The personal story below is intended for informational purposes only. The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) holds the rights to all content that appears on its website. The use by another organization or online group of any content on NBCA’s website, including the patient stories that appear here, does not imply that NBCA is connected to these other organizations or groups or condones or endorses their work. Please contact with questions about this matter.

Hello, my name isHannah Kramer Hannah and I’m currently 23 years old. My story starts when I was 21. I had just graduated from college and I was moving back home to Helena, MT to start my career as a Registered Nurse. I had recently ended a 4-year relationship with my boyfriend.

My life dramatically changed when I moved home. I woke up one morning and noticed pain in my left shoulder. I thought I had slept wrong or pulled a muscle. The pain continued throughout the day and for the next few days. I slowly noticed that my left side was hurting, about in the middle of my lung, but again thought it was because I was “out of shape” or had injured myself.

The pain lasted about 2 weeks and increasingly became worse, to the point where the pain to lie down was so intense I had become used to sleeping in a recliner, sitting up, in order to prevent pain. My shortness of breath became worse and I thought it was because I was “out of shape” so I continued to work out at a gym, upwards of 2 hours a day.

I saw my primary care provider who recommended I get an X-Ray. He said I possibly had two broken ribs and sent me home. The pain continued and my mother and I began our research.

I went back to my doctor who did another chest X-Ray and diagnosed me with my pneumonia. As an RN myself, when I looked at the X-Ray it appeared to be infection invading both of my lungs, as worse as I’d seen any pneumonia. A Z-pack (antibiotics) was prescribed and I was told to come back in 3 days if it did not get better. I was also given narcotics (very strong pain medicine), which did not even touch the pain I was having.

Three days later, I went to urgent care because it was only getting worse. I was sleeping at a 90-degree angle, I could no longer work out, and the pain of even working was more than I could handle. I could hardly walk around my unit in the hospital without feeling like I had run a marathon.

I saw a PA (physician assistant) who finally decided to complete some blood tests, checking my D-Dimer  (a blood test that measures a material released when blood clots break up and helps diagnose blood clots) “just in case.” He called me an hour later to tell me I had an appointment at the hospital in an hour that I HAD to go to. After a contrast CT scan (an x-ray that can take detailed pictures of the blood vessels of the lungs), the radiologist told me I had shower (multiple) pulmonary emboli (lung clots, also called “PE”) in both of my lungs. I was immediately transported to the cardiac ER (emergency room) room, and shortly after admitted to the hospital to combat the clots. After one night, I was discharged home to give myself shots twice a day, followed by Coumadin® therapy (oral blood thinners or anti-clotting medication) for three months.

My pain slowly went away and my life returned to “normal,” as much as it could as a 21 year old Coumadin® patient. This illness has changed my life, I can no longer take estrogen-based birth control, and I am extra keen to any pain I experience in my lungs. Two years later, I still experience daily pain based on my damaged lung tissue. My ONLY risk factor before I developed PE’s is that I was on estrogen-based birth control pills. I read every label of every medication I take, based on my history of blood clots. Since my clots, I have had my blood thoroughly tested and I do not have any genetic abnormality or clotting disorder.

My story is so important for females to read. PLEASE read all medication package inserts and educate yourself on even the most serious conditions. I was on hormonal birth control for 5 years before I was switched to a “cheaper” birth control pill and established clots in my lungs. They never found any evidence of a DVT (deep vein thrombosis or leg clots). Today, I take progestin ONLY birth control and am “almost” back to normal regarding lung function.

Take Home Messages:

  • PEs in the lungs can sometimes start out feeling like a pulled shoulder muscle
  • When you have a PE, the pain often makes it impossible to lie down to sleep
  • PEs are sometimes diagnosed as something else – as in Hannah’s case, broken ribs and pneumonia
  • You can have a PE without ever having symptoms of a DVT
  • Hormonal birth control increases your risk of having a blood clot
  • If you use hormonal birth control, you need to know the symptoms of PEs and DVTs and see a doctor if you think you have one
  • Read the all labels of the medication you take, know the potential side effects, and learn the symptoms of those potential side effects – especially blood clots
  • Surviving a pulmonary embolism is a life-changing experience
Author: admin

22 Responses to "Hannah Kramer’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Amy
    Amy Posted on January 29, 2014 at 3:00 am

    I had a DVT my left arm/shoulder from oral contraceptives. I now have paragard iud. Blood clots are more Commin than those drug inserts admit.

