When ICE Isn’t Enough, Get the Road ID App

Road ID Review Cover

I often think about how important it is to have In Case of Emergency (ICE) in your phone. If you don’t think it is, think again. It may be the only way authorities know who to contact in the event of, well, an emergency. I know first-hand ICE works and police and emergency medical personnel do check your phone for it. A little over two years ago, my Mom went for a run in the park and none of us knew she would never come back. If it wasn’t for her having me as an ICE contact in her phone, who knows how long it may have taken for the police officer who arrived on the scene to find out who to call. I was able to alert my family within minutes of the police finding her and we knew exactly which hospital to go to. No question of who my Mom was or who to contact. It breaks my heart that my Mom passed away on that day, but I am thankful we were notified as soon as possible thanks to her ICE contacts in her phone. Until then, I had never thought about ICE, but you can bet it’s in my phone now. And my phone is password protected, which would do me next to no good in an emergency situation. So, what do you do when ICE isn’t enough? Get the Road ID App!

Having suffered a blood clot in my leg (DVT) and lung (PE) just over a year ago, I’m faced with a potentially life-threatening medical condition if I find myself in a dangerous situation. I am taking blood thinners, which means if I were to get in an accident – a car wreck, slip on the ice and hit my head while running, or get knocked unconscious for some reason – not only would I be at a higher risk of bleeding to death than someone not on blood thinners, but medics would have to treat me differently from the start. My ICE contacts know about my medical condition, medication and history of blood clots – but they’re locked away in my phone. My mom’s phone was easily accessible. Mine is not. Is yours?

I usually wear or carry a medical ID/alert tag with me, but there are times I don’t. The one thing I do always carry with me is my cell phone. You can pretty much bet where you find my phone, you will find me – right?! But it won’t do me any good if I can’t speak for myself and my phone is locked with no way to access it. I recently discovered that the Road ID (yes, the same people that make the ID bracelets) has a free app designed to not only let your ICE contacts be known regardless of a phone lock, but keep you safe on the run too.

Using a simple photo feature, you can create a lock screen that has your name, location (if you want it) and up to three ICE contacts and their relation to you. There is also a place to include important information. You can include as little or as much information as you want to. Mine looks something like this:

lock screen

What if you don’t have a medical condition to worry about? You just never know, that’s what I would say to you. My Mom was healthier than she had ever been in her life and something still happened on her run (or shortly thereafter) that caused her to become unresponsive. She could not speak for herself. I read stories (more often than I want to) about runners and cyclists getting hit by cars. What would you do if that happened to you – or someone you love – and it comes down to a life or death situation that required immediate action? Put ICE in your phone and at least consider changing your lock screen when you are out on a workout if you don’t want it there all the time. I keep mine there all the time because of my medical history.

The second feature of the Road ID app is the eCrumb (or electronic breadcrumb) tracking feature that I also find invaluable to runners, walkers, cyclists and anyone who may be out and about on their workout.

Basically, what it does is tell someone (via text directly from the app) that you are going for a run. YOU set a timer for how long you anticipate being out (don’t worry; you can add time as you go right from your phone). You can notify up to five people of your run and they can track you in real time via a text link that is sent to them. They do not need to have the app.

ecrumb set up

Let’s say you’re out on your run and you stop moving for more than five minutes, the app will send the person (or people) on your list a notification that you stopped moving via a message you can customize. This feature comes with a very load alarm that lets you know if you have been inactive for five minutes so you can extend the time (or disable the alarm) and the text will not go out (like if you stop for a restroom break and it takes longer than five minutes). Road ID suggests you customize the alert message to say something like, “Please call or text me to see if I’m okay” in case an unintentional alert is sent out. I have told my husband if he calls or texts after an alert message and he doesn’t get an answer back in a couple of minutes, something is wrong! With the alert, the app sends a link to your contacts (that you sent the “I’m going for a run/bike ride” message to in the first place) with the last known location and tracks your phone for the next 30 minutes after the alert is sent out.  The eCrumb tracking location services update about every minute while you are using the app.

It’s free. And to me it is invaluable for the peace of mind. Two messages could mean the difference between help in an emergency and no help “I’m going for a run” and “Something is/might be wrong.” We do it anyway by leaving notes at home or texting a family member to say we are going out for a run, but why not have an actual way to find us now if the worst circumstance occurs? Road ID suggests this app not replace your physical Road ID, but it is a tool to be used in conjunction with your wristband in case you would get separated from your phone in the event of an emergency.  If you download the app, Road ID will send you a coupon to use for a Road ID.

