Anna FrutigerAnna Frutiger embodied brains, beauty, compassion, athleticism, and as such, seemed the picture of health while she was living her dream of becoming a dentist. No one expected that a blood clot would end her dream, and it seemed beyond belief that Anna died on May 20th, 2010 from a pulmonary embolism (PE) due to an undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a month after her 23rd birthday.

Anna felt pain behind her knee and in her calf four months before she died, and she attributed her pain to the stress and strain of training for a half marathon or a muscle pull.  Her friends at dental school noted that she limped, and Anna was aware of becoming short of breath whenever she ran.

When her leg pain persisted, Anna saw an orthopedic surgeon who found no injury to suggest a muscle pull. After a thorough physical and review of her medical history, her doctor suspected a blood clot in her lower leg. Anna’s only known risk factor was that she was taking a third generation birth control pill.  Results of an Ultrasound/Doppler of her leg were negative for DVT.  At a follow-up to that exam 3 weeks later, her leg was normal shape and size, and she no longer felt any leg pain.  As a result, her doctor discharged her.

After her first year finals at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, Anna traveled quite a bit, and flew for six hours over two consecutive weekends, then went to see friends in New York City the next two weekends which involved an eight hour bus trip with one ten minute stop.  Anna complained of not being able to breathe easily when she carried groceries up to her apartment right after the bus trip.  She told her parents that her symptoms were probably stress–related, since vacation was over, and the demands of school were resuming.

The next morning, Anna called her best friend to drive her to school because she felt extremely weak and didn’t think she could walk on her own.  She wanted to push herself to class, because she had two quizzes that day.  Anna collapsed on the lawn outside her apartment after walking downstairs, and blacked out for several seconds.  Her friend called 911 and an ambulance arrived within minutes. Anna was conscious at that point, and asked her friends to call her parents in Michigan.

Anna made it to the Emergency Room, but had a cardiopulmonary arrest a few minutes after she arrived.  She was immediately taken to surgery to try to dislodge the huge blood clot that caused her massive PE.  Over the next two days, a team of doctors and nurses worked round the clock to keep Anna alive in hopes that a miracle would happen, something her family and friends wished for with all their hearts.  Her family was euphoric two days later, because she moved her arms during the night, and their hope was that she would awake from her coma.  Their hopes were dashed almost immediately when the neurological tests showed that she no longer had brain activity.  Anna’s family had to make the agonizing decision to remove life support.

Despite their grief, they chose to donate Anna’s organs. Anna gave life to another, so continues to be life-giving even after her death.

Her doctors immediately tested her family and found no genetic blood clotting disorders.  Her autopsy determined that Anna was not predisposed to blood clots.  It seems that the birth control pill and her concentrated travel in one month were her major clotting risks.

Although Anna tuned in to her health status, 23 year olds do not suspect that anything fatal is brewing, and she probably did not link her birth control to her leg pain, or the possibility of a DVT.  Although her doctor suspected a blood clot, he saw her as a low risk.   Moreover, the Ultrasound/Doppler testing is effective for DVT diagnosis only 3 out of 10 times.  Her family believes strongly that had Anna and they had the awareness and knowledge of the risks factors and signs of DVT in the months before Anna died that she might be alive today.

Anna loved her friends and family with every ounce of her being and always gave 110% to others, no matter what was at stake.  Two of her closest friends, Sally Vitez and Michael Ratajczyk, fundraised for the NBCA/ Stop The Clot® by running a marathon and half marathon respectively in Anna’s memory.

They have raised over $7,000 to promote awareness of DVT.   Anna’s family is sharing her story to show that a blood clot can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time, and that awareness of signs and symptoms of DVT and PE helps save lives.  Anna’s story has already saved the lives of several individuals who had similar symptoms and sought medical care for blood clots or testing for clotting disorders. Her story prompted them to seek care immediately for similar symptoms, and because of the impact of Anna’s story, lives were saved.

