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Haley HansonHaley Hanson is now in the last semester of her nursing program, and found out what it is like to be on the other side of the bed rail, as well as how annoying it is to have her blood clot symptoms ignored or dismissed by a doctor.

I am a 21 year old female who was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) in February 2012.
I grew up playing sports, enjoyed many outdoor activities, and loved spending time with my loved ones. I had just moved about 900 miles away from home to Northern Ontario to begin nursing school. I felt as though I was on the road to success and never imagined that my life could change so drastically in a single moment.

In November of 2011, I noticed redness and swelling in my right arm. I had difficulty lifting my arm above my head, and when I did, I was reminded of a quarter-sized visible lump in my underarm that had been there for the previous 3 years. I went to the Emergency Room (ER) and underwent an ultrasound. They explained that it was just a swollen lymph node that may be interfering with circulation in my arm. I explained to them that I have had this lump for many years and only the circulation issue was new. They told me to go home, take some Tylenol® and it would likely clear up within a week.

It did not clear – I became unable to use my dominant right arm for even the simplest tasks. Writing became an issue and it was affecting my performance in school. I returned to the ER, and was adamant that something else was wrong. I felt like I knew my body, and my body was telling me things were not right. I remember a doctor telling me that because I am in nursing school, I may be overreacting about my symptoms. I felt dismissed, insulted, and helpless.
At Christmas 2011, I flew home to see my family. As I lay down in my bed on Christmas Eve, I felt a sharp, crushing pain in my chest.  I could not move or breathe.  I panicked, because I could not breathe in enough air to call for help.  I laid there helplessly with my hands clasped over my ribs.

After some time passed, I managed to turn on my side, which relieved some of my pain.  I did not want to go to the ER on Christmas Eve, because of flashbacks of the previous doctor’s dismissal of me during my first visit.  During the next few days, I had chest pain periodically, but I wanted to see if it would get better on its own – and it did.

I flew back to Northern Ontario after Christmas with high hopes of finishing my nursing program. Unfortunately, my chest pain returned on Valentine’s day. This time, I listened to my body, and went to hospital. After undergoing another ultrasound, chest X-ray, and a CT scan, I discovered that a blood clot that originated in my right arm had broken off and traveled to the major veins in my chest, arm, and neck, and both of my lungs.  I also had a complication of a pulmonary infarction due to lack of oxygen to my lungs, because of the delay in diagnosing my blood clot.  I was emergency airlifted to Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) where there was a hematologist who could take better care of me.  I was placed on blood thinners and hospitalized for one week.

The reason for my blood clots is a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.   This means that my shoulder bone and first rib are too close together, which causes the blood circulation in my arms to be sluggish. I was also taking hormonal birth control pills that added to my risk that I have since stopped.  I had genetic testing completed which all came back negative. I was on anticoagulation therapy for 4 months (Feb 2012 – June 2012) and now I am on the aspirin 81mg Aspirin (low dose) until at least the 2014.

I now have trouble on exertion and cannot play sports like I used to. I become short of breath easily and experience dizzy spells on occasion. The swelling in my arm has not gone away, and the lump in my underarm is still there.   I missed mandatory school hours during my hospitalization, so fell behind in my required class hours.  I went from feeling like an active, healthy woman to feeling as though my life revolved around my blood clots.  Nevertheless, I am determined to complete my courses with A grades and I am excited about my future career as a registered nurse.  I believe I can give great patient care since I have experienced being in the patients’ shoes, and feel I can be more sensitive to their plight.

Through my story, I hope to help spread awareness of blood clots and inspire others to appreciate each day that is given to us.  I know that I am lucky to be alive and I hope to help others by sharing my story. If you are unsure if you have a DVT/PE, please do not wait to be seen or let a doctor dismiss your symptoms.