  2. Kassy
    Kassy Posted on January 29, 2014 at 5:41 am

    Hannah is a long time friend of mine and a current roommate. I had issues with estrogen based birth control but nothing like she had. She didn’t know it but I was considering a cheaper alternative. I’m glad i moved in with Hannah when I did. She is the one who educated me on the non-estrogen birth control that’s avaliable. I had no idea it even exsisted. Hannah is one of the strongest and smartest people I know. I agree with her, ladies educate yourself. Ask your doctor if the medication they are putting you on can cause any serious side effects and how it can effect you personally. Read up! There is a reason why medication comes with that long written paper in it. It’s important! (Why else would they print it?)

  3. Christopher
    Christopher Posted on November 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I’m glad I came across this… I have severe pain in myneck and now shoulder. I’ve been writing this off as a pulled muscle or even partial muscle tear from an already weak muscle (previous hockey injury) and as you said, the narcotics aren’t even touching the pain. I’ve been propping myself up to sleep and have been on two different muscle relaxors. I’m glad I came upon your story… have an appointment with my doc tomorrow, I’ll be sure to voice the possibility. Did you by chance have severe weakness in your arm? Not due to pain but just a general can’t even lift a gallon of milk like weakness? Thank you again for your story and I wish you all the best. I’m 27 by the way.. incase it has any relevance to anyone reading…

  4. Luzmila Gomez
    Luzmila Gomez Posted on December 9, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    “I could hardly walk around my unit in the hospital without feeling like I had run a marathon.” I love that you used this because this is how I explain my story as well and others don’t get it. It is nice to know that there’s someone knows exactly what I mean.

  5. Bill Giddens
    Bill Giddens Posted on January 3, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have suffered what you have in the past. Good luck to you.

  6. Jenna
    Jenna Posted on January 20, 2015 at 4:38 am

    It is so good to see a community of people that are going through the same thing! Although this is unfortunate, it is good to see that there is a support group out there!

    I am starting a blog about my experience of surviving a DVT blood clot at the age of 19 and would really appreciate it if you could check it out! I want to give people more insight on this by sharing my own personal experience and I want to be able to help others deal with this issue.
    Please do not hesitate to comment/leave feedback

    Thank you so much!!!

  7. Dave
    Dave Posted on January 22, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Saturday 17th January 2015
    Woke up as usual at about 7:30am with some discomfort and pain in my left shoulder and lower rib cage. Pain significantly increased with coughing, deep breaths, sneezing, sniffing etc. I thought I had strained a muscle due to with the way I was lying during the night. The symptoms remained the same throughout the day and was taking shallow breaths to avoid any pain. I didn’t feel at my best and felt generally subdued during the day. Went to bed early at 8:30pm. I agreed with my wife that if my symptoms did not improved by Monday then I would go to A&E to get them checked out.

    Sunday 18th
    Developed a slight fever during the night with sweats and elevated HR of ~100bpm vs. a more typical 60 bpm resting HR for me. I found it difficult to get out of bed as movement was painful. The symptoms were consistent with the previous day but no worse. My mind set remained subdued.
    Decided to go to local A&E at 10am my wife’s insistence where they performed initial vital signs check. The Doctor on duty said ECG was slightly abnormal on one reading only but she wasn’t too sure if it was significantly abnormal. BP ~ 145/ 83; SPO2 96%; HR ~100BPM. I was given a spray under my tongue, an Asprin and blood sugar test after which they sent me by ambulance to larger facility in Cheltenham for further tests. I was admitted at 11:50am. My vital signs were taken 3-4 times during a 4 hours stay there: typically BP 153/83; HR 96 bpm; SPO2 94%. I estimated pain level at 6-7 on a scale of 10. They conducted a D-Dimer test which was positive and a chest X-Ray. I was given an injection (of Heparin?) in my abdomen and I was discharged at approx. 4 pm and was requested to return the following morning for further tests and a CT scan.

