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I was 23 years old in 2013, and I was a healthy individual who was very physically active, running, and going to the gym preparing for boot camp. It was July and two months before I was scheduled to leave for basic training to fulfill my Navy Corpsman contract that I had signed seven months prior. It was my dream come true. I was so excited to start my life and serve my country, and I was preparing for the journey to begin on September 17, 2013. That journey came to a complete halt before it even began.
On the evening of July 25, 2013, I went out to dinner with my grandparents. I was feeling very lightheaded, so they drove me home so I could rest. The next morning, I developed excruciating left lower back pain which I didn’t think much about. I thought maybe I slept wrong. Over the next three days, my back pain drastically worsened, and I began experiencing pain in my left thigh, as well as swelling and redness. I went to an Urgent Care, where they told me, “It’s likely a pulled muscle. Ice it and take some Ibuprofen.” Despite icing my leg, my back pain and leg pain became so unbearable that I took advantage of the emergency hours of the local chiropractor who noticed the condition of my leg, and told me I should go to the emergency room instead.
Fast forward to the evening of July 28, 2013. I was in the emergency room at a small local hospital where I had an ultrasound done of my left leg, which showed an acute extensive left lower extremity – occlusive iliofemoral deep vein thrombosis or DVT. I also was diagnosed with phlegmasia cerulea dolens, which is a life-threatening condition sometimes caused by the DVT that could lead to gangrene and loss of limb. I was started on a blood thinner and transferred by ambulance to another hospital, where I was urgently taken into the operating room at 1:15 a.m. for surgical intervention. It was discovered that I also have May-Thurner Syndrome, which is a compression of the left iliac vein by the right iliac artery up against the lumbar spine. I had an IVC filter placed, local infusion of thrombolytics, balloon venoplasty, and subsequent stent placement. I spent three days in the ICU after three trips to the operating room, and was discharged on an oral anticoagulant after five total days in the hospital.
Looking back, I feel silly waiting to go to the emergency room until three days after my symptoms began. The moral of my story is how important education and awareness is. I was not educated about DVTs at that time, so it was not even a possibility in my mind. I was discharged from the Navy before getting to go to boot camp and start my career. As frustrating and heartbreaking as that is, I realize now just how lucky I am to be here today. I plan to spend my time educating others about the signs, symptoms, and risks of DVT. No matter how healthy or young you are, tragedy can hit at any time. I am hoping that increased DVT awareness can prevent further cases like mine, which could ultimately and hopefully save lives.