk. I tore my Achilles tendon and had it surgically repaired, no big deal in the scheme of health issues. However, after visiting my surgeon for a regular review 6 weeks post op, and him suggesting he won’t call me an ambulance provided I go straight back to hospital, I would be lying if my mortality hadn’t become quite real. And with a wife and children at home, that was an incredibly scary experience.
On the Friday morning of the 3rd of August, I woke up with significant pain in the calf. And having increased my activity, at first I thought I had just done too much in a day. But across the course of the day, the pain got significantly worse, I developed some swelling behind my knee and it was quite hot. Luckily being a health professional I understood what this might be, and I was off to the hospital to see if I had developed a DVT, or a clot in my leg. This was confirmed later that night and I was sent home after an injection to come back in the morning to have an ultrasound to find out where it is and come up with a plan, with the one warning, to come straight back if I developed chest pain.
The next morning I headed back to hospital to have my ultrasound, feeling pretty comfortable with this latest bump in the road. However, as I sat waiting for my ultrasound, I started to develop the chest pain, and soon after shortness of breath. I advised the team at the hospital and they did some blood tests and some other brief tests and sent me home as where my clot was highly unlikely to have broken off and gone anywhere else in my body (obvious concern being my heart and lungs). They put the chest pain down to anxiety with the process.
I then proceeded to head down to watch my team’s first final and provide some support. During the second quarter I felt my phone start ringing over and over in my pocket. I handed it to Nicole (my wife) and asked her to answer it. One of my blood tests had come back suggesting something was potentially damaging my heart, among other potential things and I was to come back the next day to have further tests. But as the chest pain only got worse I headed back on the Saturday night. After spending all day Sunday there and a few more tests completed, this time seeing the cardiologist, I was again cleared to go home with a diagnosis of inflammation of the lining of my heart (pericarditis), which should settle over the course of a few days.
A few days past and on Thursday the 9th of August I headed back to my surgeon, Otis Wang. The chest pain and shortness of breath seemed to have only gotten worse, despite being on medication and was due for a regular review of how my Achilles was going. It didn’t take long for Otis to make up his mind on what to focus on and he was on the phone to colleagues to get their opinion of what may be happening with my chest, and before I knew it, they were organising me a hospital bed. The concern he showed for me was something that stuck with me and made the urgency of returning to hospital very apparent. So back I went. However, after 3 more days, and a bunch more tests to clear everything that could be life threatening I was again able to go home, this time with the piece of mind of how thoroughly I was investigated and looked after. They were still unsure of what may have caused it, and I was now to be followed up outside of the hospital, so at least I could head home and resume life as normal while it is figured out.
My symptoms have improved significantly and I have started feeling like myself again over the past few days. And as scary as the past couple of weeks were, sometimes getting to experience those brief flashes of your mortality makes you question why you do what you do with your time and so what you do with the days you have. It sounds cliché but it has motivated me to make the most of the time I have and so has made the past couple of weeks quite fulfilling.
I was also able to remove my boot and start to walk around in shoes! Which has also meant that I am able to drive again! After nearly 2 months I am able to walk to my car in a shoe and drive myself to where I need to go. No more calling on friends and family to be my Uber (thanks Leigh, Nikki, Mel and obviously Nicole!). The independence feels amazing. I still need to wear the moon boot at times, when I am in the gym at Rise, or at the MCG etc. but to not have to wear it all the time is amazing. I have really come to appreciate the little things. Taking a shower without wrapping a leg in garbage bags and hanging it out the door, driving myself around, sleeping with nothing on my foot, I am starting to get my life back.
I have even started to see a few more patients at work. Obviously my demonstrations aren’t great but I get the message across. It’s inspiring to get back to doing what I love. Helping empower people to improve their health, instead of worrying so much about my own. I feel like I am starting to turn the corner and it is amazing.