Tim Allen Tells His Blood Clot Survival Story

Categories: Patient Stories

The personal story below is intended for informational purposes only. The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) holds the rights to all content that appears on its website. The use by another organization or online group of any content on NBCA’s website, including patient stories that appear here, does not imply that NBCA is connected to these other organizations or groups or condones or endorses their work. Please contact info@stoptheclot.org with questions about this matter.

My name is Tim Allen and I am 59 years old.  I “busted” m0255186-R1-030-13Ay foot playing soccer in college and needed surgery to repair it about 35 years ago when I was in the Air Force.  However, it got worse recently, and I dislocated my toes whenever I ran.  Unfortunately, I developed DVTs in my calf on the same side as the repeat surgery to mend my foot again.

Some of these DVTs moved to my thigh and some moved on to my lungs and heart.

I underwent a CT scan and a massive “saddle” bilateral pulmonary embolism was found. From what I was told by my team of doctors, I was lucky to be alive, probably due to being in better than average cardiovascular shape from swimming 1.5 to 2 miles per day on a regular basis for months before the surgery.  The doctor who installed the filter in my renal vein, to block any more clots from traveling to my lungs, said he had never seen a patient survive after such a massive blood clot.

I went home after two weeks on warfarin, and the swelling in my leg from the blood clot went down.  I started to research how to get back to running/biking/swimming – how soon, how much, etc.

I returned to my teaching job and felt great for a couple of days.  Then, out of nowhere, I felt weak and tired when I got up.  I figured it was part of getting back into the swing of things, so I went to school.  However, I wasn’t there ten minutes when I began to feel much worse.  I felt light-headed, my breathing became rapid and shallow, and I started to feel some pain in my chest.  My wife got the school nurse to check me.  I was told I was very pale and my BP was 88/60.  The nurse told my wife to take me to urgent care, where they checked me and transported me immediately, by ambulance, to the emergency room.  I was told that I was exhibiting quite a few of the typical symptoms of a heart attack.

At the hospital, they ran blood enzyme tests which came up negative. There was no heart attack, nor was any recurrence of a pulmonary embolism detected.  My cardiologist came in and we talked about what might have caused my symptoms.  He thought it was likely due to part of the large blood clot in my lungs breaking away and attaching to another part of the lung.  He felt that this might have caused the symptoms as well as the pain I was feeling in my chest.

My doctor had scheduled me for a cardioversion to correct the atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm) that I had for four years.  However, since I was already hospitalized, they kept me there to do a special type of echocardiogram to make sure there were no clots in my heart.  Since the results of that echocardiogram were clear, they did the cardioversion, which is a controlled electrical current to the heart to reset its pattern to regular rate and rhythm.

I talked with my cardiologist and the team that was going to do these procedures, and they were great.  I felt calm and very safe.  I had decided that this was one of those things that I had no control over and that my life was in their hands and in God’s, and I trusted them completely.  The last thing I remember was the nurse-anesthesiologist telling me that I would be given something to make me dream…  I woke up later and found out that there were no sign of clots in my heart.  Even though it took two tries to cardiovert or control my atrial fibrillation, my heart returned to a regular rate and rhythm.  Before I went in, my pulse ranged between 95 and 102.  Afterwards, my pulse dropped to 55 and has stayed as regular as clockwork.  I can’t believe how much better I feel.

I got the surgical pins taken out of my toes, and I am able to walk around without crutches, which feels so liberating.  I have to wear compression socks, but walking seems to keep the swelling in my leg down.  I want to thank everyone who was there for me during this whole experience.  The doctors, nurses and staff were wonderful.  My doctor took the time to explain everything to me – the problems, the procedures, the prognosis…  everything.  Since I am a science teacher, information and explanation were what I needed.

I want to channel my energy to do a fundraising ride around Oklahoma next summer to raise money for NBCA, similar to one I did when my wife was ill with breast cancer six years ago.  I rode 1800 miles in 17 days to raise some money for research for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  This time I am planning on using a recumbent trike to keep my legs a bit elevated during the ride and help reduce any swelling. I will continue to wear compression socks to keep swelling down and to prevent any complications of DVT as well.

