Blood Clots: The Most Important Post I Will Ever Write

The number one search term leading people to my blog is ‘difference between blood clot in leg symptoms and pulled calf muscle symptoms’ or some variation of it. Almost daily I watch the page views skyrocket on Could You Have a Blood Clot? Information is lacking on blood clots and blood clot symptoms. I didn’t know anything about it, until I suffered from the massive trauma and devastating effects of a blood clot in my left leg that broke free, traveled through my heart and lodged in my left lung. Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis DVT and pulmonary embolism PE) affect upwards of 600,000 Americans each year and cause more deaths each year than the more well-publicized occurrences of breast cancer, AIDS, and motor vehicle accidents, yet they are virtually unheard of. In terms of blood clots, [this might be] the most important post I will ever write.

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March is Blood Clot Awareness Month. And, if you don’t know what to look out for by reading my blog, then I haven’t done enough to make you aware.

Sometimes, mostly late at night when I can’t sleep (I have not slept right since I got sick and I often wake up thinking I can’t breathe again), I scour the internet searching for information. My mind is like a sponge, soaking up everything I can find out blood clots, but the information is hard to come by. What I do find is a lot of survivor stories – people like me who are either young, active, healthy or a combination of them all – individuals who have been knocked off their feet by the damaging effects of a dvt or pe and are struggling every day to live their lives. And they do.

No matter what survivor’s story I read, I have found that all of us, who have chosen to speak out about blood clot awareness, are passionate about it. I can’t even describe to you anymore the excruciating pain I felt during and after my blood clots (which is why I am so thankful Dad told me to write this post right away). I know it was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, but I also know my brain has repressed that exact feeling. Today, I handle pain differently (and I used to have a high tolerance for physical pain), in that mostly I can’t handle it. The slightest thing hurts and sends me into tears or destroys my focus. The nurses in the hospital swore to me that surviving a blood clot in the lung was more painful than childbirth (so, I should be good there?!). One-half of clot patients will have long-term complications and one-third will have a recurrence within 10 years, which is perpetually in the back of my mind and terrifies me. Among people who have had a dvt, one-half will have long-term complications (post-thrombotic syndrome) such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and scaling in the affected limb. Some will have open sores in the affected limb, known as ulcers. (www.cdc.gov)

When I got hurt (damage from a dvt or pe is actually considered a bodily injury and not a sickness), I was a runner, I lost weight and was far out of the risk for diabetes zone, which I had previously found myself in. I didn’t think it could happen to me. I did all the right things, right?

Please listen to me when I say – Please listen to your body because it can happen to you! We as runners think we can handle pain, that it’s normal, that there is nothing wrong, but please know what to look for because you never know when something might, in fact, be horribly wrong.

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Symptoms of a pe (pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the lung):
  • Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath, cough or even lie down
  • Feeling light headed or dizzy, or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Coughing up blood
  • A sense of anxiety, nervousness or impending doom

PE is life-threatening complication of deep vein thrombosis, please seek emergency medical care immediately, as it can be fatal!

Symptoms of a dvt (deep vein thrombosis or blood clot in the leg):
  • Swelling in the affected leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot.
  • Pain in your leg; this can include pain in your ankle and foot. The pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a charley horse. It won’t go away with regular stretching, massaging or rest.
  • Warmth over the affected area.
  • Changes in your skin color, such as turning pale, red or blue or purple.

You need to know in about half of all cases, deep vein thrombosis occurs without any noticeable symptoms. If something doesn’t seem right or you are at all concerned, make an appointment with your primary care physician to have it checked out before symptoms could potentially get worse and cause problems with your lungs or heart.

You’re at risk for a dvt (and potentially a pe) if you are sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying; have an inherited a blood-clotting disorder; are on prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay or paralysis; have had an injury or surgery; are pregnant; have cancer; have inflammatory bowel disease; have heart disease; take birth control or hormone replacement therapy; have a pacemaker or catheter; have had a dvt or pe previously; have a family history of dvt or pe; are overweight or obese; are a smoker; are over 6o years old; are tall; or are a female.

