Real Stories from People Who Have Experienced Blood Clots – Mary Campise
My name is Mary Campise and I would like to share my personal experience with blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). I have been an avid runner and biker and enjoyed good health my entire life. However, just before my 48th birthday, I began to experience shortness of breath. I found that I couldn’t keep up running with my husband and friends. I began to struggle for breath just walking up stairs and finally decided to see a doctor. I was told that the shortness of breath could be the result of exercise-induced asthma or possibly an allergy. While I was trying to find an answer, my shortness of breath persisted.
Two weeks later I woke up to find that my left leg was twice the size of my right leg. My husband drove me straight to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where doctors told me that I had DVT. One thinks of a blood clot as being small. However, my sonogram showed a blockage that ran from my abdomen to my ankle and I was told that no blood was moving up or going down. In the hospital I also learned that I had a complication of DVT—pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE occurs when the clot breaks off and travels to the heart and lodges in the lung. Most concerning to me, I learned that a PE can be fatal if not treated in time.
While I was in the hospital, a CT scan was conducted and the pulmonologist described my lungs as “being showered in blood clots.” An interventional radiologist talked with me that evening and explained that I needed a thrombectomy, an emergency procedure in which blood clots are surgically removed. After I was made aware of the risks and the necessity of this surgery, my husband and best friend convinced me that I needed to proceed in order to regain normal use of my leg again. The very next morning I underwent a successful thrombectomy. I also had a special filter, called an inferior vena cava filter, inserted into that vein in order to prevent any more blood clots from moving into my lungs.
The best news for me was that when I came out of surgery my leg was once again normal in size and I could stand up on my legs with no problem! Doctors told me that it was very likely that my blood clot was caused by May-Thurner syndrome, a condition in which a vein on the left side is compressed by an artery on the right. I now take blood thinners, known also as anticoagulants, to manage my condition.
I am sharing my story because my experience with DVT is so similar to other people’s stories—mainly that I did not recognize a warning sign, which for me was unexplained shortness of breath. My advice for other people is simple: Be aware of your own body. If you experience a symptom such as unexplained shortness of breath, take this seriously and seek medical care immediately. Be your own advocate for your health and respond quickly to any symptoms that are not normal for you!
CDC would like to thank Mary for sharing this personal story.