Tim Allen

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain


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21 Responses to "Tim Allen Tells His Blood Clot Survival Story"

  1. Jamilia
    Jamilia Posted on December 17, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Hi there sir, my name is Jamilia. I was wondering what is the survival rate of blood clots?

  2. Michael
    Michael Posted on December 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I too suffered a Bilateral PE in June 2008. Thinking it was merely the onset of a chest cold, I actually went to sleep during my worst symptoms of chest pain and barely being able to breath. Luckily, I survived the night and woke the next morning when I vomited a lot of blood. At that point we went to the ER where they diagnosed me relatively quickly. After a week in the hospital I was put on a daily dose of Coumadin and they determined I had Antiphospholipid Syndrome. That’s what caused my PE’s.

    Jamilia, the survival rate isn’t as high as it should be and actually it’s relatively low. This is primarily due to the fact that in a lot of cases it isn’t diagnosed until autopsy. Just like in my case, people don’t see the signs as being life threatening. I thought it was a cold and had no idea it could be something so deadly. Also, in a large percentage of case the individual dies within the first hour after the clot forms. I consider myself to be very lucky as the author does I’m sure.

    • john geraghty
      john geraghty Posted on January 9, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      in 2012 last part of dec i saw one of my neurologist what we thought was a skin condition turned out to be a blood clot , later that night it fire thru to the lungs by the time i started have a great amount of trouble breathing 3 days later i had a family member rush me to the emergency room the doctor thought it was internal bleeding and ordered a cat scan the look on his face with each new screen wasnt promising he came by my room and stated he could not fathom why i was still alive as he’d never seen any one with 3 p.e bilateral and a massive saddle other then on a slap needless to say i was to be flown out to a lv 2 trauma center right away took 10 days thereto get straighten out another yr & 1/2 to fully recover for that ive not found the odds to surviving medical condition other then the doctors to say god was with you the entire time

      • Sandra S.
        Sandra S. Posted on February 21, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        Praise God. I have been looking for someone who has endured the same thing. Dec. 2016 was the day I was diagnosed with Massive Saddle PE. Both lungs infarct in lower quadrants. Doctor could believe I made it to the hospital. Had to have IR surgery twice. Jadvtwo cathers but only right side took so went back in and did left lung again placing both cathers in the on lung. In ICU for a week. I was moved to a room but only for two days. Right lungs collapsed so back to ICU for another week. Steroids in lungs to help with breathing. Once again out of ICU 6 days on floor. Finally home on Oxygen. Just need a little encouragement to know this process is endurable.

      • Paul Van Arsdale
        Paul Van Arsdale Posted on June 29, 2016 at 3:09 am

        My first episode was June of 2010. I was 25 years old. I threw four blood clots to my lungs within two weeks. They couldn’t tell what was wrong with me to the point the fourth ER visit (and most ungodly excruciatingly painful PE) the doctor treated me like a drug seeker. It hurt so much every time I inhaled. When they finally did put me on warfarin and shots of lovenox, I had four more clots mess with “life” within a six to ten month period. They just cut off circulation to my left leg. It wasn’t fun either. Then my portal vein and superior mesenteric vein became blocked giving me liver failure and pancreatitis. Needless to say that was a horrible experience as well. Mind you every test is being done and no one can figure out why this continues to happen. After getting over pancreatitis (which was very difficult) I received seven random DVT in my thigh and calf. I was stronger then so was out of commission for only one month last June. Every six months or so I get a familiar pain in my left leg. I’m 32 now and from what I can tell is I’m one tough SOB. Thank you for reading part of my story.

  3. Carmen
    Carmen Posted on January 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Do all patients who’ve had a PE, or specifically a Saddle Embolism have to stay on a sodium free diet for the rest of their lives? Even if the Atrial Fibrillation is corrected with Cardiovert or through medication? My step-father had a Saddle Embolism a year ago and had successful surgical intervention and his atrial fibrillation self-corrected. He was put on a sodium free diet. Since he no longer takes blood thinners or any cardiac medication, he is no longer followed by a cardiologist. His general practitioner can’t answer his questions about his dietary restrictions. My step father continues with the sodium-free diet, but he also eats a lot of meat protein. Medicare won’t cover an appointment with a nutritionist or dietitian, which was recommended by his primary care physician, so he hasn’t gotten a qualified answer to these questions. I am hoping one of you will know about this subject. Thank you.

