How I Developed Chronic Pain

In order to really share my story with you, I need to go back to 2003. That’s when things really changed in our lives. My husband and I were happily married, I was pregnant with our fifth child and while we struggled financially, we were happy and grateful for our blessings.

In April of that year, I gave birth to a tiny, yet healthy baby girl, but I was not well. I had been feeling like something was wrong since February, but the doctors had ignored my concerns and even after I gave birth, they sent me home the next day with a fever and an inability to move my right leg (even though I hadn’t had anesthesia). Over the next few days, I returned to the ER several times, only to be sent away with antibiotics, instructions to rest, pain meds, etc. Nothing was helping and I felt like I was dying. I was in excruciating pain and I had fevers fluctuating up to 105 degrees. Finally, a week after Hannah was born and much persistence on my part that something was wrong, I was diagnosed with two blood clots – on my ovarian vein and renal vein.

Once I was admitted to the hospital, things only got worse after the doctors administered Heparin, which it turns out I’m allergic to. By the time they stopped the Heparin, I actually had clots in my femoral veins, iliac veins, ovarian vein, renal vein, and my inferior vena cava, among others. It was devastating. At that point I couldn’t walk and my doctor actually told my husband and me to call our family and friends from out of town because he did not expect me to make it more than a couple more days. They could not get the clotting to stop and blood has to flow in order for a person to live. As a last resort, he also suggested that they transfer me to a hospital in another state where a specialist might save my life.

We spent the next few weeks fighting for my life. The specialist managed to keep me alive. He treated the hyperactive clotting as a blood cancer and with a blood chemotherapy he was able to get the clotting to go into “remission,” for lack of a better description.

My life had been spared, but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. When I finally came home from the hospital, I had a 7-yr-old, 5-yr-old, 3-yr-old, 2-yr-old and newborn to care for, but I could no longer walk, I was literally in constant pain and I had begun to suffer from migraines due to the blood thinner they had me on at the time.

It took me over 18 months to learn to walk again. At first I used a wheelchair and then a walker. I tried as much as possible to walk on my own, but it was incredibly painful. I was trying to force blood to flow in areas that had been blocked off for so long.

Not only was this process horrendously painful, but it was also emotionally draining. My life had been forever changed. I had a family to care for, but oftentimes they were caring more for me than I for them. Over the next ten years, I just focused on trying to regain my health and help my blood flow well.

2014 – This is a photo of where I have had clots. Most of the ones below my waist have calcified so they are actually still there. I grew collateral veins to create blood flow so that’s the only reason I’m alive and walking.

All the red veins have been clotted. Most of the ones below my waist still have calcified clots in them, but fortunately I grew collateral veins so that’s how I received blood flow when I was trying to learn to walk again. I actually have 3 inferior vena cavas because the one I was born with clotted completely when Hannah was born. The second clotted a few years ago. When I’m in a lot of pain or frustrated about my weight, etc., I try to remember that I am fortunate just to be alive.

2018 Update:

I wrote this post several years ago for the sake of being able to share the story with people without having to actually write it repeatedly. It’s still difficult for me emotionally to talk about it because I do live with daily reminders of how this has impacted my life. With that said, these days I have much to be grateful for! I am walking well. I exercise regularly, eat well and enjoy life. I love my husband and children and we’re blessed to know what a treasure it is to be in one another’s presence. I try to focus on these things rather than the pain or the loss.

I hope my story has been of some encouragement to you.

 

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Hovenweep National Monument – July 15, 2016

We enjoyed the trail at Hovenweep. We did the entire trail, which I think was 2.5 miles with the extra loop. You can do a shorter version of the trail and see most all the ruins just as well, but we wanted to climb down into the canyon. For the entire trail, you go down into the canyon and back out on the other side. It’s a beautiful hike, but there is quite a bit of climbing.

The ruins here were neat, but I think I enjoyed the wildlife on this trail most. We saw a long-nosed spotted leopard lizard, a collared lizard, several birds and a rabbit. It is a nice wildlife walk.

For anyone reading this who might be trying to decide where to visit, I will add that the road leading to Hovenweep isn’t the best. It is paved, but it’s old paving and it has a lot of potholes. With that said, you can always go around the holes or even drive in the middle of the road (which I did and the car behind me followed) because there is barely anyone out there. I think it’s around 24 miles from the turnoff to the monument, but that 24 miles took us about an hour. It seems to go on just forever. We cranked up the music and just enjoyed the drive. It’s pretty; it’s just long.