The Frutiger family is committed to doing everything in their power to support public awareness efforts of National Blood Clot Alliance to Stop The Clot®.

Take Home Messages

  • Blood clots can happen to young, seemingly healthy people
  • Birth control pills increase risk for blood clots
  • Tell family and friends the symptoms of DVT and PE so they know that a “muscle pull” may be a blood clot in the leg, and unusual shortness of breath may be a symptom of a PE
  • Organ donation help a loved one live on
  • Fundraising in memory of a loved one is a positive channel for grief to support public health messaging

 

 

Author: admin

28 Responses to "In Memory of Anna Frutiger: Her Blood Clot Story"

  1. Cynthia Sparks Posted on August 1, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Oh my God! I just started on The Yasmin bc pill and 3 days later starting having a bad pain in the back of my knee. Even my vein seem very green and visibleI am training for a half of marathon and for these past two days I ve shortness of breath and chest pain.. I thought I might had pulled a muscle but the pain behinds knee started after two days of resting from running and it started along with shortness of breath, today I could run my normal short 3 miles as usual, i felt really sick afterwards. Thank you for sharing her story , I am going to see my doctor first thing tomorrow

    • beth Posted on October 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Such an important and bittersweet story to share. I am will to volunteer and donate to Anna’s cause. I was recently diagnosised w DVT, out of the blue, hormones to blame, and I am grateful to be alive.
      I’ve found that there’s info out there but not enough. We definitely need to spread awareness.

  2. Mercy Mathiba Posted on October 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I have been on the pill for about a month now and I have also been experiencing a mild, bearable pain on my right leg. I don’t really do much exercising but i walk a lot, no breathlessness. I don’t really know what to do, i feel like somehow the pain is all in my head. I get the pills from a public clinic and they don’t really say much about it. In fact, I only came across this article because I have been feeling very nauseous and sleepy lately and wanted to find out if the pills could be the cause. Please advise as to how i should go about this,are there any other symptoms of PE that I should be aware of and whether I should just stop taking the pills all together.

  3. Paul Glassen Posted on January 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    This all sounds very familiar, just like the symptoms before my deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and subsequent pulmonary embolism (PE). I too dismissed the pain in my calf as a result of exercise, I am a cyclist. After several days of it I began to have shortness of breath, climbing stairs, then just standing up. Foolishly, I endured that for 3 or 4 days before I went to my doctor. He sent me immediately to emergency where, within a few hours, I was diagnosed with DVT and PE. Treatment was begun and I spent five days in hospital. Because no cause was found and my only risk factor was age, I had just turned 65, the doctor has had me continue anticoagulant medication (warfarin) indefinitely. Now for the last three months I have had a pain in the other calf. Both my doctor and the emergency room doctor dismissed it saying I can’t have a blood clot while taking anticoagulant medication. And yet, the website if full of medical articles that describe just such “recurrent DVT”. Don’t know what to do. Wait and hope I don’t have a second pulmonary embolism?

    • Jimmy Q. Posted on July 29, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Anna’s story is so sad since she was you so young and had her whole life in front of her, my condolences to the family.

      Paul, like you I’m a cyclist, 2 years ago at the age of 50 I had a slight pain behind my knee then swelling in my calf and pain in my thigh. This happened over about 5 days getting worse everyday. I finally called my doctor and the nurse told me to go to the nearest ER. They did an ultrasound and found several clots, and that’s the first time I ever heard about DVT. I Spent 11 days in the hospital. At times it felt like my leg was going to explode. They found several small embolisms in my lungs that didn’t affect my breathing. I was on Warfarin for 15 months and now I just take a couple aspirins a day. I was off the bike for about 4 weeks but started back slowly and within a couple months I was back to normal other than taking the warfarin. I didn’t have the gene that tells whether you have a predisposition for DVT and the doctor told my I’m one of a very few people that get it for no apparent reason. Sounds like several of the people telling their story here have issues with birth control which wouldn’t be an issue for my since I’m a man. I feel for them as well.

