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

17 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

  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.

  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:
    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!

Leave a Reply