The rangers at the museum were very nice and there is a great short film to watch about the area. We always watch the films when they’re available. It gives you a much better perspective on the history of the monument or park.

 

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I've never seen one. It was beautiful!

I believe this is a long-nosed leopard lizard. I’ve never seen one. It was beautiful!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

This is a nice shot of the little long-nosed spotted leopard lizard. He (or she) was so cute!

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This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It's a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

This is the other side of the canyon. If you do the whole trail, you have to hike down and then back up, then around. It’s a nice hike with some fun climbing. Definitely strenuous.

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Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Beginning of the Hovenweep Trail.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Reading about Castle House at Hovenweep.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

Boulder House. You almost have to look twice to realize there was actually a house inside this giant boulder.

One of the ruins.

One of the ruins.

Mesa Verde National Park – Thursday, July 14

This is the first real chance I’ve had to relax. We decided to do our Mesa Verde tours today and then come back to the campsite to relax this evening. That gives us a chance to do laundry, eat a nice meal, catch up on news, etc.

We saw an ermine today. That’s a short-tailed weasel in case you didn’t know! (Don’t fret. I didn’t either.) It was incredibly cute and ran right by our campground. Speaking of that, this morning Hannah and I went to shower around 6:00 a.m. and there was a mule deer right outside our tent.

Today we did a 9:00 tour of Balcony House. This involved climbing a 30-foot ladder, going through a tiny tunnel, standing on the edge of a precipitous cliff, etc. It’s considered the most harrowing of the cliff dwelling tours. I overcame my fear of heights to enjoy this experience with Daniel and Hannah. It was great.

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This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn't get a photo of that one.

This is one of the tunnels you have to go to for access to Balcony House. There is another where you have to crawl on your hands and knees, but I didn’t get a photo of that one.

 

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus "Balcony House." :)

This is a nice, wide balcony on another house, thus “Balcony House.” 🙂

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You'd have a very wide view.

I was trying to show what you can see from the canyon here if you sat on the balcony. You’d have a very wide view.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you'd be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

You can see the balcony at the top of this little dwelling. If you were to sit on it, you’d be able to see up and down the entire canyon.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

If you look toward the middle, left of this photo, you can see the impression of soot on the roof where there used to be another rectangular dwelling here.

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A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

A view from beginning of Balcony House tour.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

This was our tour guide for the Balcony House tour. She did a great job.

After Balcony House, we toured the museum on Chapin Mesa, found some bee sting relief for Hannah from a ranger and ate a wonderful lunch out of our van. (Hannah was wearing a bright yellow shirt and a bumble bee got tangled in her hair. It stung her arm and is pretty swollen still.)

Following lunch, we drove around Mesa Top for a bit and then took our last tour – Cliff House. This is actually the one Chris and I did with the kids in 2007 when we visited here. I really began to feel my leg hurt on this one. It’s still bright red from sunburn and it’s swollen, but it’s not excruciating so it must be ok. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow. I’m taking blood thinners so there’s really nothing else we can do. I just have to be careful about the high elevation hikes because it keeps swelling when I go up in elevation. I just want to see everything and do these hikes, though. I can live with a little pain to see these amazing places.

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A view of one of the houses from Mesa Top Loop. You can’t see it well, but you can see that there was building within the alcove, which I think is neat.

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Our first view of Cliff Palace. It’s amazing that these ruins have survived 800 years.

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There are even buildings and granaries in the tiny slots at the top of the alcoves.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Our experience of the Great Sand Dunes can pretty much be summed up in two words:  mosquitoes and sand. With that said, we’ve also had some neat experiences. We camped on the dunes last night (Tuesday, July 12). It took about an hour and a half to hike to a camping spot. That is NOT fun in the sand. We were also hiking to a much higher elevation and I began to feel a little sick again so when we finally made it to a camping spot, I basically laid there for the rest of the evening. We also had a misunderstanding about the sunscreen so we didn’t have any and we hiked out across the DESERT at 2:30 in the afternoon with no sunscreen, hats, sunglasses or windbreakers… The three of us are completely red from sunburn, windburn and tiny little particles of sand that beat against our shins the entire time we were hiking. We look a little bit like lobsters.

