March is national blood clot awareness month. I know what you’re thinking, man – there is a month for everything! And yes there is…although I haven’t seen an “I Love Jello” month yet, but I’m sure it in the works.
Anyway, blood clots are something I know far more about than I ever thought I would. As a two-time DVT survivor (Deep Vein Thrombosis) at ages 27 and 31, I am well aware of what blood clots are and the symptoms that present when one might be on the rise. I feel, since I have this blog platform, I should share with everyone my experiences in the hopes that one day this information may help to save a life.
When I was 27, I had a lump/growth on the side of my right knee. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who said that it was a baker’s cyst and it would be easily removed from the leg via an outpatient surgery. Once I awoke from the survey, he explained that it was a benign mass/tumor which had wrapped itself around my hamstring tendon, which had to be cut and re-attached in order to remove the mass. I was going to need to stay in the hospital for a few days until I could try to walk on my own with a walker and I would need physical therapy four days a week. Talk about totally calling an outpatient surgery wrong! 6 days post-surgery, while at physical therapy, my therapist Brian said, “um – you better watch your leg. It’s starting to look like it’s changing color and you don’t want to throw a blood clot.”
The next morning, I could barely stand in the shower and, yes, my leg was turning completely blue. We went to the hospital. The color and size of my leg caused some alarm as I was rushed back to see a doctor immediately as I bypassed the info desk and paperwork. I had no clue what was happening until after I returned from an ultrasound on my leg which explained that I had a DVT. My entire main artery from my groin to my ankle on my right leg was completely clogged with a blood clot. My attending doctor came out and yelled at me, “Do you know how serious this is? You could have died!” I then began to cry because I didn’t know what was going on nor how I was supposed to know before the doctor told me the diagnosis.
It was decided from my team of doctors that I was to have an experimental surgery in 2007 called thrombolysis where a catheter is inserted into the vein, allowing the blood clot to be surgically removed, in the hopes of saving the vein and minimizing permanent damage. The surgery was a success and, after 24 hours in the ICU with a tPA drip running through my vein to remove any remaining clot, the vein was completely cleared out.
From the American Stroke Association’s website (explaining that the drug is often used to minimize permanent damage resulting from ischemic strokes): “Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA, also known as IV rtPA, given through an IV in the arm). tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow.”
After many, MANY doctors, hematologists, oncologists, rheumatologists, medications, at-home meters and ample blood tests later, it was ruled that I have a hypercoagulative blood disorder…but they still have not been able to diagnose it exactly. I do not have any genetic triggers or anything in my blood that would suggest otherwise, but for what the doctors know now, my blood randomly will clot on it own for no reason. Hence, in 2010, I threw another blood clot, another DVT, in the same leg after completing the Susan G. Komen 60-Mile Breast Cancer Walk. As frustrating as it was to go through this experience again, I am more aware of my body now and when the potential symptoms of a clot may be presenting themselves.
I reached out to a great nonprofit called the National Blood Clot Alliance which was gracious enough to allow me to use their materials in an effort to spread awareness of their organization.
As a young female, I was completely unaware of the risks I was under when taking birth control. Because of my history with DVTs, I was also going to be at risk when trying to get pregnant and during my pregnancies. Here is an inforgraphic directly related to this:
For more information on the risks associated with blood clots, please visit the National Blood Clot Alliance website. Please also feel free to contact me and/or to share your experiences on this blog so that others may be more aware of the potential hazards, things to avoid, and survivor stories regarding blood clots.
The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, voluntary health organization dedicated to advancing the prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and clot-provoked stroke.
NBCA works on behalf of people who may be susceptible to blood clots, including, but not limited to, people with clotting disorders, atrial fibrillation, cancer, traumatic injury, and risks related to surgery, lengthy immobility, child birth and birth control.
NBCA accomplishes its mission through programs that build public awareness, educate patients and healthcare professionals, and promote supportive public and private sector policy.