Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Too Many Doctors in the Mix

There is a small, orange pill on the market that does a jam up job as a blood thinner called Plavix. It's a shame I wasn't on it at the time of my stroke or I might have been delayed my family history catching up to me. I had been on it for years prior to too many doctors in the mix. Here goes my story...

In 1998, my blood tests came back with cause for concern. I had a very high red blood cell count. So I was diagnosed with erythrocytosis (uh-rith-roh-sie-TOE-sis). A big word meaning high red blood cell count. I was put on Plavix to thin my blood because I was allergic to aspirin. Considering all the chemo I had received during my cancer treatments, I thought this was good news, but it wasn't. Now my bone marrow was producing too many of them. My blood was clotting too fast. I had, in fact, thick blood.
I was in the third vial category.

Fast forward to 2000. It was a Jo massive trouble year with my heart attack blowing out two valves in my heart and damage to the muscle. Not to mention an abnormal pap smear leading to a hysterectomy, bladder and bowel resection thanks to five tumors in my lower abdomen, AND an abnormal mammogram leading to the diagnosis of breast cancer. Yeppers, it was a red letter year of huge medical expenses and surgeries. A good thing I decided to retire starting in January that year. I wouldn't have had time to work.

If I had not already been on Plavix, the cardiac surgeon who put in the stent in my Left Coronary Artery (LCA)would have. He also told me that my "thick" blood shouldn't be a problem anymore since he fixed the artery carrying oxygenated blood to the heart. If I had no further problems with high red blood cells, I could come off the Plavix in five years. The thinking at the time was five years and has now been extended to ten years, but none of my doctors knew that.

Fast forward again to 2006. After having reconstructive surgery on my breasts after the previous cancer, I didn't expect to have to go through it all again. I did, but this time I opted for radiation treatments. To heck with reconstructive surgery afterwards.

After I'd beaten the BIG C for the fourth time, I started to have issues with my bowels. I got a referral for an internist. He read over my chart carefully and decided I needed a colonoscopy. If you've never done this prep be's bad! After it was over, the good news about no polyps, and I was in his office again he was deciding what to do. He wanted me to take prescription strength Prilosec. Two capsules would equal six over the counter capsules.

There was just one problem. Prilosec was contraindicated with Plavix. He saw that it was over five years since my heart cath with no problems other than a very irregular EKG and I was on medication for ventricular fibrillation. He stopped the Plavix so he could treat me for gastric reflux and irritable bowel syndrome.

My cardiologist wasn't really happy about this six months later, but all my blood work looked good except for my cholesterol being high. I'd tried statins to lower my cholesterol, but developed severe leg and abdominal cramping. Heredity was at fault because of my Germanic heritage. The statins were stopped. She put me on six capsules of triple omega capsules a day and a strict meatless diet. Still my cholesterol was almost 300.

Very slowly over the next six years my erythrocytosis returned. My cholesterol levels still weren't great but they were the best they were going to get without statins. A bad genetic heritage led up to my stroke in 2012.  A small clot formed in my heart and went to my brain. The GERD and irritable bowel medication was stopped and I was put on Plavix again.

Now my stomach burns while the doctors search for a medicine I can take to counteract the problem while being on Plavix, because I won't come off it again. I can't take the chance. I never venture far from home unless I know where the restrooms are. It's like those commercials for Crohn's disease, except I don't have Crohn's. So if you see me making a bee line for the bathroom, don't stop me to chat.

I should buy stock in Tums, but can't. The good news is there is no sign of fragile bones or osteoporosis on my latest bone density scan. All that extra calcium is being put to good use. And, I don't get gassy like I do when I take the oyster shell calcium supplements.

So for now, I take my Plavix each and every day. Who knows the next stroke, I may not survive another day to keep fighting.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. Jo, it's a puzzle when we get to meds, isn't it? I'm on the borderline of osteoporosis, but have to take inhaled steroids for my asthma and allergies. That thins my bones. So, the choice is keep breathing and be careful not to fall. ;-P



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