What is your safety and the safety of your loved ones worth to you? Take a moment to think about it and consider downloading this app. Currently it is only available for iPhone, but Road ID is working on an Android version too.

Tell me about you. Do you carry some sort of ID with you when you run? Would people be able to access your ICE contacts in an emergency? Have you used this app or a similar one? Will you? Do you have a Road ID or will you consider getting one? Do you tell someone when you are going for a run or ride?

Until the next mile marker,

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Please Note: I was not asked by Road ID to review this app or compensated in any way. I have very strong feelings about being safe while out on the run – or anytime – and wanted to share this tool with my readers. I use the Road ID app and chose to review it myself. 

Could YOU Have a Blood Clot?

One of my running friends said it best, “It would be nice to know how to tell the difference between muscle pain and the type of pain you felt. Or maybe the really scary thing was that you couldn’t tell?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. And yes, one of the really scary things was that I honestly had no idea the pain I was feeling in my calf and lung was anything to be that concerned about until it was almost too late. That being an acute blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a pulmonary embolism (PE), which developed as a result of a complete autoimmune meltdown. Why you ask? Because my immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against certain normal proteins in my blood, also known as antiphospholipid syndrome. You can read more about my hospitalization and diagnoses here and here.

The truth of the matter is we are all runners, cyclists, walkers, lifters – athletes – and we have learned through racing, training and pushing our bodies to the limit that pain is not only acceptable, but sometimes just the way it is. I know, I’ve struggled with Patellofemoral Syndrome (a.k.a Runner’s Knee and yes, everything really is a syndrome nowadays) all but the first year I ran. Knee pain for me? Completely normal, something I’ve had to live with if I want to run. It hurts worse at times, feels better other times and with no apparent rhyme or reason can totally make or break my run. And, I’m not alone. Most runners I know and run with seem to struggle with some sortof ongoing pain, injury or bodily malfunction.

We see each other in the Physical Therapists’ waiting room and don’t recognize each other because we are dressed normally. “How was your run?” becomes “How’s your PT going?” or “How’s that knee holding up lately?” We live with pain. In fact, some people might even argue it’s what makes us real. I thought that at first, Yes! My first running injury. I’m a real runner now! Um, no. That got really old, really fast and yet; we still run, bike, swim and tear up the gym with pain. Push through. Get over it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You can run 26.2 miles with pain, what’s stopping you now? You’re fine. Walk if off. Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. You know all the right things to say to yourself.

Given all of this, it only makes sense that when we have real pain that we need to be really concerned about, we shrug it off. We’re runners, right? We live sometimes everyday of our lives with an ache here or a pulled muscle there. We run long on Saturday and hobble around on Sunday and Monday (and maybe even Tuesday if you’re like me) until we’re recovered. Why are you walking like that? Someone asks us at the office. I ran 22 miles on Saturday (meanwhile we’re thinking, I bet you didn’t). And we go about our day, proudly displaying our battle scars.

Looking back, now? Yes. I should have known something was wrong. Really wrong. I blamed in on my knee.

The pain was different.

First there was the leg pain. I had been complaining about leg pain for a couple of weeks or so. I distinctly remember telling Duane, not only did my knee hurt, but my calf hurt too. I told him this pain extended down into my ankle and bottom of my foot. The thing that was different is this pain was not as a result of running. I had it even when I didn’t run. In fact, when I ran, I noticed it less.

I have always had a discolored left leg:

June 2012

You can see the brown, which now looks like freckling, but before this incident, it turned almost purplish. In fact, the other thing that makes my situation complicated is that I have had more than one doctor look at my leg for the discoloration. It had been discolored ever since college, from what I can remember. I even had a biopsy on the skin about two years ago in which a dermatologist determined it was a pigmentation issue and not cancerous or anything like that. Even my gynecologist was fascinated by the color of my skin and listened to my blood flow. No one ever heard a disruption of blood flow. Hence, no one assumed it was a clot. I didn’t have varicose veins, either, further indicating a blood clot was out of the question.

