My life literally changed overnight (not to mention almost ended) in the summer of 2012. Life was going as planned – better than planned, as a matter of fact – in late May I quit my job of five years in the non-profit field and prepared to start my career as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher. That was on a Thursday and on Monday morning, instead of finding myself in the communications center of the local police department, I found myself in the intensive care unit of the local hospital wondering, “What happened to my life?” After suffering what I now know to have been a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot in my lung) from a deep vein thrombosis (or blood clot in my leg), I went from running nearly daily to not being able to even walk, stand, use the bathroom or breathe on my own. I could barely eat on my own. Most of my foods made it somewhere near my mouth, if I didn’t fall asleep from the copious amount of morphine being pumped into my system to help ease the excruciating pain.
All the doctors blamed my blood clots on oral contraceptives, which I had been taking for over seven years at that point. It wasn’t discovered until one doctor decided to dig a little deeper, thankfully, that I actually had antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which your body mistakenly produces antibodies against certain normal proteins in your blood potentially leading to the formation of a blood clot(s) deep within the veins of the leg (DVT). Damage to other organs depends on the extent and location of the clot. If a clot travels to your lung it can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE). There’s no cure for antiphospholipid syndrome, but medications can be effective in reducing your risk of blood clots.
I remember vividly the day I was sitting (very uncomfortably) in my doctor’s office when he looked up from his charts and said, “You know, in all my years of practice, you were the sickest I have ever seen someone. You’re lucky to be alive, in fact, but we’re going to figure this thing out.”
Today, I am still recovering from my blood clots and APS, but I’m learning to live – and run – again one day at a time. I spend a lot of time writing about my experiences and trying to share as much information as I can with others so they do not have to experience the horrible effects of this all-too common but nearly unheard of condition. Some days I still cannot get out of bed for more than a few hours and other days, I can run/walk a mile or two with the support and encouragement of my family and a few close friends. I still do not know how I will ever run a half marathon again, but it is my goal to do so. Recovering from such an intense and critical illness is often lonely and I strive to let others who are suffering know they are not alone. For all the times I wanted to give up in the hospital and in the months of aftermath, I am glad I didn’t. There is hope for recovery and as in running and as in life, the smallest steps will eventually lead us to our greatest triumphs.