Cassandra BradshawCassandra Bradshaw was at death’s door due to a large blood clot found in her inferior vena cava and an infection after delivery, but she refused to believe her prognosis and is now a hopeful survivor who wants to spread awareness.

I was 23 years old when I gave birth to a sweet baby boy on January 5, 2007, but began to hemorrhage seconds after his arrival, which I later found out was due to a piece of placenta (afterbirth) left inside.  Doctors and nurses filled the room to stop the bleeding.  I had placenta previa during my pregnancy and delivered my baby vaginally, and I have since learned that a C-section is a safer choice for delivery when placenta previa is present.

My bleeding stopped after about an hour, and I was sent home 2 days later.  I felt weaker and weaker as days went by, and I began to lose feeling in both of my legs and could not put weight on them to stand.  I woke up to go to the bathroom and stumbled into the wall two weeks after giving birth, as if I was losing my balance.

My husband took me to the Emergency Room (ER), where the doctor first thought I might have kidney stones since I was feeling sharp pain in my middle back.  The doctor ordered a CT scan without contrast, but the technician accidentally used contrast.  This turned out to be a lucky mistake, because the scan revealed a 6 inch blood clot in my IVC (inferior vena cava).   I was med flighted right away from Texarkana, TX to Little Rock, AR.

I was admitted to the coronary care unit (CCU), where extensive testing was done, although I don’t recall what all those tests were.  I was given blood thinners and antibiotics, because I also had an infection and a fever along with the clot.   Specialists, including vascular surgeons, obstetricians, pulmonologists, hematologists, and an infectious disease expert assessed me.  I was told there was nothing that they could do for me, and there was no doubt that I was going to die, because of the infection and the fact that my clot was in the vena cava.

I refused to believe this, even though I had 2 emergency surgeries during my two week admission.  A filter was placed in my inferior vena cava to prevent clots from going to my lungs as a pulmonary embolism.  Placenta was left in me, so I had a procedure to evacuate it.  After two weeks in the hospital, I was told there was nothing else they could do and was discharged home to “wait and see.”

A vascular surgeon tested me for factor V Leiden in 2009, which was positive.  The presence of a blood clotting disorder was not on anyone’s radar until that point.  I had used the birth control patch in 2006 and 2007, and thus far, there is no history of blood clots in my birth family.

Fortunately, I am now a happy and healthy 27 year old, given what I have been through.  I still live with the 6 inch blood clot in my inferior vena cava, so I will be on blood thinners for life.   I self-inject with low molecular weight heparin daily.  A venogram showed that my inferior vena cava is shriveled and blocked without blood flow.  However, I have been told that there is enough collateral circulation of other veins to provide pathways for blood to flow.  My clot has grown each year.

I hope to spread awareness to other women about risk for blood clots associated with blood clotting disorders, use of birth control, and pregnancy.  I realize that not everyone can be tested for blood clotting disorders, but I want people to know their presence may add to risk of blood clots.

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  • Diane Brock

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and all so important information. One never knows how it might be used to save anothers life. I am thankful to God for sparing your life and protecting you for all those who love you. May God continue to bless and keep you , SAFE and HEALTHY.

  • Diane Brock

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferior_vena_cava for more information regarding the function of inferior vena cava , as well as images.

  • Diane Brock

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factor_V_Leiden for more information regarding Factor V Leiden

    (NOTE: Cassandra had NO previous history of this disorder or symptoms of this disorder prior to taking of birth control and pregnancy

  • Diane Brock