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My Story

Real Stories from People living with DVT

Sofija's Story

My name is Sofija Reston and I would like to share my story about blood clots. By telling my story, I hope that I can help educate others about the importance of knowing the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of blood clots.

Photo: Sofija Reston

In 2012 I was a typical, healthy 35-year-old woman. However, in January of 2012 I went to the emergency room (ER) because I was experiencing extreme fatigue and chest pains so severe that I felt like I was being choked. In the ER, an echocardiogram (EKG) was done. An EKG is a test that checks the electrical activity in your heart. I was told that everything was fine and that it was probably anxiety since I had been going through a very stressful time. However, if I ever had pain like that again I was told to return to the ER.

A few months later, I awoke around 6 am with sharp pains in my neck. I got up and walked around thinking I just slept wrong but the pain then moved to my stomach area. I thought it could be a problem with my gallbladder. After being in pain and short of breath all day I went to another ER and provided the list of medications I was on. I also relayed the fact that I had been on hormonal birth control. My vitals were fine and I was not coughing up blood. The ER doctor said that my gallbladder was fine but after reviewing some blood tests he could tell that my blood was a bit thick. Learning this, I then informed the doctor that my mother had been on a blood thinning medicine called warfarin for about 12 years. She previously had experienced seven blood clots. Very quickly I realized that this was serious.

I was then admitted to the hospital and a computed tomography (CT) scan was done. This is a test that uses x-rays to make pictures of structures inside the body. The CT scan confirmed the presence of blood clots in my lungs, a condition also called pulmonary embolism (PE). I was told I had pleural effusion, which is a buildup of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity, and damage to my lower left lung. I was in the hospital for six days taking a blood thinning medicine called warfarin and also receiving heparin shots in my stomach. While I was in the hospital, the pain felt like as if someone kicked me in the ribs. For three nights I had to sleep sitting upright. I was propped up with pillows for weeks afterwards, and the pain was excruciating.

After 6 days in the hospital and prior to discharge my ER doctor actually came up to my room to wish me well. He is my hero. The nurse assigned looked me straight in the eyes and told me I was extremely lucky and said if I ever had symptoms like this to get to the hospital immediately. The internal medicine doctor told me to stay off hormonal birth control for the rest of my life because it may be a risk factor for some women who are at increased risk for blood clots.

I was on put on warfarin for about 6 months. After that I had genetic testing done to determine if it was hereditary and the test results came back negative. So I l do not know why my mother suffers from blood clots but she is still on warfarin. I do have some damage in the pleura, the thin tissue that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. As a result of this damage, I still have some chronic pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. I am not able to do any of the previous activities that I used to do such as basic housework, yard work, recreational activities, or sports. The good news is that I know I am alive today because I listened to that internal voice that told me I needed to go to the hospital.

I am telling my story because I want others to know that when they have symptoms such as this they need to seek care immediately. I sensed from the beginning that something was wrong. If you experience these symptoms and think something is not normal for you, it is critical to seek care immediately. When you are with your healthcare provider, be your own advocate and voice your concerns. This is particularly important because some symptoms can mimic other medical conditions. Also, not everyone experiences classic symptoms of blood clots. Be thorough in discussing your symptoms with your healthcare team because it could save your life!

The bottom line is that blood clots pose serious health risks and a PE can be fatal. You can help prevent blood clots by knowing your family history and being aware of the risk factors. Please visit this link to get the facts about blood clots: www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/facts.html

CDC would like to thank Sofija for sharing this personal story.

Rick's Story

Photo: Rick playing tennis“I am a 47 year old male, and am a DVT survivor. I rolled my ankle in January of 2012 playing tennis. I went directly to the emergency room, and they put me in a boot. I wore the boot for 4 weeks, then removed it and began wearing an ankle brace. It was uncomfortable, and swollen, but the swelling seemed to go down each night. After 6 weeks, my ankle and calf were extremely swollen during the day; about 250% the size of my other leg. I showed it to some friends, who have had multiple sprains before, and they immediately told me that it wasn’t right. I called and set an appointment with my doctor for the next day.

"Upon seeing my leg, the doctor immediately sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound. I sat out in the hospital parking lot, and did a webinar and conference call for a prospective customer before going in; I did not yet understand the severity of my condition. When the technician did the ultrasound, she informed me that I had blood clots up and down my entire leg, and proceeded to show me the screen and explain what it meant. They then had me check into the hospital. At this point, I thought they'd give me a shot, and I would still be able to make it to my friend’s house to watch the NCAA basketball tournament. He was cooking up steaks, and I purposely skipped lunch so as not to ruin my appetite. I had been walking on it, and had been flying for work, for the past six weeks. How bad could it be? Well, after having 3 or 4 nurses tell me that it was a miracle I was still here, and after talking to the doctor later that evening, the severity of the situation began to set in.

“The doctor strongly urged me to have a procedure called catheter-directed thrombolysis. What happened to the magic shot and some medicine, so I could go eat my steak and watch basketball with my friends? The doctor said that the interventional radiologist had reviewed my ultrasound, and suggested we do the surgery Sunday morning. I spoke with a doctor friend of mine, who called a hematologist friend of his, who stated that if the interventional radiologist was willing to come in on a weekend for surgery, that I had better say yes; apparently they do not normally come in on weekends. I read up on the topic all I could, and then said let’s go through with the surgery. While it was a little uncomfortable, as I had a catheter in the vein in my calf for 24 hours and could not move, it was well worth it! The procedure cleared up almost all of the clots, and they inserted an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter to keep any remaining clots from getting to my lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

“I had no idea that I could get a blood clot from having a sprained ankle. I guess if I had gone to the doctor for a two week checkup, it may have been caught sooner. Nonetheless, within a week after being released from the hospital, I was walking on the treadmill; albeit at a much slower pace than I am used to. I had read on several internet sites that walking was the best thing for healing, and I am used to walking on the treadmill every morning. After 4 weeks, I was walking on the treadmill at the same speed as previous, and after 6 weeks I started playing tennis again. After 3 months, they removed the IVC filter. While I am now wearing a compression stocking on the one leg, and am on blood thinners, I am back to all the activities in which I engaged before DVT, and at the same level; not that I was any good before. Also, my leg is barely swollen. I feel so blessed that God was watching over me. I guess He has more work for me to do here.”

CDC would like to thank Rick for sharing his personal story.

If you would like to share your personal story, please contact us at cdcinfo@cdc.gov

 

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