Surviving Made Me Stronger: DesiRae Feldhauser’s Blood Clot Story

Categories: Patient Stories

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Feldhauser, DesiRae PictureIn December 2015, I was a 32-year-old newlywed and my life seemed perfect. Three months earlier, Brian and I had our dream wedding in Sonoma, CA, and were planning our first Christmas together as Mr. and Mrs. Since we went home to the Midwest to visit our families over Thanksgiving, we decided to take a trip to Myrtle Beach for the holidays.

A few days before our trip, I noticed a strange pain between my shoulder and neck. We thought it was caused from a tough workout, so Brian gave me a back massage to try to make the pain go away. He noticed that my shoulder looked larger than normal and felt hot, but the massage helped, so we wrote it off and moved on.

When we got to Myrtle Beach, I didn’t feel right. I wasn’t in pain, but I knew something was off. Not wanting to ruin our trip, I pretended everything was fine. After we returned home, I had a terrible side ache. At first it hurt to move from sitting to standing, but it quickly grew to a constant pain, making it impossible for me to get in to bed without screaming.

The next morning, I felt winded while combing my hair. Each deep breath felt like I was being stabbed in the rib cage. I couldn’t catch my breath. Brian suggested we go to an urgent care clinic. Since I pass out at the sight of blood – and I am deathly afraid of doctors, needles, and pain – I told him it was no big deal, and I probably just didn’t feel well due to poor eating during our trip.

Later that night, I woke up sobbing from pain, unable to breathe and completely terrified. I told myself I was overreacting. The next day, however, we went to urgent care. The doctor decided I either had a muscular strain or pleurisy. She sent me home with a prescription for pain medication and told me to also treat the pain with a hot pad for 20 minutes each hour.

The next day, the pain was overwhelming and I was so winded that I couldn’t say a full sentence. Standing hurt, sitting was excruciating, and laying down was out of the question. Deep down, I knew that the urgent care doctor had been wrong and that something very serious was happening. I tried to go to bed, but was in so much pain that I couldn’t breathe or speak. I was almost certain I was going to die. We rushed to the emergency room and having never been there before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was overwhelmed with fear.

First they did an x-ray and the nurse took my blood pressure, temperature and oxygen readings, then gave me an oxygen mask. They stripped off my clothes and put me in a hospital gown. While one nurse was inserting a line in my left arm, the other was drawing blood from my right.

They did an EKG, but I was shaking so badly, they couldn’t get a clear image. I was given a dose of pain medication, but it had no effect.

Next I had a CT scan. The pain took over and I nearly collapsed while moving from the hospital bed to the CT machine. They did a second scan with contrast. Eventually, they moved me to quieter area of the ER to wait for a room to open up in trauma because I was going to be admitted.

The medical team delivered the news: I had a blood clot turned PE or pulmonary embolism in my lung. They administered injection blood thinners into my stomach. I still have nightmares about the size of the needle and the feeling that my insides were burning up as the medicine worked its way in to my system.

The next two days were full of painkillers, ultrasounds, different body scans, shots every 12 hours, blood draws every four hours and a barrage of physicians all asking the same questions: Is there a history of blood clots in your immediate family? Have you suffered an injury in the past week or so? Have you been on any long trips? Are you taking birth control pills?

As it turns out, I did not have any underlying health conditions or clotting disorders, but my birth control pills combined with a long car ride caused my blood clot. Doctors advised that I immediately stop taking contraception and reiterated several times how lucky I was to be alive.

I’m now taking a new oral anticoagulant, but should be able to come off it this October as long as I don’t have any setbacks.

This experience has changed my life. Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, no matter how happy, young or healthy you may seem. Not a day goes by where I don’t replay that hospital stay in my head. Every day I’m scared that it could happen, or is happening again, even though we’ve eliminated the biggest risk factor. I’m now so grateful for every day and trying to always see the sunshine through the rain.

Reading your stories has been therapeutic and has helped me see that I am not alone in this fight or this very real fear. To all my fellow PE survivors, stay strong. We will get through this and things will get better. To everyone taking hormonal birth control, please know your risk, because this could just as easily happen to you. To anyone who is in any kind of pain or has a feeling that something isn’t right, please seek help immediately, life is too short not to.

To join our online discussion community and connect with other people who have experienced a blood clot, please click here.

To learn more about risk factors for blood clots, please click here.
To learn more about signs and symptoms of blood clots, please click here.
To learn more about women and blood clots, please click here.

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Author: SW

8 Responses to "Surviving Made Me Stronger: DesiRae Feldhauser’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Debbie Hackett
    Debbie Hackett Posted on August 6, 2016 at 2:46 am

    Desi, you are amazing and strong. I am very proud to be your mom. Love you.

  2. Lisette
    Lisette Posted on August 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Hello. I had the same thing on 2001. We are lucky And now 15 years laters I had a knee cap sergury went to the orthopedic few times with knee ankle back pain and swelling and he only gave me pain medication. Then I went to a different hospital and they found a blood clot and again blood clot in the same leg now in medication. Good luck. God have something for you. God bless you and take care yourself. 🙏🏼❣

  3. Sherry Walsh
    Sherry Walsh Posted on August 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    OMgosh Desi, I had no idea the extent of the pain you went thru. Thank you for getting to ER and not relying on the initial Urgent Care diagnosis. Thank you for sharing your story. Love Sherry

  4. Brittany Person
    Brittany Person Posted on September 3, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I also had DVT turned pe but I have a clotting disorder so I see an internalist ever 6 months to make sure I don’t get another.and thank you for sharing your story you are so strong 😊 I also have a question how do you get over the fear of having another episode?

    • SW
      SW Posted on September 4, 2016 at 5:26 am

      Hi Brittany. We talk about the fear of recurrence in this e-Newsletter edition. Check it out:

    • DesiRae
      DesiRae Posted on September 9, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Brittany,

      Sorry for the slow response! To be completely honest, I have not gotten over the fear of the possibility of another episode. I think about it daily. But what has helped me is becoming more aware of myself. Our bodies really are amazing and since we’ve been through this once already, we know what to look for and what it felt like when we had our first episode. You are and have to be your biggest advocate. A few weeks back, I had some tightness and pain in my right leg-completely unprovoked. I was terrified it was another clot, so I immediately set up an appointment with my doctor. An ultrasound revealed it was a Baker’s Cyst and not another clot, but their symptoms feel similar. Be strong, conscious of what’s happening with your body and please reach out if you ever want to-you are not alone in this fight!

  5. Richard Galliani
    Richard Galliani Posted on September 5, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Brittany,

    Thanks so much for your story. I too am a recent PE survivor and I most likely developed my PE during my honeymoon flight from SFO to Italy, a flight of over 12 hours. We were stuck in economy class and i did not get up much during the flight and drank some wine and very little water. I had no clue that this could happen to me as I am very healthy. Like you, I had shortness of breath and a terrible pain on my right side. Thank God the emergency room doctors diagnosed my condition correctly and started me on blood thinners. That was just two days ago! I am feeling better and looking forward toward a full recovery. Reading your story made me feel a lot better as I have been in a state of shock and fear ever since this happened.

    • DesiRae
      DesiRae Posted on September 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      I am so sorry this happened to you, especially at such a special time in your life. Are you still in the hospital or have you been released? I’m glad my story helped you and I 100% know what you’re feeling right now. Stay strong! The first week is the hardest, you’re almost there :). Let me know if you ever want someone to talk to, I find it’s much easier to talk to others who know what you’re going through :). Thinking of you!