That’s a lot of different people.

If you experience any of the pe and dvt symptoms at the same time, please seek emergency medical care. If you are alone, call 9-1-1. Don’t wait to see if you get better.

This is serious.

The complications from a pe are extremely painful, stressful, damaging to the body and mind and can last a lifetime. I am about ten months out from my pe and I am still recovering. The total recovery time for me is one to two years, and it all depends on my body. Up to two years. That’s not something to be taken lightly. Everything has changed for me. I have to pay attention to what I do, what I eat, what medications I take or don’t take, what kind of exercise I do. This has impacted my family, my friends, my job and so many other things that I never even considered before now. The psychological and emotional ramifications are equally damaging and ones that I am still faced with daily. And, it’s not even my fault, although there are still times when I demand to know “what I did to deserve this.”

Still, I am grateful to be here.

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I don’t want to let my dvt and pe injury define me in a negative way, yet to some extent, it will make a difference to the person I am and to the person I become from here on out. I don’t believe this occurrence is something I can just sweep under the rug and day, “Well, I survived that, but it’s not defining me so I’m moving on with my life.” Yes, I will keep moving on with my life and keep trying to find the positives, but there is something to be said for awareness.

It’s like cancer or a brain injury, a heart attack or stroke – people don’t just survive those things and then pretend it never happened. If they did, organizations like the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association wouldn’t exist. And yet, except for a few small organizations, no one talks about blood clots.

Except for those who have survived. I am here to tell you, listen to your body, be aware and don’t wait. If you or a loved one has experienced the devastation of a blood clot, there is hope. Life will go on, but yes, there is Hell to conquer first.

If you do nothing else, please share this information with at least one other person – in your family, your circle of friends or workplace. Send a tweet, share it on Facebook or even email it – just pass it along. If you don’t want to do that, please store it in your file of information just in case you need it some day. You never know whose life you may save in the process.

Thank you very much to The Clot Must Be Fought for the graphics that appear in this post and for helping to promote awareness about blood clots and their effects. The Clot Must Be Fought is fighting blood clots with awareness, creativity and a group of people who have fought for their lives. Please consider purchasing an awareness band to help support their organization and continue to spread the word! You can also like them on Facebook to stay up to date with information, awareness and advice.

Until the next mile marker,

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. My clot is really uncommon as it didn’t end up as a PE nor was it in my leg. Mine was in my jugular and mimicked a swollen lymph node (which happens to be right in that same area). I feel very lucky to have just switched doctors b/c I don’t trust that my previous doctor would have even thought about it being a clot. Initially my doc treated as infection for first 3 days then sent me for a scan. The statistics are really frightening. I knew so little about blood clots. I think most people don’t know much, if anything, about them unless they’ve had one.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Fun For Friday – Half Marathon ThoughtsMy Profile

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Hi Heather- I am so glad you are okay and that you were able to get linked with a doctor who could help you. I cannot imagine how scary it would be to have a clot in your jugular and so close in proximity to the brain – which makes me even more thankful you are okay! As you probably know, information about blood clots seems to be hard to come by, and I am glad we can share our stories with one another and hopefully help to educate others before it happens to them. Take care!

  2. Thank you for sharing this – so much of this info I did not know. I will be sure to pass it on!
    Nanci @ This Crazy Life of Mine recently posted..An Italian fiesta!My Profile

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Hi Nanci – thank you for reading and for sharing! As you read, I did not know about blood clots until it happened to me.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story! I will definitely share with others. Creating awareness of health issues we don’t hear about enough can definitely save someone else’s life! My thoughts are with you!

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Thank you, Sarena – for your kind words and for sharing this info! Even if we save just one person’s life it is worth it!!

  4. Thank you for sharing Sara! I honestly had no idea about what to look out for so this was very eye-opening for me.
    Suzanne recently posted..Green Haven Creek B&BMy Profile

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      And thank you for reading Suzanne! I am glad to tell you and others so people can be aware and know the signs before they become life-threatening.