DVT Causes:

  • Slow blood blow (often due to lying or sitting still for an extended period of time – such as in the case of a long plane ride or car ride)
  • Pooling of blood in the vain often due to immobility, medical conditions, or damage to valves in a vein or pressure on the valves, such as during pregnancy
  • Injury to a blood vessel
  • Clotting problems due to aging or a disease
  • Catheters placed in a vein

Symptoms of a Deep-Vein Blood Clot (DVT):

  • Swelling in one or both legs
  • Pain or tenderness in one or both legs, which may occur only while standing or walking
  • Warmth in the skin of the affected leg
  • Red or discolored skin in the affected leg
  • Visible surface veins
  • Leg fatigue

DVT can partly or completely block blood flow, causing chronic pain and swelling. It may damage valves in blood vessels, making it difficult to get around.

Half of all DVT cases cause no symptoms.

My Symptoms:
  • Swelling in one or both legs
  • Pain or tenderness in one or both legs, which may occur only while standing or walking
  • Warmth in the skin of the affected leg
  • Red or discolored skin in the affected leg
  • Visible surface veins
  • Leg fatigue

What I Felt:

Excruciating pain that extended from the back of my knee down to my ankle whenever I put any amount of weight on it. I was nearly dragging my leg by the time my husband and I went to the hospital. I have said it previously and I will say it again because it is the only way I can describe it: It felt like someone had the soft, fleshy skin behind my knee in a vice and just kept on tightening. Runner’s Knee caused me to hobble, caused me to scoot down stairs, sidestep curbs and grimace when getting in and out of the car. Runner’s Knee never caused pain in the back of my leg. Also, the side of my calf was tender to the touch, but not overly warm, now I know that soreness was primary along the femoral vein. I did not notice any swelling, especially in my lower leg. My knee is always slightly swollen to being with. I will note, remember Goofy when I was limping at Mile 4 of the full marathon due to my severe kneepain? It wasn’t knee pain. It was this pain that caused me to slow to the point of being pulled from the course and after a three hour plane ride and countless hours on my feet after that, I’m not at all surprised in hindsight.

I just wonder how long this clot had been building. It is terrifying to think about.

Then there was the side pain. I texted Judi on Sunday when she asked how my knee was doing, “Sore but okay. The weird thing is my left side. Hurts when I breathe like I can’t catch my breath. Slept propped up. No idea what the hell happened. Started mid-day yesterday.”


Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism:

  • Shortness of breath that may occur suddenly
  • Sudden, sharp chest pain that may become worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing up blood or pink, foamy mucus
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Signs of shock

Pulmonary embolism may be hard to diagnose because its symptoms may occur with or are similar to other conditions, such as a heart attack, a panic attack, or even pneumonia.

Also, some people with pulmonary embolism do not have symptoms.

My Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath that may occur suddenly
  • Sudden, sharp chest pain that may become worse with deep breathing or coughing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing up blood or pink, foamy mucus
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Signs of shock

What I Felt:

I honestly thought this was a really bad side stitch. Only, it got worse over time. A pretty good indicator that it was not a side stitch was that it did not happen while I was running. It happened much later in the day once my body had a chance to relax. As time went on, the pain became nearly unbearable and not only that, it became hard to breath. I could not lie down at all – the pain was excruciating.I never really felt chest pains, but I did feel like someone was jamming their thumb into my rib cage. My breathing became shallow and I could only say two or three words at a time. The best indicator? I could not draw in a deep breath – very similar to when you are trying to catch your breath during a hard or hot run, but it doesn’t go away with rest or pain meds. One of my doctors told me, there should have been a moment in time when I realized I couldn’t breathe (when the clot entered my lung and obstructed air flow); however, I think this happened when I was taking my nap and I didn’t know the event had occurred. If I had been up, walking around or running errands, I may have noticed it as it happened and thought differently about it. Although this was serious, I am convinced my symptoms did not feel more life-threatening because thankfully my heart was not affected by the trauma to my lung.

The pain in my leg/knee/calf combined with the new pain in my side should have been an indicator that something was wrong and I needed immediate medical attention because a PE is most commonly caused by a blood clot that breaks off from a leg or pelvis vein and travels to the lung, creating a big problem.

(Now we know? I should have put the two pains together.) 

So there you have it. If you at all think you are suffering from a blood clot in your leg or lung, please do not wait to get emergency medical attention. Most people who are going to die from a PE do so within 30 to 60 minutes of the event, which is why I am so lucky (since I took well over 24 hours to go to the hospital). PE causes or contributes up to 200,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. One in every 100 patients who develop DVT dies, due to a PE. Immediate medical intervention is essential to reduce the risk of death to less than 10 percent. I’m still here!

