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Mr. E. Anonymous was healthy and active, when he had a seemingly unexplained DVT while he was pursuing a Master’s degree in Physical Education. His DVT detoured him from his goal, and he was also laid off from his job soon after, so he is coping with many unforeseen events.
I was a completely healthy 29 year old male who lived a very active lifestyle. I was working part-time as a paralegal and was simultaneously enrolled in a Master of Physical Education program at the local university. I’ve been active my entire life and enjoyed working out. I played basketball, golf, and many other sports. I visited physicians regularly for numerous physicals over the years, and took good care of my body. My goal to become a Physical Education Teacher prompted me to advocate for health in others as well.
I noticed pain in my left leg that seemed to come on gradually in late September 2012. I originally thought it was a pulled calf muscle, because I speed walked around campus and to get from class to class and climbed stairs constantly. I then noticed my entire lower leg and foot was red and severely swollen. I made an appointment to see my family practice physician, who did not make a diagnosis, but urged me to go the Emergency Room (ER), where I went the next day. I waited, because I hoped that my symptoms would go away, and I did not like the idea of going to an ER.
As I laid in the ER, I found that I was hoping for the best, yet fearing the worst. They did ultrasounds of both legs immediately, and about an hour later, the doctor informed me that I had a blood clot in my leg directly (deep vein thrombosis/DVT) behind my left calf muscle, and that I needed to be admitted. There was some redness that was likely a rash on my right leg, and those added symptoms prompted the ultrasound in both legs, even though a DVT usually happens on one side. I was completely shocked and disappointed, to the point where tears rolled down my face. I had never been hospitalized before nor had any adverse health conditions. I felt extremely helpless and very sick for the first time in my life, and I was hospitalized for three days.
The pain in my leg was about the worst pain I have ever endured, even more than broken bones, pulled muscles, or torn cartilage. This pain felt like what I imagine would be equal to the pain of a gunshot to the leg. I could not walk or stand. I needed assistance to get around from my wife and family for almost three weeks, and also missed work during this time. At first, I used a wheelchair, and progressed to a walker. I was on a high dose of pain medicine that caused severe constipation as well as some weight loss due to lack of appetite.
I was treated with Coumadin® and am still taking it. I was not advised to wear compression stockings. There is no history of blood clots in my birth family, and the broken bones I referred to occurred six years before my blood clot. Tests for blood clotting disorders were negative.
I had to withdraw from school and now will be unable to graduate for the foreseeable future. I incurred an enormous medical bill as well. My DVT cost me well over $15,000 in medical bills, lost tuition, and lost wages. It also cost me the chance of attaining my degree. My work was on a computer at a desk, so was fortunately sedentary. I was able to fulfill my work related duties, but was nevertheless laid off 6 weeks after returning to work, due to budget cuts within the company, and have been unable to find work since. .
I have nearly lost everything because of my DVT. I do not know why this happened and I had never heard of this illness before. DVT seemed a very mysterious condition, because I was not at risk for getting a blood clot. I have tested negative for any blood clotting disorder, was extremely active, and did not take any airplane or car rides longer than 4 hours prior to my DVT. I am thankful that I sought care right away, and that my doctors sent me to the ER, where it was diagnosed before the clot broke loose and traveled to my lungs as a pulmonary embolism.
I am hoping for a full recovery and wish to put this behind me. I have learned that life is a continual struggle and good health is not guaranteed. Hopefully, this unexpected challenge will make me a stronger person in the future and more cognizant of any other symptoms that might require medical attention.
DVT seems more common and riskier than most people realize. I hope for increased awareness and education regarding this condition, so more people can respond to any symptoms right away, as I was fortunate enough to do.
Take Home Messages
- Avoid any delay when advised to go to an ER.
- Wear compression stockings to prevent complications of DVT.
- Respond to symptoms as soon as possible.
- Illness can cause interruption in many facets of life.
- Blood clots can occur without any identifiable reason.
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.