Mike MorrelliI was feeling quite a bit of pain and some swelling in my right leg 4 days after an accident at work. Since my work hours were ridiculous and I couldn’t get out in time to go to a workers’ compensation provider (heath care providers that treat people with workplace injuries, also called a “workers’ comp clinic”), I decided to go home for the night and go to a clinic the following day. Half way home my leg started hurting so much I could barely push the pedals of my car. I went to the ER (emergency room) instead.

My right calf was measured at 3.2 inches larger in circumference than the left one.  They immediately ordered an ultrasound, and found several small clots in my leg. The doctor told me I was lucky I didn’t go home, or go to a workers’ comp clinic. He told me I could have had major problems that night, or the clots could have gone undetected due to the lack of resources at most clinics. I was put on warfarin and I had to be tested every 4 days for 6 months, as my INR (blood test that measures the effectiveness of warfarin) levels were all over the place. No one had ever really given me a good explanation of the dietary restrictions and other issues with warfarin. I was finally taken off the warfarin without further testing. The doctor told me it was normal to treat the clots this way and I shouldn’t have any further issues in the future.

Fast forward over two years, and I was having a typical day. I had tried to go on vacation with my partner to a remote town in the Colorado mountains, but snow closed the roads and we had to turn around and go home. I had just made a bowl of cereal for a late breakfast, and sat down to the late morning news. After one bite I realized I couldn’t catch my breath. Not having any idea what it could be, I stood up and tried to stretch out my chest. I had been recovering from Pneumonia from a few weeks earlier, and I figured I was just having some issues related to that. Once I stood up I almost blacked out. I knew right away this was not a normal situation and that I had not experienced anything like this before. Every breath I took I seemed to lose more air, and panicking I told my partner to get the car because I had to go to the hospital.

When I walked into the ER the admissions person had her head down, and politely asked me “What are we seeing you for tonight hun?”

I began to gasp at her, trying to tell her I couldn’t breathe.

She looked up at me and immediately directed “Give me your driver’s license and come to the back right now”. It was less than 5 minutes before I was hooked to oxygen, and O2 monitor (monitor that measures the oxygen in your blood), and a heart monitor, and had several nurses and doctors running around me. Apparently my face was pure white and my lips had turned purple. I was having trouble focusing and speaking, but I related my history of recent Pneumonia and DVT’s (Deep Vein Thrombosis or leg clots) a few years before. They set me up for several IV’s and rushed me to a CT scan (x-ray that can take detailed picture of the lungs), which confirmed pretty much the worst-case scenario.

I had a massive, bilateral embolism (in both lungs) that was blocking approximately 70% of my blood flow, which was causing my heart to overwork to try and push the blood that was backing up into it. I was on a tPA drip (clot buster) within a half hour of arriving. Less than an hour later I was in Intensive Care Unit, and was put on a Heparin (blood thinner or anticoagulant) drip. I was constantly monitored for complications and for heart/ breathing irregularities. I had a filter inserted into my vein and pushed down into my Inferior Vena Cava (Vein that carries the blood from the lower body to the heart) near my stomach. It needs to be removed in a couple of months, but it will hopefully catch any other clots that try and work their way up. I was put on Lovanox (a blood thinner for you take via shots in the stomach) and Warfarin. When I had a therapeutic level of Warfarin (Coumadin®) in my system, I was allowed to leave the hospital. That was 7 days after my trip to the ER.

I don’t mean to be dramatic in my story to drum up sympathy, or to boast at my miraculous survivor abilities. I have never been so scared, and the whole situation has given me a great deal of pause about my daily life and how I live it. Many of the things I let stress me so badly don’t seem so important any more. I’m alive, and 10 or 15 minutes later I may not have been. If I had made my vacation, and was in a little mountain town I probably would not have been. So many things could have happened, but didn’t, and I’m alive because of it.

I also want to relate to others who have gone through a similar situation with this horrible condition. After I left the hospital, and I experienced horrible anxiety. I felt out of breath even though I wasn’t. I went to the doctor twice and my oxygen levels were fine, but I still felt like I was suffocating. I am going to talk to my doctor about getting some professional help with the emotional side of it, because I know I can’t live a full life walking around terrified of dying all the time. It’s really brought my life to a standstill, and given me a great pause. I know, as time goes by, I will get better and get back to the day to day. I just want to let others know that you are not alone, you are not the only one who feels the way you do, and that we are all lucky to have survived something that we could very well have died from.

No one in my family was ever treated for clots in the past. I was tested during my hospital stay for any genetic traits that may have caused my illness. They all came up negative. It was truly an “out of the blue” experience and I’m thankful every day that I survived.

