Warning Signs

In last week’s posts I discussed reading for the Nebulas and the reality of my “day” job operating telescopes vs the perception. In point of fact, operating telescopes involves a lot of time sitting at computers and reading is also a job usually done sitting, unless you want to walk into objects and people. Of course, I also write, which is another activity that involves sitting at the computer. This is pretty typical of what I look like at work:

This may sound like I’ve set myself up to be quite sedentary, but, I do move around quite a bit and I like to take long walks. In fact, my normal daily walk when I’m at home is usually right around four miles. In short I’m not in terrible shape for my age and I walk often enough that I’ve experienced more than my fair share of leg cramps when I haven’t properly hydrated or stretched beforehand.

Last week, around day four of my shift, I started experiencing some terrible leg cramping. The only weird part is that I hadn’t been walking much for the past few days. Mostly I’d been sitting at the computer and working on a project and doing some reading for breaks. Normally, I find that leg cramps subside very quickly. I stand up, walk around a bit and they settle down. This wasn’t like that. Instead, the cramp just kept getting worse for about 24 hours. After that, it started subsiding, but very slowly.

Checking the Internet, I scared myself reading about the dangers of deep vein thrombosis, which is when a blood clot forms in your leg, which can then break loose and travel into the brain, heart, or lungs. In some cases, these things are known to kill people. However, my impression from the reading I’d done was that deep vein thrombosis doesn’t get better. The fact that my pain got better led me to believe it really was a nasty muscle cramp.

Also, I grew up with parents who might be described as hypochondria-phobic. As a kid, if I complained about pain, they usually told me I was imagining it and to “tough it out.” For me, the result is that I have a hard time admitting to pain even to myself. Sometimes I even have a difficult time distinguishing between levels of pain. So, I was already prone to tough it out and follow up later if it didn’t get better.

By the time I got home, the cramp was mostly gone, but I still had a persistent knot in the back of my leg. I assumed this was the muscle that cramped up and gave me problems. When the knot hadn’t gone away, my wife and I decided I’d better see the doctor. I figured he’d tell me it was a cramped muscle and there was little he could do for me. At which point, I’d make an appointment with a good masseuse.

The doctor took a look at my leg, pointed out it was swollen and sent me off for an ultrasound. Sure enough, the diagnosis was thrombosis. Fortunately, it wasn’t in the deep vein that’s the most serious, but my doctor pointed out that it’s a warning sign. He’s helping me take measures to deal with the current clot and to help me minimize the chance for new ones.

In a very real way, this is a first-world problem. It’s a medical issue caused by work that demands I sit too much. There are a lot of people around the world that would look at me and wish they had my problems! That said, this is a case where I should have listened to my body. I really should have called in sick to have this checked out right away instead of trying to tough it out. It’s frightening how serious this could have been.

Despite this unexpected excitement, I’m pleased to report that I haven’t fallen behind on Owl Riders, book four of the Clockwork Legion. I didn’t get ahead as I hoped I would this week, but I’m making good progress. I’m also doing my best to take breaks, and get up and walk around, so this doesn’t happen again!

For those who want to catch up with the first books in the series, you can check out the Clockwork Legion series at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

All the books are available in ebook and print, plus Owl Dance is available as an audio book, and Lightning Wolves is in the final stages of audio production.

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11 comments on “Warning Signs

  1. Greg Long says:

    Wishing you all the best for your health. Makes me think that perhaps I had better do some more walking. Greg

  2. Bummer dude. Amazingly, a lot of things can cause ademma. I’ve had issues from “fat guy, must be a heart attack” to “It has to be diabetes.” It wasn’t either one, it stems from my kidney problems. Just my own personal experience walking does help, but drinking less fluids, especially stuff with caffeine is just as important. And don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Some doctors fixate on certain things. Bottom line is it’s often at least partly an age thing. Your body is changing and you may need to change diet and lifestyle to cope. Call me or stop by if you need more useless advice. I’ve been down this road and I do not think half the doctors out there know what they’re talking about.

    • Thanks for the good thoughts. There are times when my doctor has gotten fixated on things and I’ve asked for a second opinion and found he was a going a bit overboard. In this case, though, there was some good consultation going on between specialists — a doc at the lab reviewing the results consulting with my doctor, plus stuff I’ve read and spoken to others about — this seems like a good diagnosis. And really, I’m fortunate because the lifestyle changes required are pretty minor and in a direction I was heading toward anyway. Also, glad if I’m going to discover any circulatory issues, it’s in my leg, which allows for a slight medication change rather than my heart, in which case the change might have come too late. Definitely need to stop by and visit at some point before long.

  3. utena42 says:

    I’m very thankful it all turned out okay, that you DID go to a doctor anyway. *hugs*

  4. utena42 says:

    I’ve heard some increasing mention of standing desks. I can see how that would not be possible in that work area. 😉 I had a work comp doctor recently tell me that “Sitting is the new smoking.” Then it showed up in my chiropractor’s blog, too. I’m impressed by the length of your walk! I’ve had folks who work in exercise research tell me that 20 minutes a day is all one needs, as long as your heart rate gets elevated. SO so glad you went in & had it checked out. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the good thoughts on both counts. I think what hit me was a combination of sitting and letting myself get dehydrated. The standing desks are not a bad idea, but I’ve heard they can have problems, too. Some doctors suggest that being motionless, no matter the posture is bad. The best thing is to change position at least once an hour — and more frequently is better. Get up, walk around the room, and come back. Even if you have a standing desk, you should still go move around. 🙂

  5. Jaleta Clegg says:

    Scary when that happens. I had a deep vein clot happen in the middle of the semester in graduate school. I missed a week of classes. We were also remodeling our master bathroom at the time (it was a have-to-because-the-shower-is-leaking-into-the-basement situation), and I have a whole horde of kids with special needs. I think mine was a combination of stress, letting myself get dehydrated, eating too much salty/fatty foods, and spending way too many hours sitting with my legs down. If I prop them up, I do much better. My leg pain is still there four years later. I know when I’m pushing myself too hard or not drinking enough water when it starts acting up again.

    I’m glad you caught it and things are working out. It’s a wake-up call for certain.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Jaleta, and sorry you had to experience this as well. I’m learning to prop my feet up when I do need to sit for an extended time and, of course, taking better care of diet, too.

  6. Chris Pontius says:

    I’m glad you had good medical care and caught this in time! I would add a warning, based on sad experience, that stupid doctors are a real thing and can be deadly. I’d been complaining to doctors for years about leg cramps and a family history of clotting, but it was a volunteer EMT who saved my life when I wound up with 99% blockage of my pulmonary artery.

    • You make a good point. On Facebook, a friend of mine whose a cardiac surgeon said this is a problem that gets missed far too often. Never be afraid to go get a second opinion. Glad the EMT caught your blockage!

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