I’m a Survivor: Paul Weinburgh’s Blood Clot Story

Categories: Patient Stories

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paul weinburghBefore that day, I was physically fit. I had recently won the National Championship in the Firefighter Combat Challenge. I was a full time Captain with the Fire Department, and the single parent of a 19 year old son, and 16 and 9 year old daughters. I was happy, my kids were happy. Life was good, and crazy, at the same time.

On June 8, 2010, my life changed forever. While responding to an early morning call, I fell 15 feet. I fractured my left leg, and destroyed my left knee. I had surgery in July to stabilize my leg, and it went well. A month later, however, my world began to fall apart. My youngest brother Sean died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 40. Now, in addition to my injuries, my family and I were crushed with grief over this sudden loss.

Three weeks later I underwent another surgery, and within a week began experiencing pain in my left calf.  I followed up with my physician, who sent me for a leg ultrasound. The ultrasound was negative, but I soon learned they are not always accurate. During a physical therapy session, I became short of breath and began sweating profusely. I didn’t think much of it, and since I had a doctor’s appointment that day, I just decided to wait and ask him.

My doctor immediately sent me in for a lung scan. The scan showed multiple pulmonary embolisms in my right lung, and some of them had caused permanent damage. I suddenly found myself the center of attention in the emergency department. I was on oxygen and two blood thinners. I am a paramedic, and I finally understood what was happening. The doctors told me this was often fatal. I felt an overwhelming sense of doom and anxiety.

I was in a state of shock.

After several weeks of being stabilized, it was time to resume the battle to repair my leg.

Due to the extent of damage to my knee, the surgeon recommended a knee replacement, but I had heard of an experimental surgery called autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI). During this procedure, cartilage is removed, grown in a lab and then injected back into the patient in hope that it will grow. Even after everything I had been through, it seemed better to me than a knee replacement. I had to stop taking blood thinners for the surgery, so I had a permanent IVC filter inserted to prevent any clots that might form from reaching my lungs.

After the surgery, I was unable to walk without assistance for a year. I eventually started back at the gym, slowly. Doctors had determined that I did not have a clotting disorder, but there was a difference of opinion about whether blood thinners were still necessary. I chose to stop taking them.

Then, there was another life-changing event.  I was working in my backyard and suddenly felt severe back pain and weakness in my lower extremities. I thought I had injured my back, so I drove myself to the local hospital. They looked at me and took me right in. Within 30 minutes, I was in an ambulance, on my way to a hospital in Boston, on blood thinners and painkillers. When I arrived at the hospital they told me my IVC filter was completely clogged and that I had an 11 inch clot extending from the filter down into my renal and thoracic vein, which was causing the pain. They told me they have never seen such a large clot in a living person and that I needed immediate, and potentially risky, surgery.

Everyone was telling me to have the surgery. To this day I don’t know why, but against medical advice, I chose not to have the surgery. I remained in the hospital for a long time on blood thinners and painkillers. When I left the hospital I could barely walk, and I had to begin another long recovery. In addition to the physical and medical help, I also needed psychological help for the “mental injury” all of this trauma had caused.

It took a lot of determination, but a year later I climbed Pikes Peak in Colorado to spread my brothers ashes. My doctors advised against it, but that’s not who I am. I’m not disabled – I’m a survivor. I don’t pity myself, I am just grateful for the opportunity to continue this great life and to spread the word to others like me.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: L F

13 Responses to "I’m a Survivor: Paul Weinburgh’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Matt Williams
    Matt Williams Posted on October 2, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Great story Paul, a true hero never gives up and always continues to fight, your a hero, lots of respect for being a firefighter and the will to keep on fighting.

  2. Linda White
    Linda White Posted on October 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Paul your story is inspiring but going against medical advice can be dangerous, every person is different and PE”s effect others different from your experience, I’m a blood clot survivor also and I do what my medical advisors tell me, I haven’t had a problem with my filter in 8 yrs (Thank God), thank you for sharing your story with us Paul and keep being the strong fire fighter, and survivor you are. May God continue to keep you in the Palms of His Hands.

    • Paul
      Paul Posted on October 21, 2015 at 2:06 am

      I feel that every doctor is so law suit cautious sadly now a days that they don’t want to say it ok……. I realize there are risk but it’s not who I am. I push myself but train carefully and take care of myself.

      When asked about my story it was about not quiting both physically and mentally…. Like most of us this was the scariest thing in my life and after the fear came the fight to heal and to live life….. Started

  3. Thelma
    Thelma Posted on October 11, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    What an awesome story…I too am a pulmonary survivor. Thanks for your story!

  4. Joan
    Joan Posted on October 19, 2015 at 1:25 am

    I have now had a DVT that went to lungs and 3 yrs laters had massive clots in lungs. Im not on thinners for life and now want to know why I got them so on to all the Dr’s to find out why. I was in hospital for week with them using a drug called tpa to bust them up also with pulmonary hypertension . Scared every day

    • Paul
      Paul Posted on October 21, 2015 at 2:00 am

      Scary stuff TPA is a clot buster……. Be strong….. keep the faith …….. Let us know….. ? Factor 5

  5. Connie
    Connie Posted on November 1, 2015 at 6:40 am

    I just came home from 2 weeks in ICU and a week in rehab. I don’t know when I’ll get back to work. My problem started with extreme pain across my buttocks that was so excruciating I couldn’t stand on my left leg. I thought it was just my back flaring up since id had 15 back surgeries and my entire lumbar spine was fused. Finally, I couldn’t take the pain or get to the bathroom so I called 911.