  5. I absolutely love this: “Life will go on, but yes, there is Hell to conquer first.” Yes, yes, and yes. Life does go on, but that doesn’t mean it looks the same or that there isn’t a time of healing and regrouping in recovery. You are still here for a reason and I’m so glad you are my friend!! Love you!

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Thank you, my friend! And you know I am equally grateful to call you my friend. So many life events/circumstances have brought us closer and that means the world to me. I both look up to you as someone I can learn from and of course, laugh with!! 😉

  6. Such an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing! I know this post is going to help a lot of people!
    Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie recently posted..Erin Go Braugh: My St. Patrick’s Day WeekendMy Profile

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Thank you so much, Erin. I hope to at least educate others so if they feel the same things I did, they can remember and think, “I need to get some help, right away!” and not wait like I did and be in a worse situation. Thank you for reading it!

  7. Wow Sara this is such an important and informative post! Thanks for putting info and awareness into our hands. I have heard about blood clots and dvt but only in the context of long car rides/airplane trips … I never knew there were so many risk factors to be aware of, not to mention what to look for as far as symptoms go. I think your message to trust your body is SO important! Sending you all the best wishes and strength on your continued recovery.
    Dallas recently posted..review of “the fault in our stars” by john greenMy Profile

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Thank you, Dallas! It is so important for me to be able to share what happened to me and spread awareness. I had no idea what the risk factors were until it happened to me and I started reading more about DVT and PE. I really believe my body was telling me there was something wrong and at first, I didn’t listen. I may have saved A LOT of pain and hurt if I had. Now, I want to tell everyone! Thank you for your thoughts and thank you for stopping by.

  8. Hi Sara it’s Monique from Australia I can never thank you enough for all your blogs and information
    All I can say to other readers, what Sara has written is MORE then true
    I am a PE Survivor three months, was told I should have had a MASSIVE stroke, heartattack or be dead – both of my lungs are FULL of LARGE clots.
    They are idiopathic cos nobody could work out where they came from
    I was in hospital for two weeks, chest xray was CLEAR said I had a severe chest infection and bronchitis and would keep me in over the weekend with more a/biotics and Predisinole.
    By Mondaymorning my Lung Specialist said “something doesn’t gel with you” and DIDNT send me home but send me for a CT with contrast.
    I owe my life to his knowledge and persistence
    I DIDNT listen to my body, was fatigued, short of breath, pain In calfs on and off and pressure in chest for weeks.
    And don’t think just your chestxray is clear you are ok, mine was as clear as a bell.
    Ask for a D-Dimer test (which I didn’t as I didn’t know ANYTHING bout bloodclots) and a CT with contrast.
    I knew NOTHING until I came home after two weeks and surfed the net for HOURS and found SARS BLOOD CLOT RECOVERY Blog
    Sara saved my mentality and gave me peace of mind with her answers to my questions as did other Survivors in her blog.
    I still have a long way to go, but as Sara says LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
    Thanks again to Sara and May all of you be on the road to recovery, each month you WILL get better
    Love to all,
    Monique from Australia

    • Sara- Words to Run By Blog says

      Hello, my friend! How are you? It is so nice to see you on Words to Run By. Thank you, as always, for stopping by to read my post. As you can see, I am behind as usual on getting back to my messages, but I will always do so eventually. 🙂 Thanks for your understanding.

      I thank you so very much for your kind words and for spreading the word about my story, awareness and the story of so many other survivors out there, including you. I am really grateful we were able to connect – even if under horrible circumstances. I also want to thank you for sharing your story here because I think you can reach even more people by doing so – the more we share, the more we can help raise awareness – around the globe!

      Again, your words really mean a lot to me right now and have some [happy] tears. I have had a really struggle these past few weeks and reading that I helped someone really makes a difference. I have always said you should tell someone when they do something good for you and I believe that with all of my heart. Thank you for telling me your thoughts.

      Talk to you soon and be well!

      Sara

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