As runners and athletes, we all live with pain, some of it more severe than not. We will probably always have to deal with pain. Its part of what makes us who we are – we push and workout and run until sometimes we just can’t go anymore and in those moments, we do sometimes find victory whether it be setting a new PR, going a new distance or achieving a negative split. But, listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, doesn’t feel right or just as even the slightest tweak to it, seek medical attention. Even if it is putting a call in to your family doctor. After all, I am convinced that is what saved my life. I wouldn’t be here had my family not been persistent in checking in with me and eventually calling my physician who then called me and told me to go to the E.R.

Until the next mile marker,

In Case You Missed It….

  • What the #$%! Happened. In June 2012, I was incredibly lucky to survive a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot in my lung) that broke off from a clot that had formed deep within a vein in my lower leg. Read my story here.
  • What the #$%! Happened: The Aftermath. What caused this, what my treatment entails and what the future holds for running, my job and life.

  • “That’s Why I Pray.” God is not finished with me yet – and that’s why I’m still here! Do you believe in the power of prayer to make a difference? Do you believe there is hope when all seems hopeless? Do you believe in better days? I do now more than ever! The lyrics and meaning of this song got me through some seemingly hopeless moments in the days after my discharge from the hospital.


What the #$%! Happened: The Aftermath

Drugs. That’s what I remember most from the hospital. It seemed like every half hour, a nurse was coming into my room and injecting me with or having me swallow drugs. I could barely stay awake. I remember falling asleep with half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich hanging out of my mouth while I was visiting with my Dad. I remember he let it dangle, then I woke up and chewed on it some more. Being on pain relievers – heavy duty ones at that – is a weird sensation. I won’t say that I liked them, but the few moments without them were excruciating. I think I would rather feel spaced out, but that is unnerving in a different way. It wipes away your memory. And God knows what you might say. As evidenced by these few shining examples of incoherent text messages. 

I don’t know what I was talking about: 

Apparently I did see bugs (spiders per my husband) and was scratching to get them off of me so the doctors adjusted my dosage immediately:

Yet, I was calm as could be when I texted Judi at 5:30 a.m. to tell her I was in the hospital. She had previously wished me a happy-first-day-of work:

We laughed about that later. I was also told to sleep by the nurses because I was becoming “delusional”:

I was also slightly irrational (I believed I failed Duane as a matter of fact):
(Apparently I did)

The truth is, I had no idea how truly lucky I was to even be in the hospital:

The truth is, I would not have made it in the hospital without the love, support and encouragement of my husband, my dad, my sister, my mother’s friend Gail and a few of my favorite friends. Judi who combed and braided my hair and massaged my hands and feet; Rachel who visited daily on her lunch break and brought me a Pillow Pet (which Sadie thinks belongs to her now) for comfort, magazines and Brain Teasers (also fun on drugs); and Chrissy who brought me magazines and helped me walk those first wobbly steps once I was out of critical care. Not to mention all of the cards, Facebook messages and emails you all sent. All of you and your kindness means the world to me.
“I just knew I would get something out of you being gone, Mama!”

I was discharged from the hospital exactly one week after I was admitted with pages of instructions on medications, next steps and follow-up referrals. I couldn’t tell you how many different doctors I saw in the hospital, let alone which ones were the ones listed at the bottom of the page. The medication list was daunting – I was afraid I couldn’t do it, even with my husband’s help. The clot was (and still is) in my leg and excruciatingly painful when I moved it. I was discharged with oxygen and needed help walking. Everything was so slow. The stairs is my apartment looked like a mountain and some days they still do. Still, I was home and that meant I felt a little better, at least. We took the medication a day at a time. I had three weeks to make the follow-up appointments. Hopefully I could walk by then, right?
I still don’t think I realized how serious my condition was until one of the doctors called me the day after I got home. We’ll call him Dr. H. His card, which somehow migrated home with me from the hospital, said “Medical Oncology and Hematology,” which terrified me. Preliminary causes of my Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – or blood clot in my leg – were ruled as a result of birth control, not cancer (which everyone assured me I didn’t have) or blood diseases (which no one seemed sure if I had). I listened to his voicemail and there was certain urgency in his voice when he requested I call him immediately at his office. He sounded a bit taken aback that I was no longer in the hospital. 