Take Home Messages

  • DVTs often start out as a pain and swelling in your leg
  • Ask questions when prescribed warfarin or other blood thinners/anticoagulants so you can make sure you understand the instructions for taking the medications
  • Having a blood clot increases your risk of having another one
  • It is important to tell providers that you once had a blood clot when you give your medical history
  • Surviving a blood clot is an emotional experience
  • Surviving a blood clot is a life changing experience
  • Blood clot survivors need to support each other
Author: admin

12 Responses to "Mike Morelli’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Liz Kuhns Posted on February 20, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I survived an extremely large blood clot and pulmonary embolisms and it does play with your emotions to go through something like that! Instant attitude adjustment right?

  2. Diane Posted on February 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Just out of curiosity…. I share your same story from a year and a half ago….. One dr suggested a hematologist but my internist says it is not necessary. Do you or anyone else out there see one?

    • Claudia Posted on February 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Diane, I see a physician who is an oncologist/hematolgist which makes perfect sense to me. Briefly to save my typing finger (lol). 5 months ago I was minding my own business and suddenly found myself unconscious & in the hospital. It was determined I had a blood clot in my leg. Treatment began with blood thinners and after a week or so I was transferred to convalescent care. Two days later I detected a large swelling (looked like I pasted a grapefruit to my leg) to the left side of my rt knee. It was hot, red & so PAINFUL I wanted to escape. This was in the middle of the night. Of course nothing could be done until morning, if I survived the pain, lol. Meds did not help. Finally an ambulance arrived to transport me back to hospital. As they were transferring me from bed to gurney, my leg (with clot) lightly brushed the bedding…this clot erupted, exploded whatever, but fell out of my leg, hit the floor and exploded upward & outward. The poor paramedic at the end of the gurney was stunned and covered in blood. There was blood on the walls, ceiling, floor, everywhere. All the medical personnel were stunned into silence and I erupted into gales of laughter because of the most unbelievable feeling of relief I have ever felt when that damn thing decided to explode! Needless to say, was rushed to hospital and after all was said and done, this was my reality: 4 DVT’s in rt leg until one decided to dislodge and travel to my rt lung and become a PE. A stent/filter was placed in my vena cava to prevent little visitors traveling. The other two had to be surgically removed. The one that fell out of my leg left a wound that was 6 1/2 inches deep and the entire wound after surgery & debreeding every other day measured over 40″ long. They were not sure I would survive but if I did they weren’t sure what my leg would resemble. They were positive skin grafts were necessary since my tissue was gone to the 4th level. Not only was I trying to survive these nasty things but I was going to be scarred for life. And as if that wasn’t enough, the Drs told me they believed the under lying cause of all my misery was….leukemia. Yup. Leukemia. My brain overloaded. I think it was just a bit much for me. Have seen a oncologist/hematolgist & will see her again in a month and schedule a bone marrow biopsy to try and achieve some decisive answers.Finally got to a point where you say, one day at a time. It will all will out, one way or another. My life is in God’s hands……I’m just a long for the ride, lol….Hang in there, there’s also another unbelievable great site called WhatNext.com. I referr to it as Facebook for Cancer survivors. God bless us all…

    • Edlin Posted on March 4, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism almost a year ago, and it’s felt like an emotional roller coaster. I was referred to a pulmonary doctor, and some blood work was done and I tested positive for a genetic mutation. She told me to go to a cardiologist, and she was going to put me on blood thinner for the rest of my life, but I am only 25. She referred me to Dr. Kessler at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center. He has run blood work and for now I’m only taking an aspirin daily, but have to take Lovenox if I travel more than 5 hrs. I believe it’s comforting to be informed and make sure your body is okay and seeing a hematologist will give you a peace of mind.

  3. Pam Manning Posted on February 21, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story….I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism in December….I had been sick for months prior…..It was a very difficult situation…..I would spare you the details but my reason for replying is your share.
    I have had such emotional turmoil……the same feelings of being out of breath when I am not….I can’t seem to emotionally deal with the residuals of what happened……I know I am doing everything asked of me. I am walking, I am trying to increase my lung capacity…..But I will get so upset that I literally have panic attacks.
    My doctors seem to think it is a joke more or less and just prescribe Wellbutrin and just keep it moving. I am glad SOMEONE gives me belief that what I feel is real and others have felt it too.
    And for that I thank you!!!!!!
    Pam

  4. Lesa Craig Posted on February 24, 2014 at 1:59 am

    Thank you, Mike, for sharing! I just found this site & am so glad for your story. I had DVT & 2 PE’s with tissue damage about 7 years ago. They thought car accident caused it, so they took me off Warafin after 6 months. It was a very frightening experience, nightmares about not being able to breath, & I have gone to ER several times to be sent home with bronchitis, though I thought it was a PE. Ironically, I went in my doctor with what I thought was bronchitis again last May, was diagnosed with bronchitis, and 4 days later woke early in the morning coughing up blood. Immediately went to ER & had another PE with pleurisy, more lung tissue damage, & very, very low B12 levels. Now they will probably keep me on blood thinners & B12 shots for the rest of my life. No genetic traits, possible boarder line protein c deficiency.
    I lost a lot of friends & even some of my family did not understand the emotional toll these clots have taken on me. Thank you for letting me know that others suffer emotionally from these experiences!

