So less than two weeks ago, I developed a nodding acquaintance with the Grim Reaper, thanks to a couple of pulmonary embolisms that had taken up residence in my lungs.


I really had no freaking clue what was going on. I had been sleeping longer and feeling less rested, and my energy level and appetite were diminished. Then there was a vague ache in my irght neck, across my right chest, down my shoulder to my ribs, had started moving along the pain index – rather briskly. I might add. I was in the midst of a journalistic interview when my aches moved to a low pain level of 1, then 2, and 3.

I became rather alarmed as the pain intensity was moving right along to 4, 5, 6, 7 and when it hit 8, I terminated the interview with as much grace as I could muster, hung up, chocked back a scream, and said to my wife Sharon that I needed a ride to the Steamboat hospital. We got headed in that direction, when at the east edge of Hayden, I suggested a direct trip to the emergency room, and Sharon, a former EMT, flipped the car around and we drove up to the Hayden fire station/ambulance barn. 

As she explained what was going on to the EMTs, she didn’t want to drive up a narrow canyon with few pullouts and little opportunity to help me if things went from bad to worse. The EMTs bundled me into the ambulance and away we went.

Didn’t use lights, siren and speed, because my vitals were surprisingly stable and my pain index was moderating. Soon, we rolled into the CU-Health ER doors and a whirlwind of tests, exams and scans. Soon, it turned out that the Grim Reaper was not that keenly interested in me. I had blood clots, yes, but they were seated in my lower lungs, rather than up near major blood vessels where they could break loose and do more mischief. Soon, I was on a blood-thinner then an evening of monitoring my vitals every four hours.

Most significantly, I had a good prognosis, which was credited to getting into the ER in a timely manner, rather than wait too long. Late arrivals to the ER can and do mean massive trouble, ranging from strokes to paralysis to death. All of which are part of my family’s medical history.

Pain was gone and aches were tolerable, but I didn’t sleep well and was sent home to rest, nap and begin the recovery of my stamina, day by day.

I am fine now, sleeping and breathing normally. Stamina better each day, though my ambitions for remodeling or gardening projects are more limited, as are walking/hiking excursions.

I thought I might write up a piece about warning signs and when to talk to your doctor or go to the ER. Turns out, there are a lot of warning signs, many of which are ambiguous, and a few are painfully obvious. If you are 50 or older and have blood clots in the family history, call up such a list on the Internet, discuss with a family member and keep a printed copy handy.

Periodically consult and if you start wondering what weird thing is happening some morning, call a doctor, call the ER. Don’t sit and wonder or worry about bothering someone. Do something, ask questions. If you don’t, you’re gonna become a lot more familiar with the Grim Reaper than I have so far.