When in doubt, con­sult Dr. In­ter­net

San Francisco Chronicle - - DATEBOOK - NICK HOPPE Nick Hoppe’s col­umn ap­pears Tues­days in Date­book. Email: date­book@ sfchron­i­cle.com

I was in pain. I got out of my car a few weeks ago af­ter a five­hour drive, and could barely walk. My left calf had tight­ened up. I had no idea why.

“Might be a blood clot,” my 33year-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. You’d bet­ter check it out.”

It’s im­por­tant to note that my daugh­ter is a cer­ti­fied hypochon­driac, and proud of it. For in­stance, she came into my of­fice the other day and an­nounced that 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 or 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 Dr. In­ter­net. I googled “blood clot in calf” and read about all the symp­toms.

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 five­hour 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 morn­ing.

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. “That’s a rather strange route it’s tak­ing.”

Oh. She had a point. Maybe it hadn’t bro­ken off yet. But it would.

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 shebang.

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.

“I think I’ve got a blood clot. If it breaks loose, it will travel to my brain and I will get a pul­monary em­bolism and I will be dead.”

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