    Monday 19th
    Had a more comfortable night although still had slight fever and elevated HR, the pain in my shoulder and rib cage were definitely subsiding vs what it had been on two previous two days (3 /10) Had I not gone to A&E the previous day, I would probably have not gone based on how I was now feeling. My mind set was also improving
    I arrived at 11.45am and I was cannula‘d up in prep for my CT scan at 12.25pm. The scan took approx. 30 minutes and was out by 12.50pm at had to wait for approx. 2 hours to get CT scan results. During this time they took my vitals BP=145/82 and HR=100bpm and SPO2=94% so no major changes vs previous results.
    Dr Alice confirmed that the CT scan had identified a PE in my left lung – “multiple small infill emboli in the upper /lower lobes with some fluid evident”. They took me at face value when I told them that I wasn’t aware of any DVT (they haven’t checked or done any ultrasound tests on me at this point). They asked me if I had been unwell with any other symptoms, toilet probs. etc. which I hadn’t. They took some more blood samples for further testing including tumour markers, PSA levels etc. Doc also did a DRE which was normal. Sent me home with a prescription for 15Mg XARELTO/RIVAROXIBAN to be taken twice /day and took my first one when I got home. I’m back on Friday for results of Monday blood tests (hopefully) and next round of test to include heart echo for atrial fib.

  8. Nicole
    Nicole Posted on May 8, 2015 at 5:03 am

    I’m 21 and am just now going through the same though mine is only in my right lung. I was in the hospital almost 2 weeks ago. Was hospitalized for two days, am now done with my injections into my tummy. But still have the pains when I lay down. Pain in my right shoulder. All sharp. Also on Coumadin. I have a 1 year old little girl it’s making everything difficult. Wish the pain would go away. Glad I’m still here though and I’m not the only one my age who is going through it. Mine was also (they think) caused by my birth control.

  9. Stacey
    Stacey Posted on May 28, 2015 at 3:04 am

    Hannah’s story very well could have saved my life. After a drive from Washington, DC up to Ithaca, NY (about a 6 hour drive) on Friday, May 22, I woke up Saturday morning with horrible neck cramping and shoulder pain. The bed in the hotel was harder than my bed at home and the pillows were very squishy, so I attributed my neck pain to a strained muscle, as the pain was right in that left top-of-shoulder spot where muscles often tense up. I didn’t have any ibuprofen with me so I sucked it up and tried to enjoy the weekend.

    We were up in Ithaca for a graduation at Cornell University and were walking all over the campus on Saturday. Every time I inhaled, there was a sharp pain in a single spot on my shoulder/back, but I again attributed it to a pulled muscle. I was also having trouble breathing, simply because it hurt too much to breathe in deeply. A family member gave me Advil which would typically work for any aches and pains I have. It did nothing to relieve any pain, and it was difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in, and I eventually fell asleep almost lying flat on my side without any pillow, thinking the pillow height was making the neck strain worse.

    On Sunday morning the pain wasn’t that bad when I woke up, but the breathing pain continued throughout the day. We drove back home to DC and on the way, I kept trying to readjust in the seat due to the discomfort. I started researching, knowing that this pain was unlike any I’d had before, and it seemed so unusual to have a pulled or strained muscle be this bad from just a bad night in a bed.

    While in the car, I used my phone to research neck and shoulder pain causes, and somehow, magically or through the grace of G-d, found this website. I was taking Ocella Birth Control pills for about 3-4 years (Yazmin before that and Loestrin before that, with 8 years total on BC pills and always knew that blood clots were a possibility, but it is still something you don’t think could ACTUALLY happen.

    We got home to DC around 11:30 pm and I was so tired that I didn’t have trouble falling asleep, and slept regardless of pain that I was still having. When I woke up Monday (Memorial Day so no work) I was in a lot of pain and it only seemed to be getting worse. I called my parents (my dad is a retired physician and usually solves my issues) and told them what had been going on. I send them a few websites the night before, including this one. My parents still thought it was just a strained muscle, but mentioned that I should go to urgent care and get it checked out.