    • Linda
      Linda Posted on August 11, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      Hello, I was rushed to ER just the past May. Oxygen level 70. However I felt just fine. I’ve always had very low blood pressure and encouraged to increase my salt intake and of course fluids. My doctors have continued to tell me to do this so I would assume salt does not affect PE. Now if hypertension is involved than low salt intake would be required.

      Good luck. Recovering from PE can take years.

  4. Joshua smith
    Joshua smith Posted on March 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Hello Mr Allen my name is Joshua smith I am from ashville alabama I to am a survivor I had a two foot blood clot in my right leg it was from my hip to my knee.I thought I had pulled a muscle in my right calf but after a week I knew something was wrong I couldn’t drive my leg was hurting so bad so I had to have my mother drive me to the ER were they give me a ct scan an then they rushed me to a room an put me on two types of blood thinner drips as I lay in the bed my calf felt like it had a giant Charlie horse in it after three days it went away an that’s when it went down hill the blood clot in my leg started to break apart in chunks two of the three blood clots went to my left lung an the biggest of the three went to my right lung all at the same time well that caused plurisey to set up in both my lungs at the same time after three days of that an constantly coughing up clots of blood out of my lungs I started feeling better an they sent me home were I had to take two 15 mg of cumidan (warfarin)a dayI spent a week in the hospital an the warfarin I had to take two tablets a day of the stuff well after a week at home I started peeing blood I thought it was just a side affect of the meds so after a week of that an no change I went back to the doc because the had over dosed me on the warfarin an that caused me to pee out almost all my blood they had to give me 6 pints of blood in the ICU an on top of that I had started to pass out well they give me the blood an told me I would be OK turn out my body has bad reactions to warfarin An because of the warfarin it caused a bunch of little clots to turn loose an the doc had to put a titanium filter in the last artery that goes to my heart I just wanted to share my story an I know what you went though an right if it wasn’t for the grace of god I would not be here an to anyone who reads this if you thank something is wrong with you plz don’t hesitate to see a doctor I almost waited to long an I’m lucky to be here right now.god bless all who have to go though this terrible ordeal.

    • Robert
      Robert Posted on February 18, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      30 mg of Warfarin a Day? Wonder you didn’t have a Brain Aneurysm! I’ve Never Taking that much and once I was hospitalized with an INR of 12 and given 12 Units of Blood Plasma and Vitamin K.

  5. Charles
    Charles Posted on April 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    This is a very condensed version of my story: In May 2011 I had an “attack” while alone at home. I barely managed to get to a phone to call 911. I was taken to the only Level 1 trauma center in our area. I was first treated for heart attack, then a CT scan revealed a massive saddle (bilateral) pulmonary embolism. Too late for heparin a TPA drip was started. Then I coded and my heart stopped for 18 minutes. After CPR and defibrillation my heart started again but I was in shock and critical condition. I was then transferred to another hospital where they used the EkoSonic Endovascular Catheter to remove the clot. An OptEase vena cava filter was installed (and now cannot be removed), and I was started on permanent Warfarin therapy. I’ve now been told that the only reason I have to continue Warfarin is because of the OptEase filter. It is a miracle that I survived it

  6. Wayne Sommer
    Wayne Sommer Posted on December 30, 2014 at 4:40 am

    In mid Oct of 2014 I was in the hospital for a another condition. After a week long stay, I was released only to return 2 days later with a large saddle pulmonary embolism. I spent a week and a half in the hospital. I was discharged with home IV antibiotics, blood thinners and medication for pulmonary hypertension. Every specialist who has since treated me said that I was given a second chance at life. The only time they see the size of embolism that I had, was during an autopsy. Its now been 2 months since my PE and I have a new outlook on life. I am almost completely off oxygen, and will be returning back to work next week.

  7. Donna
    Donna Posted on December 16, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Feb 1, 2015 after hospital trips look at heart could find nothing wrong. Sent home. Feb 3, my 14 year old son birthday but I got out of breathe walking across room. My son said call 911. I said they didn’t do anything last time. Luckily I listen to my son. Went to different hospital this time. Had as severe and invasive pulmonary embolism. My son saved my life!