    • Mary Brewer Posted on September 21, 2014 at 2:15 am

      I was walking to church January 9, 2011, then noticed extreme difficultly breathing and chest pressure. I blamed it on rushing in the weather, seeing it was so cold out, and I was trying to rush. As I got inside the church, it seems to subside some, but left me feeling rather lethargic and just real tired. I sat through the whole church service, while people around me are staring at me, asking if I was alright. After an hour had passed, I was taken to the hospital ER right away. My sats had dropped below 80%, and I was rushed back to trauma. Immediately I had all tests done; Labs, EKG, CT, and Chest X-Rays. Once the D-Dimer came back, I knew it was bad. Normal high was 200; Mine was 1964. My CT showed Bilateral Clots in in both lungs, and a massive PE in my chest, between my Heart and Pulmonary Arteries; A Saddle Clot. I had at least a dozen clots in my lungs and a large DVT in my left leg, which showed no symptoms prior to the PE I had,. The ER Dr.told me, he could not believe I survived it. He went on to say that most would not have lived through such a bad PE. I was put on Lovanox Injections twice daily for 9 days, and then on Warfarin. I was in ICU for 1 night due to Pneumonia I developed, and then 9 days in IMC. They put me on strict Bed Rest and I was on O2, continuously. I know what they say about symptoms of DVT, but had none whatsoever. Mine was in my left leg for over a month and was very large. I had been walking a lot, going here and there, without any problems. The only thing I did notice, was the extreme tiredness, and found myself falling asleep very quickly as though I would pass out. This is serious and most people are lucky to survive such a trauma. If you notice anything different or out of the ordinarily. don’t hesitate going go the ER to be checked.. Now I have “Post Thrombotic Syndrome”, which is similar to Phlebitis, in my leg, along with multiple, small clots. It took over 3 yrs. for my Warfarin to regulate, and am having to check it every week at home. God bless those who have lost their life to this, I pray for all those who have also had this happen to them as well.

  4. Yazmin Posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:15 am

    I’ve been on the look out for dvt I have had behind the knee, thigh, and groin pain. Lately I’ve been having shortness of breath I’m 25 with for little ones no birth control or history in the family. My doctors did blood tests and X-ray’s ultrasound of the pelvic and groin and they say everything is good no chance of dvt yet I have these symptoms and I feel as if I may drop dead any minute. Doctors keep playing the your to young card and no family history crap. Come on I’ve seen a total of three different docs all saying the same but they haven’t checked my veins in the leg or d dimer test :( what do you do then? Insist when they refuse??

  5. Travis Newville Posted on March 2, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    I went to school with Anna for the better part of our lives, and I am deeply saddened by this story. She was such a nice person, and she did not deserve to leave so soon. RIP Anna, your memory lives on. I will do my part to educate.

  6. Tom Moore Posted on March 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I was just diagnosed with a blood clot in the bottom of my 75% dead heart from an August, 16 hour long heart attack. I’m told that if it moves, I’m dead. Blood clots are max scary and nothing to mess around with.

  7. Kim Posted on March 3, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Paul, you may be a good candidate for a Greenfield filter. Check out the following website for info: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/419796-overview
    Another big risk factor for DVT is surgery, especially Total Knee Replacement.

  8. Kim Posted on March 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    And yes, recurrent DVT is very possible, even with supposedly adequate anticoagulant therapy. In the article I posted above, up to a third of patients can have it.