Me: May I please speak to Dr. H?
Nurse: Sure, hold on please, I’ll get him right away.
Waiting for what seemed like forever.Nurse: He had to go to the hospital for an emergency, but I have him on the other line. He needs you to come in to see him first thing in the morning.
Me: What? Why? The paper says three weeks!
Nurse: He believes your clot may be getting larger, which is very concerning. He wants you to go get a scan at the hospital in the morning before you come here. He wants you to stop taking Coumadin immediately and only take your injections. He wants you to take Aspirin daily. He’ll see you tomorrow at noon and explain everything then.
Me: Okay. Should I panic?
Nurse: No, but if you have any chest pains, shortness of breath or pain like before you came to the hospital, you need to go to the E.R. right away! Dr. H. takes the Pulmonary Embolism very seriously and if he wanted you to panic, he would let you know.
Me: Okay?

Great. I didn’t sleep that night. Doctor’s orders, though, and by 11:15 the next morning, I was in his office, scan completed and practically shaking with anxiety. I was the youngest person in the waiting room – or anywhere I had been relating to my illness, for that matter – and I was certain the doctor had nothing but bad news.
I was right. He even said it, “Sara, are you okay? You don’t look okay.” I told him it all sounded horrible as he explained what was happening. “Well, you’re not wrong. It’s pretty bad, I will say. You had me more than a little freaked out. You were pretty sick – the sickest I have seen someone in a very long time – and you have a long road ahead of you. But the good news it, it’s treatable.”
Great? I have at least learned to appreciate honesty. I now know exactly where I stand.
So, where is that exactly?
I have been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, which caused an acute clot in my left leg (DVT) which extends from just above my left knee all the way to my ankle. There is no blood flow in my femoral vein. Hence, it is excruciatingly painful. I can’t describe it accurately other than it feels like the soft and delicate flesh behind my kneecap has been put in a vice that keeps tightening. This pain extends all the way down my leg.
Antiphospholipid syndrome is a disorder in which your immune system mistakenly produces antibodies against certain normal proteins in your blood. It can cause blood clots to form within your arteries or veins. Antiphospholipid syndrome may lead to the formation of blood clots in your legs, (DVT). Damage to other organs depends on the extent and location of the clot. For instance, a clot in your brain can cause stroke. If a clot travels to your lung, as in my case, it causes a pulmonary embolism (PE). There’s no cure for antiphospholipid syndrome, but medications can be effective in reducing your risk of blood clots. I am currently on an injection (versus oral blood thinners like Coumadin) to ensure there is no change in my blood flow to prevent the clot from breaking apart again. It is unknown how long I will be on this injection, but it will most likely not be forever. It will be until my body “calms down.”
The clot itself may always be present in my leg. Some people’s bodies dissolve the clot, others do not and it turns to scar tissue. There are no medications that can dissolve the clot. It is up to the body. Even if it dissolves, I may always have pain in my leg and I may always have to wear a compression stocking to prevent further clots (lovely). The leg will now re-route blood through smaller capillaries and veins and may eventually bore through scar tissue if that develops. The pain is still intense, but little by little, it is getting better than it was.
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one or more arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body — most commonly, the legs. Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, but immediate treatment with anti-clotting medications can greatly reduce the risk of death. I was not given a clot-buster because the risk of hemorrhaging was too great due to my age. If my heart had been thrown into arrhythmia, it would have been different and the doctors would have had no choice. I am thankful that did not happen.

Right now, I have a collapsed lung. About an eighth of my lung was killed as a result of the PE. The lung will not heal or “come back.” The rest of my healthy lung will compensate for the loss and eventually the dead part will just be cut off from the rest of the lung to save the body’s energy. This is why it still hurts to breathe and will for some time. The clot in my lung just dies with the long. Again, no measures other than blood thinners were taken to break it apart due to the risk of internal damage. Sneezing, yawning, coughing and even laughing still cause a severe stabbing sensation.
Thankfully, none of my other organs were damaged in this ordeal. And believe me, they were all inspected, scanned, poked, prodded, X-Rayed and who knows what else!
So, what does this mean?
I will live to run again. Don’t worry, I asked Dr. H. that right away! He said I can start to workout and walk (or run) as I feel like it. I’m afraid that won’t be for quite some time, seeing as that right now I am breathless after walking ten feet. Dr. H. said I should be able to do everything I used to do before, but it might take me some time to get there. Again. What’s new?
Total recovery time is six months to one year.
The hardest part for me will be not being out there to coach my group. I’m afraid I’m not handling that too well because I feel like I am letting them down.
I plan to start working early in July. I am off narcotic pain relievers (except for bedtime) and have even driven my car (not very far) a couple of times this weekend. It is painful to keep my leg bent in the driver’s seat. My new job has been nothing but understanding and supportive and they are excited to have me join them. For that, I could not be any more grateful. I know how lucky I am in that respect.
I’ll see Dr. H. every couple of weeks for awhile. I’ll have another scan in another few weeks. Tests are still out for other autoimmune indicators such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and I won’t know anything in that respect for another three months or so.