    I took two ibuprofen and scheduled an appointment at Kaiser Permanente urgent care for that evening at 6 pm. I had a lazy day at home, mostly lying in bed and sitting up watching TV. I eventually fell asleep on the couch with my fiance, and woke up about 40 minutes before the appointment. I felt much better, and didn’t have pain when breathing and thought the pain was muscular and it had cleared up. I cancelled the urgent care appointment and fell back asleep.

    Less than an hour later, the pain came back worse, and progressively got to the point where I was howling in pain. I took two more ibuprofen and had absolutely no relief. I called my parents again, hardly able to talk from the pain in my neck and shoulder. No position was comfortable and it felt like (what I imagine) a gunshot wound would feel like. After being unable to sleep for hours (until nearly 2 am) I got up to 4 ibuprofen pills (800 mg) and had no relief. I eventually fell asleep out of exhaustion, and knew I had to go to the doctor on Tuesday.

    While on my way to work, I called to schedule an appointment with my regular doctor at Kaiser. She was out so they scheduled me with another one I didn’t know well. The appointment wasn’t until 3:50 pm after work (I’m a teacher and didn’t want to take off on short notice) and I made sure not to take any pain meds so I would be able to accurately describe my pan. I was worried the pain would again vanish when it was time for the appointment.

    I was on my feet all day teaching, and kept rubbing my shoulder/neck from the pain. After checking in for the appointment I waited for about 15 minutes for my doctor where the pain became absolutely unbearable. I was on the verge of tears in the exam room, unable to sit or lie down, and walking around only offered slight relief.

    The doctor came in and, after explaining my symptoms, she thought I had nerve pain from a possible pinched nerve in my neck. She prescribed me a pain reliever shot (NSAID) which I got after seeing her, and also prescribed a muscle relaxer and a stronger NSAID than ibuprofen. I explained that I was on birth control and asked about the possibility of a blood clot. She asked a series of questions about my symptoms, none of which I had, but still got the D-Dimer blood test just in case.

    I went to the pharmacy to pick up meds and then to the lab for blood work (Kaiser has it all in the same center). I left and went to a nearby grocery story, and while I was there I got a message from my doctor. She called back and explained that the D-dimer was positive, and that she had scheduled a chest CT with contrast for 9 pm that night. I asked if I should be concerned and she said she still thought that it was a nerve problem, and that it could be a false positive due to the inflammation. I called my fiance and my parents and started to freak out. I drove home, got some things, and headed right back to the Kaiser Center.

    They took blood again for some blood work necessary for the CT. They put in a line in my vein to inject the contrast solution and completed the CT. They took me over to the urgent care where they told me the diagnosis was confirmed, and there was indeed a clot in my lung. They immediately started taking more blood, meaning I had now been stuck 4 times, They showed me how to inject myself with lovenox, which burns like a jellyfish sting and then feels like a sharkbite. Not fun.

    They gave me the coumadin and told me they needed even more blood for a panel to see if I was at risk for blood clots in the future, or if it was a risk factor of being on birth control. My veins had all practically collapsed, and after about 20 minutes of poking they finally got one for the final blood work.

    At about 2 am, I finally went home. On the way home and upon waking up the next morning, I had strong cramping in my left leg and became suspicious that there was another clot in my leg. I was planning to go back to work, but upon getting out of bed I almost collapsed, got dizzy, threw up a little bit, and got extremely short of breath and sweaty. I gave myself the Lovenox and felt better, but we went back to Kaiser so they could perform an ultrasound on both of my legs, successfully locating a clot in my left leg (same side as the lung clot).

    I am now diagnosed with both Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) as a result of taking birth control pills. I think it is incredibly important to share my story and will encourage all females on birth control to KNOW the risks and take them SERIOUSLY. Blood clots are no joke. I’m hoping for a speedy recovery and no recurrence of blood clots, and am so thankful to this website and Hannah for sharing her story.