    Been on oxygen and blood thinner since. No DVT and no genetic reasons. 10 months and still tired and difficult to work and take care of myself and kid. Been a long journey and not over. Need to lose weight but working full time and fatigue has made difficult. Many test on heart and told heart great. I’m 49 but wondering how get time and energy to get back. Testing to see if can get off oxygen next month. Be nice off but worry make more tired

  8. Robert
    Robert Posted on January 3, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I have been in hospital (Royal Gwent in South Wales, UK) since the 20th December with the same thing although being greedy I also had some additional large clots on my lungs and several in my body. I like you was very lucky to be alive. Mine like others started with tiredness which built up to suddenly being admitted to resuss, ITU etc. Treatment by staff has been very good with some excellent explanation. Had the neck tube to directly treat the lungs with IV Heparin for the rest of the body. Just waiting for the Warfarin to settle so I can go home, soon I hope.
    Although I am not anywhere as fit as you there was no reason they could find why it happened to me either.
    Best of luck to all on your recovery.

  9. Beth
    Beth Posted on January 9, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I’m a47 yr old female. Early September 2015, I experienced 3 days tiredness & breathlessness that gradually worsened. I initially thought I’d caught the flu our young daughter had had recently. Day 2 evening had slight discomfort in calf, thought I’d pulled a muscle slightly. Day 3 afternoon almost collapsed so went to A&E. Rapidly deteriorating by then. Consultant in A&E gave me anticoagulant while waiting for Chest X-ray & CT -she was onto it, i was lucky. Diagnosed with extensive PE in both lungs, 1 clot very large (most of 1 lung lobe). No travel, surgery or other risk factors, genetics negative too. 1 week in hospital, 12 hourly self injections of anticoagulant while getting Warfarin up to between 2-3 InR. My heart was also enlarged & under strain trying to pump blood past extensive clots.

    I think I was very lucky to survive. The radiology report makes frightening reading.

    I’m finding it very hard to find information on recovery, when I can start gentle exercise to try to start regain fitness – 4 months later I’m a bit less breathless, still get substernal & chest/lung pain. It’s very frustrating. I feel more well now at rest, so feel like I can do stuff I miss – but little activity brings chest pain & extreme tiredness later in the day. Very hard to gauge acceptable activity levels.

    I have no idea on how much I can safely push myself, or any idea on approximate recovery time to expect.

    They seems to be little or no information on post-PE reovery, exercise tour/limits, symptoms that are acceptable part of healing or warning signs.

    New Zealand

  10. Holly
    Holly Posted on January 18, 2016 at 12:18 am

    I went to the ER the evening of Oct 7th, 2015 with some chest pain that started around 3 pm, but all day before the pain started I couldn’t catch my breathe or take a deep breathe. My heart rate was high and I felt very weak the entire day and weak even days before. My husband and 2 teens insisted I go to the hospital so off we went. One test after another and they found a large saddle blood clot on my heart. The cardiologist told me that I was lucky to alive and I surely would not have made it to see the next day. I had emergency open heart surgery and spent 8 days in that hospital and was sent to another hospital for 2 weeks for physical therapy. I could only stand for 58 seconds before I went to PT. (physical therapy) helped me so much. It’s January 17th and I am doing very good. I get tired still but I am taking it one day at a time. I am blessed to be alive! 45 yr/female/Holly

  11. John Andrew Wilson
    John Andrew Wilson Posted on February 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    August 31 2015 is the day I lived. Massive Bi Lateral P.E. I had been expecting it due to a hereditary Protein C. deficiency and Factor 5 Lydon. Which I hadttested for. I did not recognize the symptoms until almost too late. I had this info on my smart phone. I couldn’t speak but could show triage my family history. That saved my life. I had a catheter with a radiation treatment directly on the clots. I was home on September third. It is a new treatment performed a Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach. A miracle really. I will be on Warfrin for the rest of my life. I am 44 years old.

  12. Maureen Kuzich
    Maureen Kuzich Posted on March 5, 2016 at 1:37 am

    My daughter has autism, she is 42. Sunday Feb 29, 2016 I took my daughter to ER, the day before to Urgent care. She has been sick with a cold for weeks, coughing a lot. I notice a couple days earlier that she looked pale, I asked if she was OK she said yes. I notice her breathing hard so I took her to Urgent care they gave her a breathing treatment, and sent her home on antibiotics and an inhaler. She never complain of any pain just shortness of breath. Taking her to the ER i was thinking she had pneumonia. after tests they found out she had Saddle bilateral PE with necrosis (dying lung tissue) pressure in her heart. I was in shock. How she didn’t die was a miracle. She has EKOS procedure for 24 hours. She has several months of recovery. An old blood clot from a hip surgery in 2010 broke off and travel to the lungs. Lucky to be alive.