The hope is that I do not experience another PE, but if I have any symptoms like that night, I am to go to the E.R. without hesitating. I got that now. 

I may not need to say it, but always listen to your body. You never know when it might be trying to tell you something important. When you refuse to listen, it just goes haywire and forces you to take in interest. 

Just look at me, I’m living proof. 

Until the next mile marker,

In Case You Missed It….

What the #$%! Happened. In June 2012, I was incredibly lucky to survive a pulmonary embolism (or blood clot in my lung) that broke off from a clot that had formed deep within a vein in my lower leg. Read my story here.     

Pace Points: Could YOU Have a Blood Clot? Learn more about my symptoms of DVT and PE and how you can help make sure you don’t have to experience the same thing!

“That’s Why I Pray.” God is not finished with me yet – and that’s why I’m still here! Do you believe in the power of prayer to make a difference? Do you believe there is hope when all seems hopeless? Do you believe in better days? I do now more than ever! The lyrics and meaning of this song got me through some seemingly hopeless moments in the days after my discharge from the hospital.  

What the #$%! Happened

I quit my job in the non-profit world on Thursday, May 31 and anxiously prepared for a three day weekend before beginning a new job in my field at a local police department. There was a party; there were drinks and even a cake to celebrate my new endeavor.

At least, this was all the news I planned to blog about that weekend. The big announcement, the big surprise. I had been trying to get this particular position for well over a year and it was worth announcing in a whole post, all of its own. You might notice that did not happen.

You may have noticed I apparently dropped off the face of the earth for almost two entire weeks. If it weren’t for a Facebook post, carefully crafted by my loving sister, my whereabouts may have still remained unknown (okay, not really, but you do get the point).



That sounds serious. I guess it was. At least people keep looking at me like it’s a shock to see me still here up and moving around. So, what the hell happened?

June 2 began like any other Saturday morning. Nothing new or different happened. I woke up early to meet my pace group for a two mile run with MIT. I ran two miles with the 13’s in about 28 minutes (I think, I never did upload the data) and enjoyed some great conversation with my friend and fellow Coach Judi. She walked with me to my car at which point, I casually massaged my calf and said it was aching. I told her Duane thought it might be the start of Plantar Fasciitis and gave me some exercises to do. You have to understand, the three of us coaches appear to be pretty unlucky when it comes to injuries, aches and pains so it’s far from abnormal for one, two or even all three of us to be nursing an ailment or injury at any given time. I mean, that’s why we’re the Lucky 13’s, right? I thought so.


I drove home, grabbed something to eat (my famous stir-fry, I think), showered and took a nap. Nothing new or different. I was feeling good, refreshed, excited for the upcoming running season, especially since my calf felt fine by the time I got home.

I slept for an hour and a half or so and woke up early that afternoon. When I sat up in bed, my left side was hurting, especially when I took a breath. Honestly, it felt like a really intense side stitch. I got up anyway, did some stretches (which I thought made me feel better) and went about my day. I stretched out my calf because that was bothering me too. My honest thought? I pulled a muscle on my run or was severely out of shape again. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

My husband came home that evening and I was literally propped up on the couch with pillows surrounding me. I don’t quite remember how I got there, but sitting upright was the only thing that eased the pain in my side. He asked if I was okay and I said I was and that I had apparently hurt myself running. He asked if I needed to go to the hospital and I choked out a no. In the back of my mind, I thought something was really wrong, but I figured I needed to rest (Note to self: Never ignore your gut instinct or husband’s concern again).