  9. kami Posted on March 5, 2014 at 2:35 am

    Hello. I wanted to share that calf cramps are also a sign of DVT and that birth control is not the only culprit. I found out the hard way. While pregnant with my first child I had cal cramps every night. Not uncommon. I had also been experiencing breathlessness. I have asthma so i cobtributed it to the pregnancy irritating the asthma and my doctors agreed after a check up. One morning while getting ready for work I had a sharp stabbing pain from my sternum through to my back (I can only liken it to be staked like a vampire. That’s what it felt like) I thought it was heart burn at first. But it hurt to breath. When my husband saw my lips turning blue he took me to ER. I couldn’t even walk the 15 feet from the car to the door. At first they thought I was having a really bad asthma attack. The respiratory therapist determined it was not and suggested xrays and a ct scan. 45 minutes later I was being transfered to a heart specialty hospital. I was diagnosed with bi lateral pulmonary embolisms at 23 weeks pregnant. I have no history of blood clots. All the tests came back negative. They finally determined with an educated guess that it was my pregnancy. I now must be on blood thinners during my pregnancies. I truly had no major out the norm symptoms. The thing that saved me? Size of the clots. They weee too big to pass the pulmonary artery.

  10. Ali Posted on March 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Hello, I’m so sorry for the loss. I had the same thing happen to me when I was 20 except my pain was in my shoulder. I also had a pulmonary embolism due to birth control pills. I warn all my friends about it now. It didn’t even cross my mind to consider the complications when I started the pill. I was on it for only a month and the PE occurred. I didn’t know there was a stop the clot foundation. I will join the cause. Again I’m sorry for the loss and I will work towards spreading the word.

  11. Jessica Posted on March 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Yasmin and other pills in the same class continue to take young lives. I am so sorry for this girl. Another healthy girl gone too soon. I was 20 when I had my life altering DVT due to this poison and 10 years later I continue to suffer. However, I realize that I am lucky to be here. I am so sorry for her family’s loss. I wish the FDA would get a clue and quit letting big pharma call the shots. Not to be radical, but the system is corrupt and I’m tired of being quiet about it.

  12. nick altman Posted on March 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I read this page yesterday evening. For two days I was having trouble taking deep breaths. A week or more ago I had pulled a ligament in my leg, or so I thought. It turns out that the pain in my foot and calf was a DVT, and I had several pulmonary embolisms. I went to the hospital, and am posting from my room. Because it was caught in time I should make a full (or mostly full) recovery. Thanks for the site, it probably saved my life.

  13. Sheryl Posted on March 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I truly feel bad for Anna’s family. I have been suffering from two clotting disorders since 2006. My first occurrence was when I was 20 weeks pregnant I lost my second baby due blood clotting of the placenta. The doctor told me this only happened because I was pregnant. Four years later I got a large DVT and small PE’s in both lungs. Last year I got another DVT while being on blood thinners. Also twice last year I was hospitalized for coughing up large volumes of blood. The thing I struggle the most is knowing when to contact my doctor. Pains in the calf and behind the knee are common with patients who had DVT’s.

  14. Sheryl Posted on March 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Be aware that the green filter is not always the best solution for everyone. With the types of blood clotting disorders I have it is not recommended for me.

  15. Susan Zimmerman Posted on May 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you for this resource. We’d never heard of this until … Our son’s “one and only” died of PE from an undiagnosed DVT at age 24. She went to the doctor two different times the week before she passed away, with classic DVT symptoms. But one doctor diagnosed a mild ankle sprain, the 2nd one diagnosed pluracy. She was young and fit and we think that worked against her. I’m a therapist and ended up writing a gift book to help people with grief, dedicated to Jessie. It’s called Rays of Hope in Times of Loss: Courage and Comfort for Grieving Hearts. “So much ahead, so much to come, That future gone makes our hearts numb.” We need to keep educating others to prevent unnecessary losses.

  16. Terri Posted on September 5, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I’m so sorry for the loss of this beautiful young lady! I am a 45 year old mother of 4 (boys). I had already had my tubes tied, so no birth control was necessary! I was awakened at 4 am on August 11th with severe chest pain and difficulty breathing! I waited 5 hours to wake my husband, who then took me to Urgent Care. They diagnosed me with Tietze Syndrome and sent me home. I suffered for 3 days and I began coughing up blood! My husband took me to the ER and I was finally given a CT scan, which showed multiple Pulmonary Emboli in both lungs! I was admitted and put on lovenox and Warfarin! I am off of the lovenox now! I found out that I have Factor V Leiden!

