On standing up for your health

So, readers, I am back! And in fine fettle. Today is my first day back at work, after a month off. And I need to thank you all. No, really. After Aisling’s post letting you all know that I’d taken a turn for the worse I was inundated with incredible, amazing emails, links, jokes, books and boxset advice, chat, even playlists. It kept my spirits up when I couldn’t face doing any more blood tests, or when I’d just dropped off to sleep in hospital and elderly Mildred would pad across the ward and sit on my bed and shake me awake for a chat at 3am, or when I just felt tired and down and sick of having rubbish blood that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

So thank you all, for that.

Oh yes, I was even visited by the Biscuiteers

I was spoilt rotten by family and friends too. It made me realise the power of a card or a note to lift someone’s spirits. I’ve always been big on the written word – and it’s only now that I fully understand why. Go, write someone you love a note, now, right this second. I beseech you. It will make them feel special.

So. What did I have? A pulmonary embolism, which according to the NHS is: “a blockage in one of the blood vessels in the lungs….it happens when part, or all, of a blood clot blocks the blood supply to your lungs. A pulmonary embolism is a serious, potentially life-threatening, condition.”

The thing is, no-one recognised it for a very long time, despite the symptoms being there. There was nine days of misdiagnosis and being sent home with pills and feeling like it was all in my head. And that’s where Mr K comes in, with underpants outside his trousers, zipping through the sky to a certain Bonnie Tyler number. Because every time a doctor sent me home with steroids telling me not to worry (5 times) and clearly thinking I was exaggerating, Mr K was there, on my back, not shutting up, not giving in, telling me to go back, fight harder, not let them send me home. And I was exhausted and sick of telling the same story over and over again and just wanted him to Leave It, because the doctors knew best. And he wouldn’t leave it.

And it was on the ninth day of this when he’d dragged me to A&E; (AGAIN) that a really nice female doctor listened to my whole story and just in case, sent me for a CAT scan. And that’s how they found the large blood clot blocking the main blood supply to my right lung and significantly sized ones in my other lung.

I’m fine now, and this isn’t a post bemoaning the NHS, not at all. I got really good care when I was in hospital, and I cannot fault the aftercare, nor the dedication and kindness of those doctors and nurses. I can’t blame them for missing this on a 29-year-old healthy non-smoker who hasn’t recently flown long-haul, hasn’t taken a sick day in seven years, runs every weekend and doesn’t have any medical history.

What I do want to say, though, is that it’s your body. And you know it best. Don’t do what I did and blindly trust other people to tell you what you feel. You have the right to stand up for yourself, for your heath, and to challenge when you disagree. I learned this the hard way, coming from a family where complaining about being sick isn’t the done thing, who defer to authority, who believe that doctors know more about your health than you do. I think a lot of women in the UK feel the same way and would act in exactly the same way as I did, and settle for second best. Mr K grew up in Belgium, a country where you pay a small amount every month for medical insurance as standard, and as a paying customer, he has always demanded the best for his heath. And he couldn’t understand when I didn’t. Not out of choice, but out of habit.

We are privileged to have a system like the NHS. But because we get medical cover as a right not a privilege, it doesn’t mean we should expect less for ourselves. We should have the courage to ask for more when we think we need it. We should trust our instincts, listen to our bodies, get the hell out of our comfort zones, and demand the best for ourselves. It’s not easy but it could save your life.

No extreme sports for a few months. Or, bizarrely, spinach. What did spinach ever do to hurt anyone?!?

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. My favourite moment?:

Elderly Lady in bed opposite me: “Is that your boyfriend or your husband?”
Me: “Husband”
Lady: “Dedicated, isn’t he”
Me: “He is, I’m very lucky”
Lady “Good looking as well”
Me: laughing
Lady “I only had a few looks”
Categories: Health, Life Experience, Written By Anna
19 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    So glad you're back on your feet! Sounds like a really horrible ordeal but glad to hear you were so well looked after.

    I'm the total opposite to you in that I was constantly semi unwell for about 10 years, feeling pretty crap on a daily basis but never getting a diagnosis so I thought everyone must feel like that and I was just being pathetic. And then I decided to come off the pill, and miraculously felt better. So I'd echo your comments, ladies if somethings wrong don't think its all in your head.

    Oh, and spinach!?

  2. Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Oh so glad you are back and feeling better – what a horrible time you must have had of it.

    I agree that you definately aren't the usual PE sufferer – but I wish sometimes doctors would LISTEN, instead of just looking at the body attached to the person and fail to hear what they are saying in the process.

    As in your case, being persistent helps – just because one doctor says something doesn't mean the next one will say the same, and although it means feeling like you are a nag and a pain – it is YOUR health, and it's important.

    On a lesser scale, a couple of years ago I had chronic and debilitating pain in my leg, which during the night made me want to actually just cut it off. A&E; visit followed by GP visits, followed by out-of-hours visits when my mum would hear my crying with the pain of it, resulted in nothing other than a physio referral. It took my mum rocking up with me at A&E; again, and refusing to take me home till someone sorted my leg out, that someone actually figured out what was wrong. One big, handsome South African consultant later who jammed his finger in my hip and made me leap off the bed, my problem was discovered and a few steroid injections later to my hip and all was well in the world again.