On the positive side, we did see two sets of bear tracks near the creek (about 1/2 a mile away from where we camped). We’ve also seen a coyote, lots of mule deer, elk, a few Peregrine Falcons… I really enjoy the variety of wildlife here.

Today we packed up camp around 5:30 – 6:00 a.m. and left the dunes. Our first stop was the Walgreens in a nearby town to buy lip balm for our very chapped lips.

 

Hannah presents the entrance.

Hannah presents the entrance.

A view of Medano Creek as you enter Great Sand Dunes.

A view of Medano Creek as you enter Great Sand Dunes.

First view of the dunes.

First view of the dunes.

Another nice view as you enter the park.

Another nice view as you enter the park.

The mosquitoes were eating us alive. You can't see it here, but Daniel has about 100 around him.

The mosquitoes were eating us alive. You can’t see it here, but Daniel has about 100 around him.

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These were beautiful trees along the trail. I believe they are aspen trees.

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View from Mosca Pass Trail

View from Mosca Pass Trail

Mosca Pass view

Mosca Pass view

Panoramic view from Mosca Pass Trail.

Panoramic view from Mosca Pass Trail.

Flowers on the Mosca Pass Trail

Flowers on the Mosca Pass Trail

Taos, New Mexico

We hadn’t planned to stay the night here, but Hannah wanted to visit art galleries and we also discovered that we needed to slow down a bit. We were traveling to higher elevations quickly and ended up with High Altitude Sickness. It was HORRIBLE. I ended up having to visit a doctor in Taos. She gave me steroids, which did help, and although I had been drinking plenty of water, she said we also needed electrolytes. I hadn’t thought of that because my brain had been oxygen deprived and I couldn’t really think at all!

Here are some photos from Taos:

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church

This church is over 200 years old. It was very beautiful.

This church is over 200 years old. It was very beautiful.

Here's a link about the church if you'd like more information. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/San_Francisco_de_Assisi_Mission_Church.html

Here’s a link about the church if you’d like more information. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/San_Francisco_de_Assisi_Mission_Church.html

Bandelier National Monument (Los Alamos, New Mexico)

This place is awesome! We’ve hiked about six miles today. (Yes, I went slowly and drank plenty of water…) It was truly an amazing experience to see the Native American dwellings, walk through the canyon, listen to the wind whistling through the crevices in the rock walls…  I can see why the ancient people who lived here cherished it so much.

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I don't know if you can tell in this photo, but my legs are swollen. After about 3 miles of hiking, I actually had to put my right leg up on a rock and let the kids go up into the Alcove House alone.

I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but my legs are swollen. After about 3 miles of hiking, I actually had to put my right leg up on a rock and let the kids go up into the Alcove House alone.

I love this photo of Daniel and Hannah together.

I love this photo of Daniel and Hannah together.

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Even the burnt pines look beautiful. It exaggerated their natural beautiful colors.

Even the burnt pines look beautiful. It exaggerated their natural beautiful colors.

 

This is where we were going. Our goal was to hike to the Alcove House at the top of this giant cliff. You can't see it yet in this photo.

This is where we were going. Our goal was to hike to the Alcove House at the top of this giant cliff. You can’t see it yet in this photo.

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Here it just looks like Daniel and Hannah are climbing ladders, but check out the zoomed out photo.

Here it just looks like Daniel and Hannah are climbing ladders, but check out the zoomed out photo.

This is the photo of where Daniel and Hannah were on the cliff. It really gives you perspective for how high up they climbed. I sat in the canyon with my leg propped up, trying to reduce the swelling.

This is the photo of where Daniel and Hannah were on the cliff. It really gives you perspective for how high up they climbed. I sat in the canyon with my leg propped up, trying to reduce the swelling.

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This photo is for my mom. We saw a rattlesnake and really wanted to make sure you saw it, too!

This photo is for my mom. We saw a rattlesnake and really wanted to make sure you saw it, too!

Daniel wanted to pet the snake, but he decided against it...

Daniel wanted to pet the snake, but he decided against it…

And... he slithered away. We were literally about 3 feet from this rattlesnake. He was about 4 feet long. Amazing sight.

And… he slithered away. We were literally about 3 feet from this rattlesnake. He was about 4 feet long. Amazing sight.