Karen Kirchhoff’s Story

Categories: News,Patient Stories

By Karen Kirchoff

InKaren Kirchhoff, NATT volunteer and Heidi Merlini. July of 2004, I was diagnosed with a DVT in my left leg. I had experienced swelling and pain in my left calf, ankle and foot, in addition to fatigue. Until I was diagnosed however, I didn’t have the faintest idea what was wrong with me!

My mother had experienced two PE’s years ago. I made no connection to her experience in my mind, because my symptoms were not similar. At the time, I was training for the Falmouth Road race on Cape Cod – a popular seven mile race. I only made a doctors appointment because I was having
trouble getting my swollen foot into my running shoe! I was lucky to be under the care of a very competent doctor who immediately recognized that I might have a blood clot and sent me straight to the hospital.

Aside from the physical pain of the experience, I found it had a tremendous emotional effect on me that I could not have anticipated! It was very difficult for me to accept the fact that my body was not doing what it was supposed to do! Here I was doing everything to keep up my end of ‘the deal’: running, eating right, not smoking, etc. My body was not cooperating! I felt disappointed, frightened, and extremely vulnerable. My thoughts drifted back to when I was a child, seeing my mother hospitalized twice with PE’s.

It was a traumatic experience, and I was afraid this was my fate as well. My fears only increased as I spoke to my mother after my diagnosis, trying to gain some insight and information. Her doctors had never determined what caused her multiple PE’s. I was also told that I should prepare my self for the possibility that they may never know what caused my blood clot.

Months went by, and I gradually became accustomed to taking Coumadin and getting my regular blood tests. But I still felt very alone in the whole experience. It was only when I began to attend a monthly support group for people who had suffered from thrombosis/thrombophilia that I found some
help coping with my condition. The group was started by Dr. Goldhaber at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

I finally realized I was not alone! As I listened to people’s stories, I was moved and inspired by their strength, insight, sense of humor and perspective. I credit the support group for helping me get out of my rut. Up until that point, I had for the most part abandoned my running. I was now inspired to pick it up again, and raise it to a new level! On New Years day, 2005, I sat with some friends and we discussed our goals for the new year. I wanted to run at least one half-marathon, and possibly a full marathon, depending on how my body held up.

In a matter of a month, I found a running partner and picked my goal: the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon on September 4th, 2005. In the world of running, many people run for a cause. There are numerous training groups organized by various worthwhile charities. Training for a half or full marathon takes dedication and persistence (not to mention lots of aches, pains and early mornings!), so I wanted to raise money for a cause that had real relevance to my life. This is what brought me to NBCA. I first became aware of NBCA through the support group at the hospital. I went to the website, sent
out an email explaining my idea, and within a week I had a plan!

So I drafted a brief one page letter explaining my experience with DVT, how it effected me, and what I was doing about it. I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law who spent many years working for both profit and non-profit organizations as a fundraiser. Her advice to me was simple: people want to hear your story. I emailed my letter to all my friends, family, and co-workers. Additionally, with the help of a friend, I baked and packaged 50 ‘pairs’ of foot shaped cookies in cellophane bags. I gave them to my friends, along with several copies of my fundraising letter, and they kindly brought them to their office break rooms, with an envelope to put donations in exchange for the cookies.

The positive response and support was overwhelming! I managed to raise approximately $1200 at the time I am writing this, and I’m still getting checks in the mail! There are hundreds of organizations out there competing for donations, so what makes yours different? YOU. Your story is unique. You will be surprised at people’s generosity and willingness to give when you tell them your story. It’s really as simple as that. As I ran the final miles of the half-marathon on that warm Sunday morning, I had many thoughts in my mind. By completing this race, I had regained confidence in my athletic ability, and restored faith in my body’s ability to perform.

Maybe more importantly, I had raised awareness about DVT and PE, and raised funds for a wonderful, community based organization. I would like to thank everyone at NBCA for their encouragement and support. I couldn’t have done it with out you!

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