Take Home Messages

  • Persist when you have symptoms and you feel ignored by a doctor.
  • Interruption or sluggish (slow) flow of blood increases possibility of a blood clot
  • Birth control pills increase risk for blood clots
  • Listen to the signals your body gives you and act if you have signs and symptoms that worry you
  • Blood clots happen in younger people, although are less likely
  • Early diagnosis is optimal to prevent complications
  • Blood thinners (anti-clotting medication) are more effective for venous blood clots than aspirin
  • Life can go on even after a life-threatening clot

The National Blood Clot Alliance’s mission is to advance prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of blood clots, clotting disorders and clot-provoked strokes through public awareness, advocacy and patient and professional education.

Click here to review the signs and symptoms of DVT/PE.


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Author: admin

8 Responses to "Haley Hanson ‘s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Kari
    Kari Posted on November 4, 2014 at 3:30 am

    I have DVT in my arm to shoulder to neck..

    While being on blood thinner is there food intake.i should be avoided? I just diagnosed this last monday morning. Please help cause i am vegan and need to know what to eat or not to.. i also drink soy milk will it effect it?


  2. Paul
    Paul Posted on November 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm


    You can get some materials online as to what to eat and not to eat. The big one is to minimize your intake of large amounts of Vitamin K, this is found in leafy green vegetable like Kale and Spinach. Do not cut them out all together but do not eat them in large amounts. The best advice I can give you as I still have a DVT in my left chest that cuts the flow out of my arm. “STAY HYDRATED” it seems oddly simple but your blood viscosity will thicken as you become dehydrated. Drink lots of water and you will keep you thinners working like they should.

  3. Bernie
    Bernie Posted on December 13, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I am a 58 yr old female who was discovered to have a large DVT on the underside of my upper left arm. Out of nowhere, I was experiencing severe pain on the left side of my neck, across my left shoulder, in my left clavicle, and down my left arm. I had just increased the size of my hand weights I was using and attributed the pain to that. Thank heavens my family persisted in me going to the ER. The PA there suspected a DVT right away and she was right. Testing to determine if any clots had moved to my lungs showed no pulmonary embolisms but did pick up a tumor (cancer) in my left kidney. Drs say the clot was caused by the cancer. Blood thinners took care of the DVT and surgery my cancerous kidney. All is well now. One needs to be proactive in your own health care. That pain, esp in my clavicle, was something I hadn’t experienced before and there was a seroius reason for it. I will listen to my body more carefully now.

  4. Veronique
    Veronique Posted on March 31, 2016 at 1:30 am

    How did your neck feel and shoulder? I have 3 blood clots in my upper arm, they but me on Eliquis. It has almost been a month since my diagnosis. I just developed headaches and neck pain. The pain in my arm is still there is this normal?

