A glutton for good running weather, I could not resist the Thanksgiving weekend weather. It was pitch-perfect: cloudless, warm, a cool breeze. The month before I had run my fastest marathon: just under four hours at the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. So, I should have been recovering with light, slow, shallow runs.
But several hours on a cramped five-hour flight the night before had me buzzing with pent-up energy. So, I ran. Probably too far, probably too fast.
Sitting at a table in Starbucks on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, plugging away all day on a project, time slipped by. It felt good to focus, all that energy cleared from my metabolic cache. When I stood to go home Monday night, my calves immediately tightened. The pain in the right calf eased, but the pain in the left calf did not.
I rested, iced, elevated the leg, and doubled up on liquids and bananas, but the pain did not subside. On Wednesday, I limped to work and trolled sports-medicine web pages. One web site after another said generally the same thing: A deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot, can closely resemble a leg cramp or a muscle tear. My stomach clenched.
Recent long travel; a prolonged period of remaining in the same position; and red, painful, swelling were among the causes and symptoms listed. I had all but the redness and swelling. I called my doctor. She said to go to the nearest emergency room. I meant to sound as matter-of-fact when I told my boss why I was leaving early, but it came out more as a warble.
The emergency room’s ultrasound technician’s questions turned to silence as she tapped buttons on a keyboard and stared at the images on her screen, rarely looking up as she moved her wand over the clear jelly-like coating she’d smeared on my leg. When she stepped out of the room, I peeked at the images on her computer screen. I saw blue and grey shapes and a small red mound, like an ant hill.
It’s probably a muscle tear, the student doctor said. He came to prepare my history for the ER doctor. It would take a longer flight and longer period of immobility than a weekend at Starbucks to develop a DVT, he said. I was ready to believe him and would have, if it weren’t for that little red mound.
I was poking my leg to pinpoint the pain for the cheery nurse who’d come to check my vitals, when the ER doctor came in. He told me to take my hand off of my leg and not to do that again.