Jeanne Krull’s Story

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Jeanne KrullI was logging more than 100 miles on my bicycle in any given week. So, at 46 years of age, it was not surprising that from time to time my legs ached. Why wouldn’t they? And that was exactly what I told my family physician when she warned me that my leg pain could be a symptom of a blood clot as a result of taking a third generation birth control pill.

Interestingly, her warning was one I had never received from my gynecologist – the same doctor  who insisted that I stay on the pill for many, many years. Even so, my family physician’s warning was but a faded memory when one year later (September of 2004), I experienced severe pain in my left calf. My response was to use a heating pad, do some stretches, and take plenty ibuprofen because I was in training, preparing for an October bike trip.

It was while riding up a steep hill during that trip that my biking friend asked how my leg felt and I said, “it’s the funniest thing, the leg feels fine, but now I am having trouble breathing. My luck it was a clot that went to my lungs,” and I laughed! After returning home, I went to the doctor because I was still having shortness of breath. However, it would be another six weeks before I was actually diagnosed with having a DVT and also suffering from multiple pulmonary emboli.

Why so long? Well, I had failed to mention to any of my physicians that I was experiencing leg pain. Because of that omission, doctors tested me for everything – from exercise induced asthma to a bad gall bladder. Eventually, one of the clots infracted in my pleura, causing pleurisy. Shortly after the pleurisy diagnosis, I was given a Doppler scan of my legs.

Doctors discovered a very large deep vein thrombosis in my left popliteal vein. The fact that I had an auxiliary popliteal vein kept me from having more typical symptoms, other than the leg pain.

I was immediately admitted to the hospital and stayed for 10 days. My CT angiogram showed that my lungs were filled with small and large clots, even though my shortness of breath had actually gone away. A six month regimen on Coumadin®  followed. Thankfully, genetic clotting disorder tests proved negative. The villain causing all this? My family physician believes the main culprit was the third generation birth control.

In looking back, I suspect that I had had a blood clot in my leg for a very long time. Six months earlier, my biking trip through Tuscany had provided symptoms when the slightest uphill climb left me inordinately out of breath. While I was somewhat concerned with the problem because I had trained for months prior to the trip, I continued on with my biking sojourn.

Today, my doctors believe that my rigorous exercise regimen saved my life because my excellent cardiovascular conditioning had enabled my lungs to compensate for the large number of clots that were probably being constantly showered into my lungs over many, many months or even years.

Weeks after going off Coumadin®, I have said goodbye to my indoor bike trainer and headed back out onto the road. I have to tell you the first couple of rides were amazing because I could actually breathe. I now realize how compromised my breathing was – a condition that I had truly failed to realize. Now, with the wind at my back, I am thankful to be so alive.

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2 Responses to "Jeanne Krull’s Story"

  1. Peter
    Peter Posted on June 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I’m 58, 5’10”, 170, riding 45-50 miles a day, 6 days a week. I don’t kid myself about being speed-competitive, most of my rides average 16 mph, so I’m not dawdling but I’m not flying either. I just like riding distance. After a recent ride I had slight swelling and some warmth in my right calf, but no pain or tenderness, just the usual tired feeling of a good ride and although a possible DVT was in the back of my mind, I really did not want to think about the ramifications. I told myself, as apparently many riders do, that a DVT wouldn’t make sense. I was active with a healthy blood profile, slow resting heart rate, had no problems with occasional intervals, was already taking low-dose aspirin, and so on. I rode again on the two following days and while things didn’t get worse, they didn’t improve either.After an additional two days off the bike to see if it was a muscular issue that might improve with rest and after not seeing any change, I went to have my right leg ultrasound imaged to at least check whether or not I had a problem. Surprise! I had a mid-thigh clot.The attending cardiologist was horrified that I had , as he felt, put my heart through a stress test on the two days after the swelling had started. Why I hadn’t thrown a PE was a mystery to him. One of the first things I wanted to know was how this could have happened. I have since come to discover that cyclists and other persons engaging in endurance activities, contrary to what our health and egos might lead us to believe, can be particularly susceptible to blood clotting. The reasons for this can be found by searching around the Internet for pages about athletes and blood clotting. I am currently on Xarelto, an anticoagulant which avoids some of the problems of traditional therapy that uses coumadin. I’m glad that I caught it fairly promptly and am hopeful that this will all turn out well eventually. If you experience any of the warning signs of a clot, have it checked and do not settle for a doctor dismissing your symptoms as trivial. My DVT was a wakeup call and I am now much better informed. Good riding to you all.

  2. Melissa Barrow
    Melissa Barrow Posted on February 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I was a pedestrian hit by a car in the crosswalk. I suffered leg injuries and after hospital discharge ignored the leg swelling as I figured it was due to the trauma. Over two weeks, my leg swelling increased to where I couldn’t walk and the numbness was consuming my entire left leg and foot. I thought the blue color around my knee was a bruise healing. The warmth of the leg was chalked up to my leg incision maybe getting infected.

    I saw my primary doc in followup and mentioned this as well as the leg cramps. Two days later I got an ultrasound which revealed the clots. Spent overnight in the hospital. The chest tightness and shortness of breath which had been slowly worsening since the accident was not the result of PE. They think it is chest bruising from impact of the car. However, CT showed 4 mm right lower lobe nodules on my lung.

    I’m terrified. They put me on lovenox in the hospital but am now on Xarelto 10 mg which doesn’t seem enough to treat the clots in my leg. My chest discomfort is the most worrisome.

    It’s been a horrendous month.