  10. K.M.
    K.M. Posted on August 2, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. I was just diagnosed with a DVT earlier this week. I am a nurse as well. I had to comment on that progestin only birth controls can also cause DVTs. The risk is lower than the estrogen types, but still there is a risk. I was on the progestin only birth control for the past two months and recently took a two hour plane trip. I have been around the world, taken numerous 12 hour flights, and thought that a two hour flight was nothing. Being a nurse, I knew the risk of DVT so I made sure to walk around after one hour. (I would be the one educating my fellow passengers that they have to get up and walk around because of the risk for DVTs.) But still I got a DVT. Luckily I caught it before it led to pulmonary embolism. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story. (Another thing I learned was to wear compression socks when traveling.)

  11. Hannah Kramer
    Hannah Kramer Posted on November 12, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Wow, thank you all for the replies! I haven’t checked my story’s sight for almost a year. It is nice to read similar stories to mine, and helping in make this health issue more well known. Hope everyone is recovered as much as possible for specific circumstances.

  12. Marcia
    Marcia Posted on December 15, 2015 at 5:22 am

    One day I woke up and did my normal duties. I went to work and all of a sudden I started to feel very tired, short of breath, and just overall ill… I thought it was because I went to work without eating breakfast and also because I was 3 pregnant. Lunch time finally came around and I ate a cheeseburger. I gain a tad-but if energy from it but I was still so tired that I barely felt like walking. So for the rest of my work day I kept sitting down, taking “bathroom” breaks, etc. Finally the day was over I went straight home and went to bed and didn’t wake up until 8pm(ish) only to eat dinner then I went back to sleep… at 11pm everything just went down hill !! I woke my husband crying because I thought my rib was hurting and I told him that I could barely breath or lay down. We had no pain meds that I could take being pregnant so I just fell asleep sitting up on the couch bc of I were to lay down I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. The pain was unbearable! I made it through the night but the next morning I went to the E.R. bc my husband noticed how fast I was breathing and realized that I wasn’t just being dramatic. Basically after being in the hospital for hours was told I had a bladder infection that turned into a kidney infection. They had me take several urine samples and later said that that wasn’t the case. I was then taken to do an xray of my chest and I also did a CAT scan. I had to lay down during the cat scan without being inverted and I’m sure you all know how that feels. The lady thought I was being dramatic also and was pretty much rushing me to lay down… mind you I could barely breath, my heart rate was 120ish and the pain was ridiculous! So after all of that they came in my room and was telling my husband “thank you for bringing her bc you saved her life” they literally kept saying it and I was starting to panic. The doctor came in and told us that I had a huge blood clot in my lung and they didn’t know how I just started feeling the symptoms 1 day ago. I got admitted to the hospital and was given heparin and was given pain meds every 6 hours but truly the pain meds barley worked. I stayed in the hospital r days and a half and once I was released I was sent home with perecets 5/325 & I now have to get a blood thinner shot in my stomach every 12 hours. I’ve been home for a week and there is still pain most times when after taking the pain meds. I’ve recently discovered pain in my left shoulder and neck, if feels like a pulled muscle and as if my shoulder has popped out of place. Tomorrow I have my fisrt follow up appt. since being in the hospital so I’m eager to find out what this new discovered pain is.

    Also my doctor referred me to a Cancer center. Yeah, that scared me !!! But it was only for genetic testing and blood work. I’ve already been and they’ve said everything was okay with the genetic testing and blood work.

  13. Marcia
    Marcia Posted on December 15, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I stayed in the hospital 4 1/2 days

  14. jennifer
    jennifer Posted on February 17, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Hannah, I am feeling the same thing. Was your pain in your back? I am having pain in my back where my lung is

  15. Moonie
    Moonie Posted on February 24, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    I also had PE’s in both lungs just recently, had thought it was just back/shoulder pain, which I suffered through for a week and a half (of no sleep) before diagnosis. It went from what I thought was shoulder pain (left shoulder blade, towards the middle of back) and then moved to back pain (right side, lower ribcage area).
    If you’re having any other symptoms (shortness of breath, “back pain” severe enough to not be able to lie down, pain from breathing too deeply, twinges in your legs, mild fever, moments of increased heart rate, etc… I’d go to your doc ASAP. Even if you don’t have the other symptoms, it’s a good idea.

