By Dave Bock
I was seriously injured when I slipped and fell in Upland, California on March 8, 2008, while visiting there from my home in Arizona. I was rushed to the emergency room (ER) of the nearest hospital where the ER doctor diagnosed fractures of my left tibia and fibula in my lower left leg. (left ankle bimalleolar fracture). I was in a great deal of pain, and was told that the fractures needed open reduction internal fixation surgical repair. However, the doctor only prescribed a pain killer, put a cast on my leg, and told me to follow up with my primary care physician when I returned to Arizona.
The next day, my wife and I drove back to Arizona, which turned out to be an extremely uncomfortable trip because of excruciating pain. The following day, I went to my primary care doctor who immediately referred me to an orthopedic specialist. The orthopedic doctor examined me and stated that surgery could not be performed right away, due to the delay in treatment and resultant soft-tissue swelling.
A few days later on March 14, 2008, I had noticeable trouble breathing, and was taken to the closest ER by ambulance. Based on test results, I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism related to an undetected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that had formed near the sites of the fractures in my leg. I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital for treatment of a severe pulmonary embolism, and my condition rapidly worsened. At 2:34 AM on March 15, 2008, I became cold and clammy and my skin color turned pale. The hospital records indicate that I was unresponsive and had stopped breathing, and my eyes had rolled to the back of my head. A code for a respiratory arrest was called. Fortunately, I responded after about 3 minutes of resuscitation. I was also treated with tPA (clot busting drugs) at this time. On March 17, 2008, I underwent surgery for the placement of an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter to stop any more clots from travelling to my lungs.
These blood clots developed as a result of the lower leg fractures I sustained in the accident, which then detached and traveled to my lungs and became the pulmonary embolism that produced my shortness of breath and chest pain. It was a near fatal episode, and I was fortunate to survive and be discharged from the hospital on March 19, 2008.
Today, I am still in a constant and intense pain from the ankle fractures. I have missed work and have been unable to enjoy the regular activities of daily life due to the complications from my injury. I believe that the postponement of proper treatment of my ankle injury, as well as delay in preventing or recognizing my DVT, led to this medical emergency when I almost lost my life.