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My name is Caroline Kelly. I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my right leg four years ago when I was 19 years old. It started when I noticed pain in my right leg. At that time, I had not even heard of DVT or its symptoms. I play soccer, so I thought it was just a muscle spasm. I went to the emergency room (ER), because I could barely walk, and it felt like something was tightening in my leg. Nothing was found. However, the pain got worse, and my leg became warm and swollen, so I returned to the ER, which is when the DVT in my leg was diagnosed. I was taking birth control pills to regulate my menstrual cycle, which is the likely reason for my DVT, and it changed my life forever. I was tested for blood clotting disorders, but none were found, nor has anyone in my family had a blood clot.
I think this illness changed my life because I had to leave college. On top of that, I lost financial aid and college funding, and my mother had to quit her job to take care of me. My life was at a standstill. I went from being free to do what I wanted to total bed rest for 4 months. I could not stand or walk, because my leg pain was so excruciating. I had to keep my leg elevated to ease the swelling. I injected a blood thinner by needle into my stomach every twelve hours. It was a very painful and traumatizing experience for me, and I kept asking myself “Why me?” and “Will I be alright?” I found myself with tears in my eyes.
I learned that DVT affects thousands of people a year. I learned more about blood clots and the blood thinners that treat clots and the risks for blood clots, including birth control pills. If clots travel to the lung, a pulmonary embolism (PE) can occur. It’s very important to spread the word about the signs and symptoms of DVT and its associated risk.
I look at life differently now, and I am thankful every day when I wake up, and my faith sustains me. I now appreciate everything life offers, both good and bad. I’ve learned that life has lessons. I’m so blessed and fortunate that my blood clot was caught before it traveled to my lungs, so I was never short of breath. My advice to others is to stay healthy, move, and keep in shape to keep your blood flowing. It is also important to be aware that birth control pills carry risk for blood clots.
Take Home Messages
- Birth control pills can increase risk for blood clots.
- It is wise to return to the ER to be checked again, if you think your symptoms need further care.