    After spending 4 hours in ambulance triage with no pain meds or treatment, I finally pointed out that my left leg was more than twice the size of the right. At that point I at least got some pain useless Percocet and moved to a room in the ED. A few hours later after some scans I was told I had a DVT in my leg and starred on heparin and told I would be admitted and have surgery. About 24 hours later I was moved to a room but still in excruciating pain – even worse than kidney stones and pancreatitis. Eventually I was taken to the OR.

    After the first surgery I was told I had a clot that stretched from my ankle to my aorta. I spent 2 weeks in ICU hVing 7 surgeries in 7 days with 10 different drips and an oscillator trying to break up the clot. It took 3 tries to find a place where they could access the vein because the clot was so solid and hard. In the 7th surgery they put in what seems to me a very large stent. Finally, after all the surgeries drips, and 8 units of blood I was stable enough to go to rehab. They didn’t completely get rid of the clot and I’m very sensitive to the warfarin so it’s been hit or miss.

    I’m getting pt at home now but feel like I’ll never get back to normal. I’m too young for this and don’t want to spend the rest of my life worrying about being an invalid. My worry is that I will develop a PE(s) because there is still some clot left but I just dont want to deal with it. I’ll take the Coumadin but I can’t wear a compression stocking the rest of my life, nor can I keep myeg above my heart forever. Am I taking only moderate precautions because I’m in denial or am I being rational and not succumbing to the fear. Apparently, this was the largest, hardest clot they had seen…thankfully I have relatively short legs I guess. They did scare me a bit when they told me it was in my aorta but mainly I wanted the pain to end. I know I was sick – 2 weeks in ICU, 7 surgeries in as many days, and 8 units of blood would be a hint (as was the Dilaudid every 2 hours) but I.refuse to live in fear. Am I crazy?

  6. Paul
    Paul Posted on November 2, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    No from the sound of it you been threw a lot. Just take car of you self and enjoy life the best you can. We only have one 🙂

  7. Linda
    Linda Posted on November 20, 2015 at 6:21 am

    First and foremost…thank you for your courage, bravery and service as a First Responder.

    Secondly, thank you for sharing your story.

    It’s been 2 years and 7 months since my PE.
    I was given the clear after 1 year of being on thinners and I started to take daily dose of Aspirin.
    But after 5 months of being off Warfarin, I started have anxiety and panic attacks. I’m petrified that something else was going to happen.
    The Dr. suggested I go back in Warfarin as a preventative and “make me feel safer” feeling.
    I have been back of the thinners for a year now. I have good days and bad days. (Mental game)
    Any little pang or pain and I still break out into a sweat and run to the Dr’s office.

    I hope I can find the courage like yours….

  8. Carolyn Burzynski
    Carolyn Burzynski Posted on November 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I wish I would have seen this article before I had a Knee Replacement last week and have been miserable since.Now I have hip pain ,left knee extremely painful,plus left leg from my thigh thru my calf.I had .I was at Hospital for 1 1/2 days. This was major surgery, plus for pain I was given TRAMADOL.Everyone knows that TRAMADOL is a joke.Doctors should quit being afraid of the GOVERNMENT, 2 weeks of Narcotics will not make me a Drog addict.

  9. Nandi
    Nandi Posted on November 26, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I came accross this story and am slightly alarmed and a bit concerned. I too have had a DVT incident that happened suddenly, with no broken bones, serios operations or any factors that makes me a candidate for a blood clot, I got the pain and swelling all of a sudden in my right leg to a point where I couldn’t walk! Went to my doctor who sent me also for an ultrsound and I was imeedaitely sent to hospital after what they saw. 5 days later was released from hospital and stayed home for a week more. As a contractor not working hit me hard financiall)! I was on Xarelto for 6 months and then stopped taking them because I had to have a blood test to find the underlying cause of this DVT. Its been over a year and a few months since then and have now found out I have a genetic ilness called Anti-phospolid Anit-blockers Syndrom or APS! So I’m not on blood thinners, not have I a filter in my vein, but am taking a Dispirin Cardio Care everyday along with a Vit C and Iron tablet. Getting fit and loosing the weight! My lifestyle has change slightly but not much. I too don’t see myself as disabled and still try to keep some normality in my life! Thank you for sharing your Story! It helps to know that this is not the end of what my life is.

  10. AnEagle
    AnEagle Posted on November 29, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I’ve Recently Experienced PE . Talk About Scary & Now Feeling Victorious Is An Understatement . Every time The Thought Comes Across My Mind . I Know Im Blessed To Be Here . My Father ‘God Has Chosen To Keep Me . I Feel Like I Should Start An Awareness B/c We Ourselves Don’t Expect Certain Things To Effect Until A Reality Hits . Its Good Hearing Stories Of Other Survivors , Thanks A Bunch = )

  11. landon
    landon Posted on December 14, 2015 at 3:04 am

    thank you for your testimonials…be strong.!!!