Jessica Lehman’s Blood Clot Story

Categories: Patient Stories,Stories

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.

My name is Jessicalehman1 and I’m so excited to share my experience with Team Stop the Clot.

Less than a year ago I was sitting in a hospital bed thinking my life as an athlete was over. My pity party came to an end when I found this blog. Reading all of the Clot Buster stories gave me hope and inspiration. I hope you find some in my story too.

In January 2013 I had the adventure of a lifetime – summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world with an elevation of 19,341 feet.

During the final descent off the mountain (day 8) I developed a sharp pain in my calf. I assumed it was a pulled muscle from summiting. It seemed obvious to me, I mean I did just climb the highest mountain in Africa!

After another week of safari in the Serengeti we flew home and it was time to get serious about my triathlon training! I was 5 months out from EagleMan 70.3. I remember e-mailing my coach telling her I had a pulled muscle and wasn’t able to run. So I started training by only swimming and biking. My calf was very painful, but triathletes have a very high tolerance for pain (and are just that stubborn). I refused to go see the doctor. I knew that if I rested it, iced, and took anti-inflammatories it should go away. And sure enough it did! My leg felt better after a couple weeks (later I found out this is because a giant chunk of clot broke off and went to my lungs). So with a healthy leg I started running and training hard.

I realized that my splits were much slower than usual. I told myself that this was because I took a month off to go to Africa and was out of shape. So I started pushing myself harder. I even almost blacked out in the middle of the pool during a time-trial test. I just figured I was dehydrated. Writing this makes me realize how stupid I was… ALWAYS listen to your body!

During the 4th week back from Africa I started getting out of breath doing simple tasks (like walking up stairs, talking on the phone, making a sandwich). The last straw was blacking out during a track practice. That night I went to the ER. And drum roll please…….. DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis, or blood clot) in the leg’s popliteal vein and massive bilateral pulmonary emboli (PEs) in the lungs. For the amount of clot I had I was lucky to be breathing still, let alone trying to swim, bike and run.

The doctors could only hypothesize how I got my clots. The long plane flight to Africa, my slow heart rate, altitude sickness caused by high elevation, severe dehydration from summit day and birth control pills created my perfect storm of destruction. Sometime after returning home, the clot in my thigh to groin broke off and went to my lungs. This is where I count my lucky stars (30% of people with untreated PEs die. I went over a month before going to the ER).

So I got nice and settled in the hospital while they monitored the PEs. I chose to go on the new blood thinning drug Xarelto over Coumadin. No more Lovenox shots in the tummy! While in the hospital, I spent my days googling the scary statistics of blood clots (which I’m sure some of lehman2you are doing right now). I feel so fortunate to have found Stop the Clot and the Clot Buster athletes. I went to them for inspiration during the following months of recovery – which were TOUGH. Small victories were climbing the stairs in the hospital, going for a walk, then finally jogging one whole mile. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel!

I wanted my light to be something huge. I wanted to go out there and celebrate life! I felt so fortunate that I wanted to do something monumental for those that have suffered from clots, those that have passed away, and those that will suffer in the future. I registered for Ironman Cozumel knowing that even if I couldn’t cross the finish line, showing up at the starting line was already an accomplishment.

I made it my personal mission to raise awareness and prevention of these nasty little blood clots by racing for the National Blood Clot Alliance. I raised $6000 along the way! Most importantly I wanted to set an example that having blood clots does not mean you cannot continue to do the things that most inspire and challenge you.

On December 1, only nine months after being diagnosed with DVT/PEs, I became an Ironman! I really took the whole experience in and enjoyed every second of it. I had a smile on my face for almost the entire race (ok last few miles were ugly)!

(check out my full race report here:

So even if you’re on bed rest right now in the hospital or still on blood thinners, keep your head up. Take it day by day. And always live life to the fullest. You’ll be back before you know it!



Author: L F

7 Responses to "Jessica Lehman’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Becky
    Becky Posted on October 31, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks for posting your story!! My husband is in this boat right now! Same kind of perfect storm situation….as he is NOT positive for any kind of cancer nor clotting disorder and it comes down to a low runners heart rate along with being dehydrated from distance running and getting on a plane. I know he can’t wait to get back to training!

  2. Emma
    Emma Posted on November 2, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your story. My name is Emma & i’m 36 I’ve just come out of hospital after being diagnosed with multiple pe’s after surgery. I won’t lie i’m absolutely freaking out at the moment & scared that i’m going to die & not see my 3&6 year old girls grow up. your story is very inspiring & i hope i can feel like that further down the track. xx

  3. Joann
    Joann Posted on November 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks so much for your story as a grandmother it gives me hope to see my grand-daughter grpw up. With faith in God, med”s and hope I will be able to take my grand-daughter to the park. I have been in treatment for five months, I feel great. Life continues your story makes me feel there is hope that I will live a full life.,

  4. Monique
    Monique Posted on November 15, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Hi Jessica, Becky and Emma I just read your story’s thank you so much for sharing them with us.
    If you go onto you will read my story in May this year. Sara opened this Blog and she has, and still is, my LIFESAVER. Also the MANY other DVT/PE Survivors who posted their stories

    Emma my dear girl, you WONT die! LISTEN to your body and if in doubt get to the closest ER and insist on a D-Dimer test – I hope you have a good doctor, if not, find another one.
    I don’t know where you are, but I am in Victoria AUSTRALIA and was in hospital 2 weeks and told by 3 Specialists that I could have died.
    I knew NOTHING about blood clots and spend HOURS surfing the net until I came across the one I mentioned up the top.
    Go into it, I find that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
    I wish you, Jessica and Becky the very best for now and the future

  5. Nicolas
    Nicolas Posted on December 7, 2014 at 7:16 pm



    You have inspired me to dream in a fast recovery and run a half marathon soon

  6. Jenna
    Jenna Posted on January 13, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    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 and would really appreciate it if you could check it out and share it with those you know!

    Please do not hesitate to comment/leave feedback
    Thank you so much!!!

  7. Dan
    Dan Posted on April 5, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    Great story, Jessica. I had a blood clot in my jugular vein (!!!) for no apparent reason. After all of the tests, they determined it was likely caused by my P90X3 routine doing the intensified pull-ups. That makes some sense, but I’ve been combing the web for additional factors that may have contributed (jugular vein clots are so rare that there is very limited literature on the subject – something my docs also struggled with!). I keep homing in on low pulse rates. I have a resting heart rate of 42-48 bpm, and I am almost certain that was a factor. Sucks that being in shape also can kill you! 🙂 At any rate, your posting was a good one (look for mine soon). I’ll probably reach out to you privately as I’m curious about how some of your recovery workouts felt. Great attitude and keep up the good work!