The not so glamorous side of travel

Hey all! I’ve been back in the USA recently for a conference and general work. It was a bit of a madhouse whirlwind journey, with a quick visit home to MN, then hopping across the country making a few industry contacts.

I had kind of a crazy trip. Right before I left, my bank notified me of some “unusual activity” on my credit card. My number had been stolen (likely through some online purchase of all the stuffy I was booking in preparation for my trip – hotels, rental car, flights and the like)! Luckily, they were able to overnight me a new card just before I left.

Well, I was in the USA for all of 1 day before I lost the new credit card (and my NZ drivers license). They just fell out of my wallet and it my horribly jet-lagged state I didn’t notice. Luckily there weren’t any hiccups on the rest of the trip.  I am becoming very predictable in my old age and managed to take in 2 art musuems (Raleigh and Portland – Raleigh had an excellent MC Escher exhibit on!), eat a lot of bagels, eat chipotle once (D isn’t really a fan so it was good I was on my own), and visit several shopping malls and Target.

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Sculptures at the North Carolina Art Museum

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I loved this one – it looks like folded fabric

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I had my first American Halloween since 2006 and I must say I loved all the decorations and sheer spectacle of it all!

One of the biggest highlights for me was spending a few days in Portland, OR.  It was my first time visiting, and it didn’t disappoint.  I took the MAX everywhere (so cheap!).  It was awesome to go to a city that I always thought I would really love, and have it pretty much live up to the expectation.  The only real downer to Portland was all of the homeless people around.  But I also know this is common in many cities – just not really ones that I’ve ever lived in (I’m looking at you, Dunedin).  Now, if only I could find a job there!

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Washington Park in Portland was amazing. So big, beautiful and quiet! Almost no one was there both times I visited. I couldn’t quite believe how I nearly had the place to myself.

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I had to visit Powell’s city of books on behalf of D. I wished he could have come with me. He would have loved Portland!

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The Portland Art Museum was really fabulous. A wonderful and bizarre collection of Modern art was definitely a highlight.

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So much art! So little time.

I arrived back to NZ this past Sunday. At about 3:30 am on Thursday, I woke up with leg pain. A leg cramp maybe? My first thought was “oh crap – DVT.” I did a bit of online research and decided to go back to sleep because it was the middle of the night and though DVT is serious, I probably wouldn’t die just yet. I woke up at 6:30 and my leg was still sore. After having a shower I measured my calves and my right calf was 1″ more than my left – so it did appear that there was some swelling even though I wasn’t showing any other DVT signs (apart from pain). I informed D that he’d need to drop me off at A&E (NZ ER) on the way to work so I could get checked out.  I was feeling a little hypochondriac-ish, but better safe than sorry, right?

Here’s what worried me that it could DVT:

  1. Pain in the calf like a cramp but didn’t go away
  2. Swelling
  3. Pain was centered near the back of the calf (muscle soreness is usually to the sides)
  4. Only 1 leg was sore
  5. I’d recently been on a long-haul flight
  6. I take oral birth control pills (which can put you at risk for DVT)

In A&E, the first person I spoke to said “well, your leg doesn’t look swollen”. I already felt a bit silly coming in for “leg pain” but I assured him I had measured it and it was swollen and I’d just been on a long haul flight. Luckily once I was seen by a nurse and Dr, all was well as the Dr assured me that the 3 cm difference between my calves that he measured was well outside the range of normal and they would be doing blood tests and a leg scan.

So lots of waiting around (so thankful I had the foresight to bring along a book), having my blood drawn and I was off to the leg scan about 90 min after arriving at A&E. Leg ultrasound was pretty interesting (gooey). I “got” to wear a hospital gown and spent about 45 min having my veins looked at. The top of the leg was great. The bottom of the leg… the technician stopped chatting to me. This was the point where they found blood clots in my calf, and had another tech come in to verify.

Wow. So I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t think that DVT could happen to me (typical, eh?  But I’ll admit it.  I really didn’t think I was at risk). I try to really look after myself on those long flights – comfy clothes, drink water, I never drink alcohol, I don’t take sleeping pills, I try to walk around a bit and do a few leg exercises. I even carry those anti-bacterial wipes and wipe down the tray table and anything else I might touch because I hate getting sick when I travel.  But clearly I was a bit slack on my last flight in terms of activity, and also I was wearing jeans which was maybe a mistake.

So now I get to wear a compression sock on my leg for the next 6-12 weeks (just as we’re going into warm weather here in the southern hemisphere – lucky me!). I also get to give myself subcutaneous abdominal injections for 5 days, then start 12 weeks of anti-coagulents. And I have to spend the next few weeks taking things easy. 😦  And of course there is 12 weeks of making sure I don’t get any cuts, bruises or head injuries.

I think there are a number of lessons here to be learned which I’d like to share so that none of you have to go through what I’m going through.

  • DVT can happen to anyone – regardless of perceived health!!  Is it more common than we think?  I suspect maybe.
  • Don’t ignore warning signs – trust your body.  You know when something is wrong even if it might seem trivial – “oh it’s just leg pain” can really be a serious condition.  You don’t want your DVT to turn into a PE (when the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs or heart).
  • Take care of yourself when you fly.  Wear compression socks and loose clothing.  Drink plenty of water and get up and move around.  Too bad about the person sitting on the aisle – you’re doing them a favor as they should get up and move around too!

The upside is that this happened in NZ and not the USA (I shudder to think).  I spent 5 hours in the hospital, had several rounds of blood tests, an ultrasound of my leg, lunch and my injections were free (the hospital just gives them to you because they “are so expensive”).  I had to pay $40 NZD for the compression socks (a pair), and $5 for my anti-coagulants.  Thank you, NZ public health system.  I can’t imagine having to worry not only about the fact that I have to inject myself for the next 5 days with a big ass syringe (did I mention I abhor needles?), a blod clot possibly breaking off and travelling to my heart or lungs, AND also how much the visit would cost me.

So there you go.  I think the next wee while could have some very interesting fashion choices now that I’ve got this wonderful compression stocking to wear (so that last post where you I was rocking the bare legs?  Yeah, so ironic).  Feel free to suggest awesome ways to style a single, knee high compression sock.  At least they gave me a black one, right?  Because black goes with everything!

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One thought on “The not so glamorous side of travel

  1. Wow, dude! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’ve been on a few long flights (Japan, Amsterdam, Costa Rica) and have as of yet to experience anything like that, which is surprising, because I have a tendency to usually stay put once I’m in my seat. Now, I know that’s a really bad thing to do! I’m so glad you’re going to be OK and yes, thank goodness you weren’t in the U.S. when that happened. Our health care system isn’t exactly the best or the most affordable.

    – Anna

    http://www.melodicthriftychic.com

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