  13. CI
    CI Posted on May 6, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    May 1, 2016 approximately 9:00am, dressing to leave home, I had a sudden case of heat, dizziness, and shortness of breath! Tried laying down to calm my breathing & racing pulse, but not working. By now, couldn’t walk and sweating excessively; floor full of water like bucket had been poured on. Home alone, knew something was wrong; knew I was dying. Was able to call 911, unlock door and lay on floor waiting for rescue. In hospital: pressure 60/40, pulse 160, don’t remember oxygen. Massive Saddle PE found over top of heart and both lungs after CT SCAN. No previous symptoms: never experienced chest or back pain, only excessive sweating & inability to breath! None of the usual things that would predispose one to such: No DVTs! Doctors said they were amazed I made it to the hospital. Very active, athletic 56 yr old female, whose vitals returned to normal. After being watched 2 days in hospital and being given Lovenox shots in the abdomen 2 x per day, I was released and sent home with 15 mg Xarelto 2 x per day for 3 weeks, then 20 mg once a day for 21 weeks: no oxygen, no food restrictions and activity as tolerated. Told to take it slow the first week, but I feel really good, as if it never happened. Today is day 4 out of the hospital. I just hope my story might help someone else. Things can just happen without warning! I had been out PUSH MOWING grass just 4 days before it happened, with NO shortness of breath! Glad to still be alive; so is my husband, family and friends!

  14. Donna Kerbo
    Donna Kerbo Posted on June 21, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Update. Finally off oxygen and feeling back to myself. Took about 15 months. I got so annoyed with doctor for not giving me a time frame. From post I can see that no two cases are the same and everyone recovers at different rates. I am type of person who would have done better if said may take a year. Others might scare too much or slow effort to recover. For each person an individual journey. Hearing others stories was a big help. Thank you everyone for sharing.

  15. Greg
    Greg Posted on July 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    My case was almost same as “CL” above.
    Flew to Canaries from London. Three days later I was struggling to breath after light exercise. Thought nothing of it. Flew home! Straight to my own Doctor who suspected PE. Straight to A and E and onto stomach injections. Felt pretty reasonable after three days but very, very tired. It’s now almost two weeks and I feel as if nothing has ever happened! Surely I can’t be so lucky?!

  16. Tallulah
    Tallulah Posted on August 4, 2016 at 2:20 am

    I was diagnosed with saddle pulmonary embolus and multiple emboli in March of 2013, I was 32 years old and 4 months pregnant. There was a vague pain in my left thigh that I ignored due to the overwhelming nausea I was experiencing from the pregnancy. Shortness of breath started to worry me and irregular pounding heartbeats! I went to the ER twice in one day only to be given IV for dehydration and told to do breathing treatments at home with the nebulizer. I continued to feel worse, turned in my resignation at work and didnt know where to turn. Finally after calling my dr one morning, I stood up to shower and started to see black. Felt as tho I was slowly fading. I was able to call my husband who sent my dad over. As I struggled to dress, I fell over my couch face down and felt like my vision was coming back. We made it to ER and they gave me oxygen and sent my out to waiting room. I felt just awful. After finding a DVT they ordered scans and echo. It was bad. They said i would lose the baby due to the clot buster treatment and I was extremely lucky to have gotten there when i did. (i had already gone twice before!) Both lungs were full. i was stable so they held off on the clot busters and began lovenox. I have a CELECT IVC filter they were able to place thru my neck because of the baby. The remainder of the pregancy was so hard. She survived, were both lucky and super thankful. Recovery has been both difficult & challenging. I have two clotting disorders(one homozygous and one heterozygous), so warfarin and filter for life. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes its fast irregular heartbeat, dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Other days I feel ok. It hasnt been easy getting answers- I get sent to different drs with no improvement. Is someone supposed to manage or oversee the filter? How long will I feel this way? Do i always have to worry about another clot???