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Three years ago, I was starting a new school year with dozens of other school teachers in my district. About a week after going back to work, I noticed some changes in my health. I seemed more fatigued than usual, and I noticed my ankles were swollen. While walking my son around his new school to get him acquainted with his six classroom locations, I realized that climbing a flight of stairs literally winded me. I had to spend several minutes recuperating. That wasn’t like me.
I became concerned and thinking I might be pregnant, so I took a home pregnancy test, which was negative. A few days later, I had a very scary period with a lot of heavy bleeding and clotting. I immediately scheduled an appointment with my OB/GYN.
At that appointment, I took another pregnancy test, which came back positive. It was a surprise to my husband and me, because I was faithfully taking birth control. Due to the heavy bleeding, the doctor suspected I was losing the baby. He was right, I was miscarrying.
I spoke to him about feeling winded when walking short distances, or up the stairs. He felt it was anxiety and prescribed me some medication. Three days later, I was still experiencing swollen ankles, feeling winded, and now, a troubling tightness and pain in my chest. After laying down in bed on the evening of the third day, still with no relief, I decided to visit the ER. My husband drove me there, and I remember how every small bump in the road hurt my chest and back.
After arriving, the ER staff ran some tests. At that point, every movement was very painful. I could no longer lie back in the bed. For some reason, I told the ER doctor that I thought I might have blood clots in my lungs. Luckily for me, he agreed to have it checked, so I had a CAT scan. Sure enough, I had several very large clots on both sides of my lungs.
I spent a night in the ICU, and a little over a week in the hospital. I spent a few months on therapeutic levels of blood thinners, and then I had genetic testing done. I am anti-thrombin three deficient, which means I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life, and I am okay with that.
I am not sure if it was the birth control and pregnancy combination that triggered my blood clots, or what exactly happened, but I’m grateful to be alive and that I listened to my body before it was too late. I also recommended my immediate family be tested for clotting conditions, as will my son when he’s older. Be the advocate of your health and body. Talk about what hurts, what you suspect, and anything else you need to speak about with your health practitioners. You just might save your own life.