As a nearlywed, it is easy to get caught up in the details of planning The Perfect Day. Everyone reminds you of how it's your special day, that your wedding day is the best day ever. You've created a magical color palette, designed the most unique favors that your guests will forget to take, found the perfect table runners, tasted all the cake, chosen your bridesmaids, their dresses, your dress...THE DRESS. Oh, and your future spouse, that person with whom you will spend the rest of your life. In sickness and in health.
The Perfect Day will go by in an instant. You will smile so much your face hurts. You will reach for the hand of your new spouse as though you've never held their hand before, and off you will go into a honeymoon or a mini-moon. You are so wedded and it is so bliss.
I've been there, just a little over a year ago. I'm here to say that it is still blissful. But there will be a moment following your wedding day where you will realize that You. Are. Married. Married for real and that no perfect dress or perfect cake or perfect honeymoon matters more than the person who is beside you. I'll tell you the moment that I went from wedded to married in the hope that it may save your life.
About six weeks into my own wedded bliss, I was getting ready for work when I suddenly couldn't support my weight on my left leg. I stood at the sink, flamingo-style, with a puzzled look on my face reflected in the mirror. When I was again able to walk, I hobbled to the bedroom doorway and told Husband that I couldn't support myself on my left leg and oh, also, we were having dinner with my Boof and her family after work. "Boof" is the phonetic pronunciation of BFF. Boof will make an appearance under blogs about Awesome Matrons of Honor and People You Won't Want to Punch in the Throat During Wedding Planning.
Husband said that I should have a doctor look at my leg, but I'm doctor-averse. Maybe it was only a pulled calf muscle, maybe it was hurting because I'd been awakened by painful cramps in the same calf a couple of nights. I headed to work at my new job, a place I loved and at which I had been employed all of 25 days.
That day I was unable to focus on the work on my desk. Normally, I was energized at the office because I loved the place and the people and every part of my job. But that day I felt as though I was looking through fog and nothing was making sense. I was distracted by what had become incredible pain in my now-swollen leg. I decided to take a rare lunch break and go to the store to mail a package to my new mother-in-law, who was hospitalized.
I remember leaving the store and how it seemed that my car was a football field away. I wasn't sure if I could actually walk to my car because I was in so much pain. But walk I did, only to find that I'd forgotten my keys in the store. I walked back, nearly in tears, and retraced my steps through the aisles. I have a high pain tolerance and I thought that I might pass out from the walking before I finally retrieved my keys and headed back to work.
After a few hours, I decided I should ice my leg, so I went home and promptly fell asleep so deeply that I didn't hear Husband come home to wake me. He looked at my leg in alarm because it was dotted with red spots and was noticeably larger and warmer than my right leg. He begged me to go to the doctor, but I wanted to see Boof and there were chips and salsa ahead. Besides, in the back of my mind I rationalized that if something were critically wrong with me, I wanted to spend my last meal with two of the most important people in my world.
After dinner, Husband wanted to take me to urgent care, but I wanted to sleep and promised I would go to the doctor in the morning. In the morning. I shudder now to wonder if there would have been a morning for me. Undeterred, Husband grabbed his iPad to login to an online doctor. The doctor asked me a few questions about medication. Had I taken a flight recently? Yes, two trips. Do I have a desk job? Mostly yes. Do I have shortness of breath? Yes. I was instructed to hand the iPad to Husband and I heard the doctor say, "Take your wife to the emergency room now. She may have a blood clot."
According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, someone dies from a blood clot every six minutes. In the time it takes to read this blog, someone has lost their life to this silent killer. Sometimes the symptoms are ignored until it is too late, as it almost was in our situation. Some common symptoms of blood clots include:
Shortness of breath. I ignored this and attributed it to asthma.
A lingering cough. I had started to have a deep and painful cough, but again assumed that it was due to asthma.
Exhaustion. Well, I was a newlywed and I had started a new job shortly after our recent wedding. Life was changing rapidly for us, but maybe I just needed a nap?
Pain in calf. I'd been awakened by excruciating pain in my left calf on numerous occasions and hadn't had a "Charlie horse" since childhood. I figured it was maybe a pulled muscle or the effects of wearing high heels to my new job.
After hours of waiting and blood tests and ultrasounds to confirm the e-diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in my leg and a saddle embolism in my lungs, I was admitted to the cardiac unit early in the morning. Husband had to go home to take care of Dogson, and I was finally out of pain and toward being on the mend with Dilaudid and anti-coagulants. Husband put a cool hand on my forehead and leaned over to kiss me goodnight. That's when I heard the click.
A dull but distinct sound. Click. I looked over and saw the now-familiar wedding ring on his hand, clicking as he grasped the railing. Click. Not the click of a camera shutter on a wedding day. Clink. Not the end of a champagne toast to the bride and groom. Click. It was that sound that resonated with me more than any other on our wedding day. I looked up into the face of the person for whom I would trade my life, and I. Was. Married.
In that moment, I was no longer a new bride. I was a wife who was frightened to leave her husband with no one to care for him. The day before we watched our wedding video (again) and sorted through the wedding day photos that had arrived in the mail. But now we were simply wife and husband, loved and beloved, one of us hiding fear better than the other. All I could think of from that cold hospital bed was who would take care of my husband if I weren't here?
I had little to worry about. Husband brought gadgets so that I could watch movies or play our wedding video for the many visitors who came by. It was a strange feeling to be wearing a hospital gown while seeing myself recently dressed in a wedding gown; I had traded bejeweled shoes for compression socks. I was hospitalized for a week while the pulmonary embolism was stabilized, and the nurses ultimately had to put a sign on the door with a visitor time limit. This steady group of friends and family would take care of Husband if something happened to me. They would be there to remind him that he and his wife, well...clicked.
It's been a little over a year now since that revelation, and it has been confirmed a thousand times that I married the very best person for me. I finish up my daily regimen of anti-coagulants next week, after finally getting an all-clear from blood clots last month. There have been more married moments, usually while I'm folding Husband's laundry which still hasn't almost practically lost its charm, or when I see him fixing something around the house like a boss. Your wedded to married moment, that real, quiet, solid confirmation of the vows that you made, might happen in the strangest of places. It might be in the kitchen, or in a crowd, or in the emergency room. No matter when or where, I wish you all the happiness in sickness and in health.
PS: Don't ignore the symptoms of a blood clot, please. See the National Blood Clot Alliance site www.stoptheclot.org for more information.