WHEN IN DOUBT,
CALL DOCTOR INTERNET
I was in pain. I got out of my car a few weeks ago
after a five hour drive, and could barely walk. My left calf had tightened
up. I had no idea why.
"Might be a blood clot," my 33 year old
daughter warned me the next day when I limped past her and then explained
the circumstances of my disability.
"You were immobile for five hours," she continued.
"You'd better check it out."
It's important to note my daughter is a certified
hypochondriac, and proud of it. For instance, she came into my office the
other day and announced she had Burning Mouth Syndrome, and was off to the
doctor to confirm it.
"I've had it for a few days," she told me. "I
have all the symptoms---I checked it out on the internet."
That reminded me of the constant headaches she complained
about last winter. "Wasn't it a few months ago you were convinced you
had Linebacker's Disease?" I asked.
"In case you forgot, I had three concussions when I was
young," she huffed. "Just because I didn't play in the NFL
doesn't mean I couldn't have Linebacker's Disease."
It turned out, miraculously, that she had neither
Linebacker's Disease nor Burning Mouth Syndrome. But that didn't preclude
her from trying to convince me I had a blood clot.
I was having none of it. I would just tough it out. I was
certain my calf would get better with a little time.
The next day it was every bit as bad. No improvement. And I
was getting a very uncomfortable burning sensation. I hadn't pulled a
muscle---it made no sense.
That night I got a text from my daughter. "Dad, I talked
to a good friend of mine who had a blood clot. She agreed you might have
one, too. You should see a doctor."
It was enough to get me to the computer to check with Doctor
Internet. I googled "blood clot in calf" and read about all the
Within minutes, I was pretty sure I was dead. I had all the
symptoms---stiffness, tenderness, a little swelling, weakness, burning
sensation. And, of course, the five hour car drive without moving my leg.
It had to be a blood clot.
I called the Kaiser hotline and got the night nurse. I told
her my symptoms and my diagnosis and she agreed, with my prodding, that I
was pretty much dead. She scheduled me for a 9:15 appointment the next
I then went into the bedroom to give my wife the bad news.
"I think I've got a blood clot," I told her gently. "If it
breaks loose, it will travel to my brain and I will get a pulmonary
embolism and I will be dead."
She actually yawned. "That's nice, dear. Let's see
what the doctor says. Go to sleep."
I wasn't much interested in sleep, since I was going to
have plenty of it when the pulmonary embolism hit. But I did manage to
doze off, only to be awakened by a searing pain in my knee.
"I think the blood clot is headed north," I
whispered with clenched teeth to my wife, trying to remain strong.
"My knee is killing me."
She sleepily noticed I was holding my right knee.
"Isn't the blood clot in your left leg," she asked with a bit of
disgust in her voice. "That's a rather strange route it's
Oh. She had a point. Maybe it hadn't broken off yet. But it
I managed to make it through the night and headed for the
doctor's office. I was ushered into the examination room and waited for
the doctor to give me the sad news.
When he finally entered, I tried to remain brave. I told him
my sordid story of the car ride, the sudden pain, the limp, the burning,
the weakness, the tenderness, the impending pulmonary embolism, the whole
He prodded around, measured the circumference of each calf,
and then took a blood pressure reading of each calf. Finally, he put his
hand on my shoulder (bad sign) and, with a slight hint of laughter, gave
me his expert diagnosis.
He was pretty sure it was a cramp.