Real Stories from People Who Have Experienced Blood Clots – Crystal Bogues
My first blood clot occurred in the late 1980s, after I gave birth to my first child at the age of 19. I was home for four to five days after the delivery, and I started experiencing pain that radiated from my lower back down to my left leg. I thought that it was related to childbirth, so I didn’t do anything until the next day when my leg swelled tremendously. At that point I went to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my left leg after having a Doppler study (an ultrasound test that looks at blood flow through blood vessels). I was put on anticoagulants (blood thinning medication) and hospitalized for 8 days. I was on a blood thinner for about six months, and after that my life returned to normal. Although my lower left leg remained larger than my lower right leg, I was very athletic and even played basketball in college. I was prescribed birth control pills after the delivery of my first child, but luckily after about a month of taking them, I read the fine print in the packaging and realized that they might increase my risk for another clot. I immediately stopped taking my birth control pills.
By 2010, my physical activity had slowed down. I was not as active as I had been, and gained weight. I joined a boot camp exercise program for one hour every day, and started eating healthier foods. I did a log of jogging and running. After running one day, I felt excruciating pain in my leg. The next day it became very swollen, and I had difficulty walking. I was exhausted, and became out of breath while completing the simplest tasks. I went to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with three blood clots in my left leg. I hadn’t traveled, and I was physically active, so my doctors had a difficult time identifying the cause of my clots. I was hospitalized for five to six days, and had to take a month off of work to recover. I saw a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood disorders), and was put on a consistent regimen of blood thinners. I now have post thrombotic syndrome (PTS), which causes edema (fluid retention with swelling) in my leg. The PTS has really impacted my life. I can no longer walk up hills, wear high heels, or wear anything that elevates my back heel. I cannot be physically active in the ways that I used to, like running and Zumba. I started speed walking, but experienced severe pain and swelling. To stay healthy, I hope to try biking and make improvements in my diet.
I am currently seeing a hematologist to try to identify if there are genetic factors causing my clots. My grandfather had a blood clot, and another family member recently passed away at the age of 33 due to a blood clot. I encourage everyone who is reading my story to learn the signs and symptoms of blood clots, in order to catch them as early as possible. Blood clots are not a death sentence, and there are ways to work around them, but early detection is key. If you have been diagnosed with a blood clot, you should learn as much as possible about clots, so that you can feel empowered to advocate for yourself and feel confident about the care that you receive. It is important to surround yourself with a knowledgeable team of healthcare providers that you feel comfortable around and won’t blow you off when you have concerns. It is sometimes difficult to get answers about what causes blood clots, but if you are able to find good doctors who listen to you, they will work with you and do all that they can to ensure that you have a healthy life.
CDC would like to thank Crystal for sharing this personal story.