My husband is trying to kill me with worry. But then, I think he thinks I’m trying to kill him with salad.
Jerry likes salad. In fact, he eats anything green (barring Brussels sprouts and broccoli), and he welcomes my culinary cavorting. We’ve shared many kitchen moments since I’ve returned home after 9 months away. Our garden is growing, and the fields are edging ever closer toward summer resplendence. We have friends who bring us lettuce and radish straight off the farm, and I’ve been dabbling in wasabi coleslaw. Almost every meal in this house involves cilantro or parsley or both.
So what’s the problem?
It’s called clotting factor.
Seven months ago, Jerry and I drove to a conference in Montana. When he returned home, 2,790 miles later, he could barely walk. He had inexplicable blood clots in his leg and lungs, so dangerous they earned him a five-day hospital stay and an indefinite prescription for warfarin. And to think: that happened to an otherwise perfectly healthy guy who cycles up mountains, chops wood, shovels mulch and eats food (not too much, mostly plants). He mystified the doctors. They suspected the long drive exacerbated an existing problem. But they still don’t know what went haywire or why.
So Jerry continues his monthly visits to an anticoagulation clinic, and he takes his nightly pill. The drug actually isn’t a blood thinner—a frequent misnomer—but it works on the liver to prevent the body from forming clots. In most people, the liver uses vitamin K to produce normal clotting proteins. Warfarin interferes with that—which means anyone on it must pay particular attention to his vitamin K intake.
Where do we get vitamin K? Cabbage, parsley, cilantro and just about every leafy green. Since I’ve come home, we’ve essentially been living in the House of Vitamin K.
We didn’t think too much of it—Jerry looked the same, felt the same, as we both plunged into our salad bowls. Then he had his monthly check-up. The nurse pricked his finger and fed his blood to the little gizmo that spat out his International Normalized Ratio (INR)—a measurement of how quickly his blood clots.
Whoa! That INR number was way low, meaning he was clotting much faster than desired, no doubt a result of all those otherwise good-for-you greens he’d been eating since my homecoming. I’m amazed at the body’s ability to detect every little component of everything we eat.
“It’s not difficult to not eat greens in the middle of winter,” Jerry explains to me. “But then spring comes on, and you come home, and the combination was almost deadly.”
The nurse didn’t tell Jerry to stop eating salad, she just upped his dosage by 50 percent twice a week. Rather than avoid vitamin K, it’s far more important for warfarin patients to maintain a consistent diet. Any swift change could lead to venous pandemonium, a very dangerous situation indeed.
The nurse also recommended a sexy new black sock, à la Lance Armstrong.
In the end, Jerry assures me he does not think I’m trying to kill him. “You’d have to do all the laundry yourself.”
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