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  • “Do you understand the side effects?” my doctor asked. Just like I always “agree to the terms” on a website, I said yes.

    7 years later I found myself in the most intense, stabbing chest pain of my life. After not being able to sleep for two nights, I drove myself to the closest Urgent Care Center at the crack of dawn.

    I had cords coming off my chest, legs, and feet after having already had a chest X-Ray and my blood drawn. I couldn’t help but feeling like I was being a bit of a hypochondriac. As a 20 year-old active female, I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong.

    The blood results, however indicated that I needed to get a CT Scan done at the Hospital across the highway. I found myself in an unfamiliar white tube with three nurses around me. Laying down sent the worst pain throughout my body and took the air completely out of my lungs. “You have to lay down so we can get the image,” said the head CT technician. Doing so sent uncontrollable tears running from my eyes into my ears and down my neck. In between images I would sit up to catch my breath.

    For the final image, they needed to put contrast into my IV. “1….2….3. I’ve just entered the contrast into your IV. You will feel heat flush over your body and then it will feel like you’ve peed your pants. You haven’t actually peed your pants,” explained the nurse. She was right. When the hot flush passed, I called out to another nurse asking if there was blood dripping down my ears. He didn’t see anything. It was my tears from earlier that heated up. The CT Scan was finally over and as I got up off the machine, I couldn’t help but make sure I hadn’t actually peed myself. Relief.

    I was then escorted to the waiting room with no phone service to tell my family and friends what was going on. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind:
    “what could be going on with me”
    “what classes am I missing”, “oh no my presentation!”
    “ouch, my chest, don’t breathe so deep”
    “what if I can’t go to Cabo for spring break anymore?”
    “no, that wouldn’t happen”
    “this is probably nothing and you’re over reacting.”
    Just then an old-school cord phone on the wall next to me rang and interrupted my thoughts. The young lady from the desk walked across the room to answer it and said it was for me.

    For me? “Hello?”, I said confused. “Courtney it’s the doctor from Urgent Care. I’ve just received your scans. You have a decent sized blood clot in your lung followed by some smaller ones. This is serious. I’ve already reserved a room for you in the hospital.” The rest of what he said was a blur as I started crying. I hung up the phone and sat back down without remembering what I was supposed to do next. When I came back to reality, my head was in the young woman from the desk’s arms. She then got up and called the doctor back to ask what I was supposed to do next.

    A woman greeted me with a pink beenie baby cat and a wheel chair where she took me to my room for the next three days. She was the head nurse but she might as well have been my mom. She offered me pie--my favorite, she hugged me tight when I couldn’t stop crying, and she held my hand with every blood draw that was taken.

    She told me I had a pulmonary embolism that they found out I got from being on birth control. Blood clots-- a side effect from birth control. In that moment I remembered agreeing to, and understanding that this was a side effect. You never know when you need to pay attention to the fine print.
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