  5. Lesa Craig Posted on February 24, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Diane, after my second episode in May, they brought a hematologist in while I was hospitalized. I have been seeing him ever since. He & his office staff are very understanding & willing to work with me & help me with the physical as well as the emotional problems. I was a long distance runner 7 years ago, daily, now I barely can do 3 miles once or twice a week. I’m Sluggish, don’t move as much, & have gained 30 lbs. they are working with my diet, monitoring me every two weeks, & adjusting dosage as needed. My regular doctor didn’t take it seriously the first episode, thankfully, the hematologist takes it very seriously!

  6. Claudia Posted on February 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    P. S. The area on my leg where the clots were was so awful, the Drs felt skin grafts were my only hope because they were certain the skin would never re-grow. Ha! Fools! Not only did it grow back COMPLETELY, it’s a very lovely pink color!

  7. Marc Posted on March 10, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I am a very active 41 yr old male. I suffered a leg injury in a Soccer game approximately 1.5 yrs ago. What’s strange is that I cannot remember a specific foul or event that would explain me getting hurt. Nevertheless, I ended up with pain and swelling in my ankle. There was also pain in my quadricep. I thought it was just a standard typical injury as these things have happened in the past. I was in so much pain I could barely walk. I eventually went to my primary care doctor with these list of symptoms. He prescribed me “water pills” and sent me on my way. Months went on by. The pain and function of my leg came back but my ankle was swollen for months. I remember going to an Urgent Care facility and they really didn’t seem to concerned either and sent me on my way. Eventually, I went to get a 2nd opinion with a Rehab/Sports Doctor on the urging of my family and co-workers. She immediately ordered me to a Dopler Test and a DVT was discovered. I had a clot from my ankle up to my groin and it was huge! How it didn’t break off and travel to other parts of my body God only knows! I had resumed working out and playing soccer even though I had this strange swollen ankle. I was hospitalized for one night and given Heparin then released with Lovenox injections. The Neuro-surgeon at the hospital visited me in my room and said he was very surprised to meet me (because I should be dead)! I had been placed on Warfarin for 6 mos. Eventually I was let go but I got another DVT a few months later (same leg). Now, I am on blood thinners for life supposedly. I wear a knee high compression sock. I have been battling ulcers on my ankle as a result of PTS. Its very frustrating all of this but what’s the alternative! When I beat these skin ulcers I will be happy because my leg is a little discolored around the ankle but that’s about it. I run. I do weights. I play Soccer (although not on a higher competitive level). I am currently on Xarelto and really like it b/c there are no blood tests or dietary restrictions.

  8. Marc Posted on March 10, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Does anyone know if I can get off of blood thinners?
    My nurse neighbor gave me an earful and told me that there is no reason I should be on them.
    I could have another underlying condition in my leg that is causing the DVT’s. She is going to give me a referral hopefully to some other doctor. I am so frustrated to whom I should be listening to or trusting in this whole ordeal. Had I listened to my PC I would be dead right now.

  9. Dan Posted on March 21, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    I suffered a bilateral PE last September from a right calf DVT caused by a hockey puck in May. The September diagnosis was pleurisy, with the PE missed by the Emerg doctor. Symptoms abated during October until the bilateral PE was diagnosed in November when I couldn’t catch my breath. A second 1-month recovery ensued.

    I’ve seen 2 hematologists, one of whom says it’s a provoked DVT and I’ll be okay to go off Warfarinafter 6-12 months, the other feels it’s unprovoked and wants me to stay on it for life. My blood tests came out negative for disorders.

    I’m not sure what to do. I feel like one of the 70% who will never have a reoccurence of DVT/PE.
    I’m a healthy and physically active 46 year old.

  10. Jason Posted on July 17, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Marc, Mike et al,

    I know what you speak of. I am a 31 yr old and have gone through 2 bouts of clotting in roughly 3 years. My first one was ankle to groin and nearly cost me my life, two years after i had massive bilateral clotting in my lungs should have died there as well but i did not. Do not be afraid to talk to doctors about your fears, if you dont voice them, then realistically you rob yourself of a voice. If you are concerned about a clotting issue do not allow a doc to take you off it unless you are 100% comfortable. Ideally a doc that would say you don’t need warfarin etc, after having issues/recurrent issues does not deserve to be your doctor. I have a greenfield filter in, and if I had a huge concern about clotting I would definitely be calling my doc to ask for testing, not listening to them telling me I don’t need anti-coagulation therapy. You are your own voice, i wish you all the best of luck!

Leave a Reply