Let me back up for a moment, I can be am a hypochondriac most days. If something is physically wrong with me, I probably have the worst possible disease or injury known to man. So, naturally, this would be the one time my hypochondriac tendencies fell by the wayside as I decided to “walk it off.” That would turn out to be the worst possible course of action in this situation. (After all, what could possibly be wrong? I was starting a new job on Monday and nothing was going to stand in my way).

I went to bed early, even for me (like 7:00 p.m.) I tried to go to bed early (like 7:00 p.m.), but the thing was, I couldn’t lay down without a sharp pain stabbing into my left side so I lay propped up in a recliner, only dozing off here and there throughout the night. My husband checked on my frequently, but I maintained that I was fine.

And, just like I had anticipated, I woke up Sunday morning feeling much better. I knew it! That couldn’t be farther from the truth, either. I got up from the chair and took about a half a step onto the floor and the pain in calf was excruciating, which made me wince – drawing in a sharp breath – that then sliced through my side like a knife. Still, I was fine and completely convinced I had overdone it on Saturday.

Without going into monotonous detail about all of Sunday (we’ll move right on to the exciting part), all of Sunday went pretty much like this:

Husband: Are you okay?

Me: Yeah, I think so.

Husband: Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the Emergency Room?

Me: Yes.

Husband: Are you sure? You look like you’re hurting.

Me: I pulled a muscle, I think.

Husband: Really??

Me: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

And of course, we exhausted internet resources for any information in an attempt to self-diagnose. We ruled out the pancreas, gall bladder, liver, kidneys and heart. We settled on constipation and I kid you not (ask Judi), I made a fresh ginger and cinnamon tea to ease the pain. I was convinced I was feeling better as I drank my third cup. I may have even of had to go to the bathroom.

Sunday evening, we were supposed to go to dinner for my husband and sister’s birthdays’, but as the evening wore on, I started speaking in two or three word sentences, gasping for air with each word. My husband called my father and said we had to cancel, much to my protest. I remember speaking to my dad who asked if I thought I should go to an Urgent Care or Clinic. Good idea, maybe I should. So, at 6:30 on a Sunday night, my husband drove me to CVS, Walgreens and an Urgent Care – all of which closed promptly at 5:00 p.m. My ability to walk was seriously lacking as we walked up to each of these places. I was limping, mostly dragging my left leg because any pressure I put on it was incredibly painful. 

Husband: I told you we should have gone to the Emergency Room.

Me: I’m fine. Let’s just go home. I have to work tomorrow.

Husband: You can’t breath, how are you going to work?

Me: Actually, I can’t walk either.

Husband: You have to let me know what is going on!

Me: I just can’t breath and my leg is killing me!

We drove home in silence and I went back to the recliner. My husband called my Dad again, who proceeded to call our family doctor and briefly explain my situation.

The doctor (Dr. K.), who I now credit with saving my entire life, called me on my cell phone and asked me how I was feeling. Still unable to speak in sentences and completely breathless, I told him about my run Saturday and how I felt like I pulled a muscle so that I couldn’t breath right. He asked me a few questions and said, “I’m not really sure that this is musculoskeletal, Sara.” I told him I thought I could deal with the pain in my side if I could “freakin’ walk!” He asked what I meant by that, and I told him that it felt like someone had the space behind my kneecap in a vice and just wouldn’t stop tightening.

The long silence that ensued took what little breath I had left away.

Me: Do I panic now or later?

Doc: Panicking is not going to help this situation at all. What I do need you to do is drive to the nearest Emergency Room immediately. If you can’t get someone to drive you there, I need you to call 9-1-1.

Me: What?

Doc: You need to go to the hospital and when you get there you need to tell them your primary care physician believes you are at risk for a blood clot that has travelled to your lung.

Me: You mean like a Pulmonary Embolism?!!!! Like I could die??

Doc: I mean a Pulmonary Embolism. Which is very serious, especially for as long as you have been having symptoms. Do you have someone to drive you?

Me: My husband is here.

Doc: Which hospital are you going to? I’ll call your Dad back and tell him.

Me: I can call him.


I don’t remember hanging up the phone. I don’t remember getting out of the chair. I just remember hobbling down the stairs, limping into the living room and telling my husband to take me to the Emergency Room. I remember crying as I shuffled out to the car and I remember how crying just made breathing even harder. I remember feeling like I needed to panic, but I couldn’t. I remember asking my husband if I was going to die and I don’t remember what he said, but I’m sure he said, “No.” What else would you to say to someone who might actually die?

