By the time we landed back in Canada and were about an hour’s drive left from home I knew I needed to go straight to the ER. That is how my amazing trip to Peru ended. Crying in the car wondering what the heck bit me and what was going to be the treatment, cause at that point in time I wanted my leg removed, just take it off, kinda pain.
Let me rewind back a few days for you. We were day 2, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, my dream trip. We were not in the tip-top shape we had hoped to be in before making this hike. We took our time and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I had never felt more accomplished. However, I did make many jokes to Sam about my knee pain. Stating things like “if I didn’t have knee problems before, I sure do now”. I remember focusing on using my non-dominate knee more the third day as my right knee just ached and ached. I drowned the pain with Advil and muscle cream at night and kept marching on.
Once the hike was over and we were nestled back into a hotel room I commented to Sam and Meg about how terrible I had been bitten and that one spot seemed to be super (and I mean SUPER ) inflamed, hot and swollen. It was also really sore to touch. I took some Benadryl and dosed my leg in essential oils trying to calm the bite and get some sleep. We flew back to Lima the next morning. That same evening we were headed back to Canada, and my knee was getting worse. Sam kept saying we should go have it looked at, but I refused, as we were catching our flight home that same night and I just wanted to get home, as I was concerned that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix.
When we arrived at the hospital Monday night they said two things. They were going to test for a blot clot, and if that was a negative result, then I was going to infectious disease. I wasn’t sure which situation was better. The test was positive, and I was given pain management meds and a needle to the tummy and sent home, with instructions to return tomorrow (Tuesday) for an ultrasound.
The Ultrasound (Which was very painful) confirmed that it was a clot, and it was in the superficial veins, where all the nerve ending are, which is also why there was so much pain. I was sent home with instructions to follow up with my family Dr and to return if things were to get worse. Superficial clots are usually fought by the body, either they are absorbed or they turn into scar tissue, but are not a huge concern as they are common clots. The problem worsens when a clot makes its way into the deep vein system. Friday things were worse. I had my dear friend drive me to the hospital, Sam came and met me there. I had another ultrasound that confirmed the clot had travelled up into my thigh. The ER Dr told me to come back on Tuesday unless it worsened, and gave me a second needle to the stomach of blood thinners and sent me home.
I returned on Tuesday, had another ultrasound. The clot had now entered the deep system and was now a larger concern. I was put on blood thinners (which doesn’t treat the clot, blood thinners reduce the bloods ability to clot) and referred me to a Hematologist. When I met with the Hematologist, she said the Friday ER Dr did the right thing by scheduling me to come back on the following Tuesday. She ordered blood work and kept me on the blood thinners. After several visits with her and the results of the blood test, I found out that I have Factor V Leiden mutation in my genes. People with this mutation have a 5% risk of developing an abnormal clot by the age of 65 (lucky me, I was 41). My hematologist told me this clot did not occur because of the plane ride, or the elevation, or that we were once again “weekend warriors” pushing our bodies to perform out of our comfort zone.
It has almost been 6 months. I am still on blood thinners and may have to be for the rest of my days. I will keep seeing my Hematologist and figuring out the next steps. I can still travel (and have) and exercise has become more important to me as I try to help push the blood through my leg. My deep vein thrombosis (yes, the diagnosis) does bother me still. It aches, I have a stupid varicose vein that really bothers me, my lower leg turns ugly with blue/purple colours when I work out. I now have a fun variety of compression socks that I wear to make my calf more comfortable. I am working hard on increasing my body health, watching what I eat, getting more exercise, and resting more. I am lucky that it didn’t travel to or occur in my lungs, that I was able to get home to a speedy treatment and that it didn’t alter how I spent my time in Peru.
I am grateful my clot appeared as it did. It has made me focus on the important, living a healthy and full life right now.
I shared this ugly travel story with you to inform you, to stress how important medical travel insurance can be and to listen to your body better than I did.