  17. Tammy Posted on September 22, 2014 at 3:24 am

    My heart breaks for this family. Three years ago at the age of 49 I had a pulmonary infarction. I had no symptoms of a blood clot but had ACL surgery 2 weeks prior. I awoke at 4 am feeling as though I had been stabbed in the back and could not take a deep breath. I waited until 4 pm to go to the emergency room and was in very bad shape when I arrived. Apparently, I had developed a blood clot after surgery which then traveled to my lungs and exploded in my lower left lung. The doctor likened it to fireworks going off in my lung which killed the bottom portion of my left lung. It was a long recovery and they found I have a protein S Deficiency.. Today I found out that my 23 year old son has a blood clot in his calf. Because of what I have been through, he went to the doctor on Friday as he was having a pain in his calf. Thank goodness the doctor sent him for an ultrasound and it showed a clot. However it was at the end of the day and the doctor had left to go home by the time the ultrasound was complete. So it was the nurse who told him and said the doctor would be calling. He has yet to hear anything. This really bothers me. He should have been given instructions over the weekend.. A blood clot, no matter what size, should not be taken lightly.

  18. Megan Posted on September 23, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Looking for some advice- I’m female, 24 years old and I just got off Ocella about 4 months ago. I can not remember getting pain in my calf or knees, BUT I have had some serious throbbing pain in my thighs…. Mainly the right thigh. I’m not very “active” so I know it’s no strained muscles. Anyway the pain started about a month ago. For the past 5-6 days I have been experiencing a stabbing/throbbing pain on the top of my left breast. The pain seems to radiate toward my armpit and sometimes to my back. It comes and goes…. But gets worse when I lie down. I don’t have difficulty breathing (that I notice) but I do have dizzy spells. These dizzy spells have been going on for sometime now though. Could this be PE’s? Should I bring this to my doctor’s attention? Thanks!

  19. CathyB Posted on September 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    So sorry to hear of this young lady. In 1977 I was put on the pill (for gynae problems) and within 10 days I was in hospital with a DVT. Two and a half years ago I developed a cough, a year and 4 diagnoses later I was sent to A&E with suspected pulmonary embolism (I was looking a bit grey!). Diagosis: multiple pulmunary emboli in both lungs and a DVT in upper leg (same side as before). This April I was coughing badly with shortness of breath, was sent to hospital but now I have chronic bronchitis! I sprained my left ankle a week ago, strapped it up, then got stabbing pains in my left groin. Stopped using strapping but seeing haematologist on wednesday and will have it checked. BTW it is on my records with my GP I am a very anxious patient after I went to see him about coughing up blood and bleeding gums whilst on Warfarin! Can’t win.

  20. Beth A. Posted on October 3, 2014 at 4:49 am

    I was 28 yrs old with no risk factors for blood clots. I was not on birth control, I do not smoke, I don’t sit for long periods of time, I had no leg pain whatsoever, I do not fly and the list can go on. I have asthma, and have had it all my life. I never wheeze or need to use rescue inhalers. I awoke one morning with a horrible cough and just could not seem to catch my breath. Throughout the day I started using my asthma rescue inhaler….hourly and decided I should get checked out. I went to the ER they told me I had a cold, they did no chest X-ray or anything and sent me home. 2 days later the severity of not being able to breathe right was overwhelming. I could not walk more that five feet without having to sit to catch my breath. I decided to go back to the ER. The first doctor who saw me said you probably just have a bad cold and said he would be back in to check on me. He came back two hours later with a doctor who was here from Nigeria and that doctor was immediately alamed. He said ” she has a blood clot”…..the regular ER doctor said I don’t think so. And this Nigerian doctor said “yes she has a pulmonary embolism, I guarantee it” other doctor shakes his head and says ” we can do a CT Scan if it makes you feel better” very wisely to the Nigerian doctor. I didn’t even know what a PE was. They did the CT scan and found several pulmonary emboli in my lungs. They Nigerian doctor had me taken to the ICU immediately. They told me that they could give me a medicine called a clot buster but, the side effects are very severe and can cause bleeding in the brain and other areas. He decided that they would wait and see what happened. I also found out that I had pneumococcal pneumonia, and that could have been the reason the clots were slowed down. Wow lucky freaking me. A hospice nurse comes in and tells me she will be with me over the next couple of days or however long it takes and that I won’t be alone…”holy crap I going to die”….I was only 28 and could not believe it…. Well I was lucky enough to beat the odds and came home two weeks later. I have to take Warfarin for the rest of my life. I am not complaining. I thank god every day for my amazing husband who through all of this made me feel that it was going to be okay. I feel for the family of this poor girl. It is such a quick thing to come over a person with very little warning. It is very easy to get tested for a clotting disorder and do not ignore the warning signs or your own common sense….it can happen to anyone at anytime.

