(Ben writing) Yesterday was Kristen's follow-up visit with her vascular surgeon. Although he is kind of goofy, he has become one of our favorite doctors. I get frustrated with most doctors because they always seem to be in a rush and I rarely feel that all of my questions have been answered. Not him. He will come in, shake your hand, pull up a chair, and answer any question you ask. Really, he just loves his profession and he loves talking about it. Anyway, the first order of business was to rescan Kristen's leg and stomach to see if the clots had dissolved, and good news....all clear! Next comes the question of the hour..."Should the vena cava filter be removed?"
As many of you know, Kristen had a small, metal filter (that is a picture of it on the right) placed in her vena cava (the large vein that takes blood back to the lungs and heart). Its initial purpose was to protect her lungs and heart during the two surgeries that were required to removed all of the clotting in her leg and stomach. While most filters are permanent, this one has the ability to removed within the first 3-4 months. Any longer and it stays because the vein will grow into it (I imagine a tree growing around old barbed wire). So this is our decision:
1. Leave the filter in - The filter will keep protecting Kristen's lungs and heart in case another clot forms. Although blood thinners should help prevent clots from forming, there is still a chance that this could happen again. The disadvantage is that no one knows if the filter will last 20, 30, or 50 years. There have been cases where the filter breaks and ends up somewhere else in the body. Also, this would basically eliminate the possibility of her every carrying a baby (the filter cannot withstand the pressure of a baby and it would likely bust the vein).
2. Take the filter out - Basically the reverse of everything above.
Just typing this makes me sick to my stomach. We asked the Dr. for his opinion and initially, he said that he would leave it in, but then as we got to talking more about it (KJ crying), he started second guessing himself, talking more about how long the filter would have to stay in and the potential for it breaking at some point. How do you go about making a decision like this? At some point the doctor commented that "There is no wrong decision, here" but in reality, one decision will ultimately be better than the other, and could mean the difference in life or.....Only God knows which decision is best, and I pray every day that he will show us which path to follow.
Next step, Kristen has to do an Echocardiogram. This will test for one of the worst side effects of clots in the lungs, pulmonary hypertension. This website explains it well http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-hypertension/DS00430 but it is basically high blood pressure in the lungs caused by damage to the smaller vessels. If she does have pulmonary hypertension, then we have no choice but to leave the filter in. Otherwise, we have to make a decision by early March.
All of this and Kristen is trying to finish school. So much pressure!!