I remember parking outside the E.R. doors and us leaving the car there. I remember going through security and my husband got stopped for a pocket knife. I kept walking. I practically fell onto the reception desk and said to the lady, “I might have a blood clot in my lung. Like a Pulmonary Embolism.” Again, I kid you not, the receptionist said, “Please stand back and wait a moment because I am currently out of printer paper.”

“THIS HOSPITAL RUNS ON PRINTER PAPER?!?!?!?!” I thought to myself.

I stepped back. I hunched over. I started crying harder. My husband joined me after surrendering his weapon and asked me what I was waiting for. Printer paper. It seemed like we waited forever before a guy came around the corner, loaded up the printers and scurried away. “Now, how can I help you?” she asked me.

“I HAVE A PULMONARY EMBOLISM AND I CAN’T BREATH!” I screamed out loud, I know I did because people were staring.

I did not have to wait after that. I was ushered back into the emergency room, past a row of people in the waiting room, and seated in a chair. A nurse listened to my lungs, heart, took my blood pressure, and looked at my leg and a few other things. No one would answer my questions about what was happening. The next thing I knew, I wasn’t allowed to do anything on my own. I got put in a gown, a wheelchair, and then a bed and was wheeled to a room. Tests, tests, test and more tests. An ECG, a chest XRAY, A CT scan, even an IV.

My Dad showed up. I remember he had tears in his eyes. “This must be it,” I remember thinking to myself, “I might be dying.” Waiting, waiting and more waiting. Until almost 2:00 in the morning when the doctor came in and told me I had a blood clot in my left leg (Deep Vein Thrombosis) that broke off and went into my left lower lung quadrant (Pulmonary Embolism). As a result, my leg was blocked and part of my lung was dead. Hence the excruciating pain, which reminded me, I still felt it.

Morphine. I had never had it before. I felt immediate relief.

Husband: Can you breathe better now?

Me: No, but I don’t even care!

Doc: You’re being admitted to the hospital, Sara. You are very sick.

Me: No! I have to start a new job tomorrow!!

Doc: You can’t go to work right now, honey. You’re very sick.

Me: I’m fine!

The next 48 to 72 hours were spent in the ICU and Cardiac ICU. I couldn’t pee on my own, eat on my own (I only half got food into my mouth) or move on my own. Hell, I couldn’t even sleep on my own because they had to give me a pill for that. I definitely couldn’t breathe on my own because I was on oxygen (due to essentially no air going into my lower left lung) and I would remain on it for the next two weeks. I remember nurses and doctors talking over me in distinct yet hushed tones, asking me about my medical history, medications and overall health. I don’t remember what I told them except that nothing like this had ever happened before. The official diagnosis? A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot that develops deep inside a larger vein, usually within the lower leg or thigh paired with a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) or a clot that blocks the blood flow to the lung.  

People kept referring to me as “very sick,” “extremely lucky,” and “hanging in there.” They were saying things like, “Bless your heart,” “It’s okay, sweetheart,” and “Take it easy.” More tests, bedpans, doctors, specialists, special specialists and more nurses than I could count.

It wasn’t until I got home that I learned that most people who are going to die from a PE do so within 30 to 60 minutes of the event. Apparently “Since Saturday afternoon,” was not a normal answer to “How long have you been having this pain?” Now I know? PE causes or contributes up to 200,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. One in every 100 patients who develop DVT dies, due to a PE. Immediate medical intervention is essential to reduce the risk of death to less than 10 percent. Thank you Doctor K.  

I would spend a total of seven days in the hospital, still mostly unaware of how lucky I was to even be there. I had a partially dead lung, an acute clot in my vein and no idea what would happen next.

Until the next mile marker, 

In Case You Missed It….


 What the #$%! Happened: The Aftermath. What caused this, what my treatment entails and what the future holds for running, my job and life.



Pace Points: Could YOU Have a Blood Clot? Learn more about my symptoms of DVT and PE and how you can help make sure you don’t have to experience the same thing!




“That’s Why I Pray.” God is not finished with me yet – and that’s why I’m still here! Do you believe in the power of prayer to make a difference? Do you believe there is hope when all seems hopeless? Do you believe in better days? I do now more than ever! The lyrics and meaning of this song got me through some seemingly hopeless moments in the days after my discharge from the hospital.