Pulmonary Embolism ends running streak after 11,348 days


One of the final runs of my streak

I’ve been asked a number of times how long I’ve wanted to keep my streak of running every day going, and my answer has always been ‘as long as my health is not being put at risk, then I would continue for as long as possible’.

This has recently been put front and centre as a test for me that I will share in the hopes that it helps others.

I have dealt with a number of running injuries and illnesses through my running career, but I’ve always felt that as long as I moderated my intensity and length of my runs that I could safely do my daily runs.

Sometimes life throws you a curveball though. I’ve been dealing with a few nagging recurring calf injuries recently, that have been a little more challenging than in the past. Still I felt that it was just more of a tightness and not really any different than a normal muscle strain.

Last month however, things felt a little different with a throbbing pain in my left calf at times that could not be relieved by stretching, rolling, or self massage. It actually seemed to feel better after going for a walk or short jog, but only to return again later.

It got to the point where I was in significant pain in my calf, and despite not really wanting to be near a hospital during Covid, I made a trip to the ER at Kingston General Hospital. A D-Dimer test was done, which if normal would indicate no blood clot, but if elevated, then they would ultrasound my leg to see if there was a clot. The test came back higher than normal, so while it still wasn’t anything conclusive, an ultrasound was scheduled for the following day.

The ultrasound was administered up and down my left leg, including where the pain had been in the past and other areas. Results came back showing no signs of a clot.

With no obvious reason for my calf pain, I was sent home and told there was nothing wrong, but to keep an eye on it and get it checked out again if it got worse.

I went home and for about a week things seemed to improve and I felt a little better, but then I started to feel unwell with other discomfort and symptoms setting in, but which I didn’t know if they were related or possibly something different. I now had a bit of tightness in my chest, and right shoulder and back. I had been splitting some firewood so wasn’t sure if this could have been muscularly related to that or not.

After a worsening night of symptoms, I scheduled a phone consult with my family doctor, who went though the whole checklist of symptoms to try and piece things together. She had originally told me to monitor the symptoms closely, and first course of action should be a Covid test. I had no sooner hung up, when she called back and said she didn’t want to risk anything and wanted me to go to the ER again asap as she had a bad feeling about this. I am very glad and extremely lucky I did, as things could have ended much worse.

Following more tests and scans, it was confirmed that I had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot that moved from my calf to my lung), and was admitted to hospital immediately. Some pretty dark thoughts went though my head in those early hours after hearing this. The absolute worst feeling was being so alone and with the memory of Sara driving away and not being able to be with me (due to Covid protocols).

Last day in hospital

The next week was a blur with a steady rotation of fever/chills/sweats, chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing, pain meds, blood work, imaging, more blood work, (repeat). I only needed to be on oxygen for one night while in hospital and am convinced this was due to my many years of running and strong lungs.

Hospital life was difficult in my small, solitary room. I could see the sky, and concrete buildings, but no signs of nature. Seeing the stars at night was comforting though. Sara was able to visit me finally after the first three days and after having had three negative Covid tests in a row, which was wonderful.

After things stabilized, my oxygen level increased, fever decreased, breathing improved, and I was switched from a high dose blood thinner stomach injections to tablet form, I was told that I would be allowed to go home and continue my rehab as an outpatient.

As much as I can’t say enough about the wonderful staff at KGH (especially the incredible nursing team on Connell 3), it was so nice to get home to Sara (and Siku).

I have a long road to recovery, but looking forward to small improvements and hopefully feeling better each day. I’ve had some damage to my right lung that will not fully repair, but initial thoughts are that I should eventually be able to return to my previous activity level, for which I am grateful for. Only high intensity efforts should be negatively affected for me in the future…so my 400m PB is safe!

So, now that I’m on the other side of the streak, and slowly inching towards recovery, below are a few things I’ve thought about and know I may be asked…

Did I consider trying to run through this?

  • Absolutely not. Obviously not an option once admitted to hospital, and would have been even more dangerous for me anyhow. I knew on my last run the day before being admitted to hospital that something was very wrong and I needed help.

Will I start another streak?

  • No. I felt that I did it safely for over 31 years as I listened to my body, but with rehab and my health being the priority right now, I need to focus on that as I slowly increase my strength and activity level. I’m also looking forward to mixing in more FatBiking and Nordic skiing as well.

Could I have done anything to prevent this?

  • Not really. I wasn’t really the typical case for someone to get a Pulmonary Embolism. Having said that, if I’d asked more about some of my relatives who have had blood clots in the past, it might have raised a few more flags on my early hospital visit about family history and possibly realized earlier.

Is Spafford Health and Adventure still open?

  • Yes. While I am not currently coaching, Sara is looking after all outgoing orders.

Again, while this isn’t how I wanted to see my running streak end, I feel grateful that I had great medical care to allow me to survive this ordeal, and am now looking forward to the challenge to return to health ahead once I recover more.


I hope that by sharing this with others, this may help someone else in the future and save them from having to go through what I have. In short, know your family history and be familiar with potential symptoms of any issues that you may be predisposed to. And, also trust that you know your body best and know if something is potentially wrong.


See you on the trails!

Derrick

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