  21. Jess Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    I am so sorry for Anna’s loss…. I know more about her sitatuon more than most. I too was on a birth control at only age 18 and I woke up to a massive blood clot in my left leg. I would’ve died had I not listened to the promptings of the spirit to go to the hospital and not go back to bed. I’m so sorry for Anna’s loss. People do not educate young women ENOUGH on the harmful side effects of estrogen birth control. People need to be more informed. Rest in peace Anna

  22. Megan V. Posted on October 8, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in this. Back in June of this year, I was diagnosed with a blood clot, just as all of you and I’m 28. I was taking birth control, but had been for a good half of my life. I had a massive knee surgery the year before, but other than that I was a healthy busy typical mom of 3. Well I started feeling these crazy pains in my leg and no one seemed to have an idea of what it was and I went away. But I had the same symptoms as you all did. I was dizzy, light headed, my chest hurt like crazy and I could barley breathe and my heart rate was through the roof! When I went to the ER they did every stinking test, there was something on my CT scan, but wasn’t sure what. My blood test came back as I had a blood clot, but they doctor didn’t think I did and wanted to send me home with antibiotics. I was lucky and my nurse was my aunt and she wouldn’t let them send me home. So I stayed and for three days and had a number of doctors looking after me. Because it turns out there’s a blood clot in my lung. :( it’s 6 months later and I still don’t feel back to normal. I’ve been on xarelto that long, and I swear it’s still there. I go back the end of the month to see what’s going on. I no longer take birth control, but I take xarelto everyday and will be for a while. But please trust your gut. If you think there’s something going on, go get looked at. I feel so bad for this family and others who have gone through this.

  23. noralee9 Posted on October 27, 2014 at 12:06 am

    This is an awful tragedy. I suffer from antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, which makes me susceptible to DVTs. I had 6 miscarriages before I was diagnosed. I would like to recommend to all young women to avoid chemical birth control. NFP has the same success rate as the pill. Once you learn how to monitor your fertility, you will be much more Iin control of it. You’ll understand how your body is working, so much better Try http://ccli.org/ nfp You don’t have to be religious to get yourself off this poison. Don’t let yourself become a pawn for the pharmaceutical companies.

  24. Ron Posted on November 10, 2014 at 2:16 am

    What a tragedy ?
    I think of my two beautiful daughters of very similar age and just how precious they are to me.
    From now on I will relate Anna’s story wherever I can and maybe help to save a life.
    God Bless you Anna and your Mum and Dad.

  25. Emily Posted on November 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Hi all – I’m not sure what to do. I’m 27 and have been feeling a very mild ache behind my left knee for the last four months. It hasn’t really gotten worse, per say, but the quality of the pain has changed: it started out as a throbbing pain and changed to a dull ache that comes and goes. I’m modeatery active but I do sit at a desk all day and have been on birth control for over 10 years. No other symptoms, no family history, and no insurance until January. Should I get this checked out immediately?

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