    Welcome back Anna – we have missed you so (and you wouldn't believe the mischief Clare and Aisling have been getting up too…..)


  3. Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Wahey, Anna is back! So happy you're feeling better. I agree we do have a culture of giving up over here. My poor stepfather has been very ill for years in spite of seeing various GPS – it's only a chance visit to somebody who then referred him to a specialist which now means he is finally being given the correct treatment.

    It's GREAT to have somebody who loves and values you enough to continue to fight for you when your brain is telling you that you have done enough. Three enormo-cheers for Mr K!

    I'll cancel that Popeye-a-gram though. S**t.


  4. Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Oh and you know you have got a good looking husband when he sets the old dears hearts a-flutter!

  5. Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Yay! Congrats on being better Anna!
    I can't believe you had a PE,and was sent home that many times and lived to tell the tale!!!! Seriously I am a nurse and well, P.E.'s normally are not that forgiving so you defo deserve huge kudos for sticking to your guns and going back!

    The same thing happened to a friend of mine's dad not long ago and he was misdiagnosed the first couple of times, scary stuff.

    I think a lot of people are not as plucky to keep going back and just accept that doctors are always right. They do make mistakes sometimes, and it can be really scary.

    Our family are lucky because they have a nurse, a doctor, a physio all in the same family and will get their arses kicked back to the GP/A&E; by us when we think it's appropriate. A lot of other people who don't have that back up, do wrongly, suffer for a lot longer than neccessary.

    Anyway, that wasn't my point, my point was woooohooooo your back and your ok and that's fab news!!!

    Alex xx

  6. Posted August 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Anna, very glad to hear that you're back and on the road to recovery. My first post on AOW but as I've followed updates on your health & wise words in general on both RMW and here (oops, ok that sounds mildly stalkerish…) I thought it about time to say how much I love your writing and this blog.

    And I LOVED yesterday's post too. My bestfriend and bridesmaid is gay as is my husband's dad and we were very careful with the language we chose with our vows as we didn't want to define marriage and love as something only owned by couples of different sexes.

    BUT back to amazing husbands and not taking no for an answer; in Dec last year, 4 months before our wedding, I was rushed in to hospital for an emergency appendectomy (despite the doctor identifying appendicitis as, ahem, bad wind) and it was only due to my boy's insistence that I go to the doctor's that it wasn't much worse.

    Hurrah for Husbands and Mr K! xxx

  7. Posted August 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    So glad you are feeling better! What a scare! Right there with you on the written word. I think I will write my Emma a letter xxx

    Sending love xx

  8. Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    So glad you're better! Much as I appreciate the NHS, I do worry that some doctors forget how to listen. Where my parents live my mother pretty much has to camp on their doorstep to get an appointment, here at uni I've had the opposite experience. Sent to the young persons breast clinic at 22 "just in case, even though I can't feel anything particularly wrong", referred to the dermatologist straight away because the doctor wasn't ashamed of admitting she didn't know what that weird thing was on my skin. I never want to leave this city primarily because of the doctors surgery I go to. Boyfriend had the same experience: at home he was told he just had IBS, he got back to uni and (after me ordering him back to the doctors. I'm not the ordering type, but he pretty much has to be dragged to the doctors/hospital) it turns out it was something much more serious than that.

    Anyway, may you stay well and are back to your usual self nice and quickly!

  9. Posted August 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh ladies. You are so amazing. No really, your kindness amazes me. Have a biscuit. All of you.

    Your experiences are fascinating. I think it's so easy to take your health for granted – especially when you've always had it and it's never let you down. A friend of mine is a nurse and she hit the nail on the head when she said we only think about our health when it goes wrong.

    I am so excited to be back (well, I've been writing and doing behind-the-scenes stuff for a couple of weeks) but it's so exciting to have the energy to post properly again! x

  10. Posted August 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    yayyyy! Wise words, pretty flowers and Biscuiteers. Does it get any better??

  11. Becca
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    You are back and I just met Aisling and Lucy. What a freaking DAY. I was actually star struck. More so than if I had met Jennifer Anniston (I would have to touch Jennifer, Aisling was safe). And I confessed I felt like I should have visited you in hospital because I would have done someone I knew. Then realised I sounded PROPER MENTAL.

    Glad you are well.

    I am giggling to myself.

  12. Posted August 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    I just spoke to Aisling…she said she met you! I wish I was there too, it sounds like you are having the most amazing of times! And I'd have LOVED a visit! Not proper mental at all.

    And I totally get what you mean about wanting to touch Aisling. I tend to want to nuzzle her. In a non weird way.

    Report back on ALL that happens tonight…I am desperate for gossip!x

  13. Becca
    Posted August 4, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    She said 'hi Rebecca' and I just looked at t'other Rebecca (Norris-i am in love with her too) with a look that said 'THEAislingknowswhoiam'.

    She is super pretty in real life. I was hoping it was an aura on wedding photography so there would be hope for me.

    It was AMAZING. The styling was phenomenal.

  14. Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh Anna, as another anna who was recently stuck in hospital too as a patient, I am very sympathetic.

    Yes the NHS is understaffed and undermonied but they do care.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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