  16. andrea.
    andrea. Posted on March 9, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Hi,so glad I found this site. It’s now 3amon 3.9.16 and I’ve been up against my bedhead with pillows to my back since midnight. So many things going through my mind ….Heart attack, stroke,muscle strain ?
    .This started happening since Tuesday night.Better in the day,worst at night lying down. I’m glad I came up on your website,after looking everywhere. Had left leg pain ,DVT.wad ruled out after x-ray. Never taken BC.,but base on what I’m feeling ,it has to be PE or something related to it. Will see my PC and recommend a D .dimer be done .Its unbearable. Thanks !

  17. svein
    svein Posted on March 23, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Hi i am still in the hospital and I just got diagnosed also with PE in one lung, i had thought it was just back/shoulder pain from sleeping funny but I have been fatigued and sleeping a lot before diagnosis. It went from what I thought was shoulder pain (left shoulder blade, towards the middle of back) and then moved to back pain (right side, lower ribcage area).If you’re having any other symptoms (shortness of breath, “back pain” severe enough to not be able to lie down, pain from breathing too deeply, twinges in your legs, mild fever, moments of increased heart rate, etc… I’d go to your doc ASAP. Even if you don’t have the other symptoms, it’s a good idea. You don’t want to take any chances. It can be fixed.

  18. Katharine
    Katharine Posted on April 17, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I had a cough for about two weeks and when my temperature when up to 38 called the non-emergency number (was at the weekend) and they made an appointment at the walk-in centre that evening. I put the kids to bed and went along. They were concerned about my obs and the doctor sent me to the hospital with a case of pneumonia. In A&E they knew I had an infection due to my blood tests but no idea what as chest x-ray was clean. After a scan of my chest in radiology, they diagnosed me with a chest infection and PE in my lungs. I was shocked when they said it was because of the pill. I was even more shocked when I found out from my mum the next day that my paternal grandmother had died of exactly the same thing back in the 60s so I unknowingly had family history of blood clots regarding the pill.
    I’m on rivaroxaban as I don’t have to take regular blood tests like with warfarin and I seem to be doing okay but the last few days my sides around my ribs have been hurting when I cough (my cough hasn’t gone away) and they feel sore as they’re around the same place where my bra goes. After reading these I’m worried they might have got worse. Hopefully I’ve pulled a muscle but I’m worried something might be broken. I’m going straight back to the doctor in the morning.
    It’s scary and after two weeks I’m still scared. But I’m trying to keep myself busy.
    It is important to make sure you know your family history because that could increase your chances of developing the same thing. I didn’t know and I wish I had now.

  19. Freeman Churchill
    Freeman Churchill Posted on May 2, 2016 at 11:52 am

    I had a PE after a foot surgery (2 weeks later) and almost died with similar symptoms which went south really quickly. I was fortunate to be very close to an emerge. 2 friends of mine have died of PE’s and they not a small thing. good article. it changes your life.
    Freeman churchill

  20. marti
    marti Posted on May 26, 2016 at 5:36 am

    My doctor diagnosed me with arm tendonitus but the pain hasn’t subsided like the doc said , it’s been over a month but the pain seems to be a bit more severe than before

  21. courtney
    courtney Posted on June 25, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Thank you for this, I suffer with HHT and pretty sure this is what it is

  22. Marty
    Marty Posted on July 13, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Three days ago, a Sunday, my left arm felt oddly swollen. Later in the day, after showering! I noticed that my left upper arm was sort of purple/reddish. GIven that it was a Sunday, I called the 24-hour nurse line for advice. Initial advice was to see my doctor the next day. About five minutes later, the nurse called back saying she had talked to an on-call doctor and that I should go to the ER. There I had blood and urine tests, an ultrasound, chest x-Ray, a line put into my neck because several nurses were unable to fine a good vein to inject dye…fInally dye and a CT scan. Turns out it is a large blood clot, impacting three veins. No PE. After getting a blood thinner injection, I was admitted to the hospital (now Monday morning). I was given an MRI, which took two hours as they scanned three sections of my torso. All clear. Looks like oral contraceptives only contributing factor, and I have taken them for over 20 years (45 now). But the neck pain is terrible and really interfering with sleep. I am now on cartel to and blood pressure medicine, just really anxious for the pain to end so I can sleep.