  5. Misty
    Misty Posted on August 31, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    I am a 36 yr old Caucasian female who had a stroke in January of 2005 at the very young age of 25 yrs old. My stroke was caused by blood clots (DVTs) and a pulmonary embolism. I was at work with my husband early one morning when I felt extremely weird, like I was numb and quickly loosing focus on where I was, who I was. Went to the ER to be told that I was either on drugs (I’ve NEVER done drugs!!) or was extremely stressed and having a nervous breakdown! (Let me just say, I had always been healthy hardly ever even got a cold…the only thing I’ve struggled my entire life with & still do is severe acid reflux) (which later on we found out that’s why they suggested drug use bc the acid reflux caused my teeth to look that way- 😡 My teeth are not rotted, black, or missing!! Plus acid reflux had began to show signs in my throat lining & caused my to have a small high natel hernia- located between my breast) They said I was too young to have a blood clot or to be tested (a simple ultrasound) for blood clots. Instead they put me in a mental health hospital and treated me for a nervous breakdown & other mental illnesses. That’s when I had my stroke, after being in a mental facility for a week or two. They had no choice but to remove the straps (I was strapped down in a hospital type bed 90% of the time I was there) and put my in an ambulance and send me back to the ER. They finally discovered that I had had a stroke, several DVTs and 2 pulmonary embolisms. The stroke was apparently bad and they had no hopes of me recovering. Bc we had no insurance after a few months they told my husband there was nothing they could do and sent me home (in a vegetable state) to die. My husband refused to give up! He loves me & wanted me to see our 4 very small kids grow up & wanted us to continue our life together as a family. He carried me 3-4 times weekly to a Coumadin clinic, he changed my diapers, fed me baby food, moved my arms, legs, worked my mouth open & closed with his hands. He carried me back and forth trying to find help somewhere. He talked to me, told me about our lives together, he read to me & our kids. He NEVER gave up! Then he said one day months down the road I tried to talk. I squeezed his hand (very lightly) that way his sign that I wasn’t going anywhere. He started adding nutritional shakes to my diet of baby food, started working my limbs more frequently. Kept talking & praying. After I could walk a little on my own (20 steps or so) and could talk to where it was clear enough to understand, he took me back to the same hospital that sent me home to die & asked for those Drs by name. When he saw them he asked if they remembered him, with sad looks they said they did and asked how he was doing & how long had it been since my passing? He asked them to wait one minute, he came and got me from the waiting room and had me walk & talk for them. Shocked!!! Shocked was an understatement! They helped him find a hematologist for me. I stayed on Lovenox injections twice daily for over 6 months. Went to physical therapy. Had to believe a man (my husband) that I had a family; him and our four children. I’ve since had several more DVTs and pulmonary embolisms. My arms & legs stay numb. I’m only taking 81mg of baby aspirin (chewable) several times daily (which by the way, makes the lining of my esphogus thinner) I still have severe acid reflux and I constantly worry about having another stroke and not living thru the next one. -My great grandmother on my fathers side had a clotting condition in which they had to draw several pints of blood from her every month. My grandmother on my fathers side has problems with her blood clotting & is still on Coumadin. Nobody knows what the condition that my great grandmother had is called. Besides my grandmother I’m the only person in our family that has this clotting problem. I want to know what it is, what causes it, what can be done to treat it? Can someone please help me with these questions? I would be extremely grateful for any insight on this.

  6. lisa
    lisa Posted on August 31, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    I’m am currently a 39 year old who was very active until March of 2012 I played soccer, baseball ect.. I started getting leg cramps, neck pain and headaches high blood pressure. I had a painful lump behind my arm pit. Went to a general surgeon and had it removed. It was a benign tumor. 2 of them. Was working 2 jobs at the time. Went to chiropractor for almost nine months. I had some relief each time but was only temporary. Then was sent to a neurologist who was concerned about my headaches. Brain MRI was done. Needless to say no abnormalties found in my brain. The pain was so bad. So I knew something was wrong with my spine. The headaches were a symptoms from my high blood pressure due to the neck pain. I went to see a neurosurgeon. They did an MRI of my neck. Said I needed surgery for herniated disc. So I had ACDF of my C56 fusion. Also found the Chiari malformation herniated into my spine. Fastward 1 yr and 2 months after my fusion. Knots formed in my back. Scapula hurt and neck. Then arm pain and numbness. I have radiculopathy but have now been told I have TOS. I see my neuro surgeon in about 2 weeks. Our story sounds similiar. With the lump then TOS. Now that you’ve heard my story. Do you mind if I ask how you are doing now? I’m pondering surgery for the compression and terrified. Thanks and hope all is well.

  7. lisa
    lisa Posted on August 31, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Also I’ve been to the er a few times because of chest ppain. High blood pressure nausea arm pressure and pain. I think i could possibly have a blood clot but nope. They just sent me home with pain meds. Sad sad sad

  8. lisa
    lisa Posted on August 31, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    The reason why i also think blood clot is my arm the skin looks like im wearing lace down my arm and forarm. Thats the best way to describe and I have a spinter hemhorrage in my thumb nail that has been there for 3yrs.