One of NBCA’s MVVs (Most Valuable Volunteers), Paul Zaruba, is responsible for creating a successful Walk to Stop the Clot® in Sykesville, Maryland in 2013, and is now hard at work on this year’s Walk event, to be held in Columbia, Maryland on May 17, 2014.
Paul participated as a patient panelist in the 6th Annual Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) Symposium on March 7, 2014. We are grateful to Paul for his hard work on behalf of NBCA, and for sharing his story with us.
“I mistakenly thought only unhealthy people got things like blood clots.”
I have always been very healthy. I grew up playing sports and carried that healthy lifestyle into adulthood through consistent weight training and aerobic exercise. I have never smoked, and I am very conscientious about my diet. But blood clots don’t care if you are a couch potato or a marathon runner.
My symptoms were not very obvious, in fact, I would call them subtle. I had mild shortness of breath, but nothing truly alarming. Then, it got worse. I recall doing some light yard work, and something as simple as starting the pressure washer suddenly made me feel as though I had just run a sprint. At this point my wife was becoming very concerned, and I agreed to make a doctor’s appointment.
I was diagnosed with bilateral PE. I had one large clot in my left lung, and two clots in my right lung, as well as numerous small clots. Hearing the doctor say that I was very lucky to have caught it in time only added to my reaction of total disbelief that this could happen to me. After my recovery, those feelings gave way to the feeling that I had been given a second chance for a reason.
I began an Internet search that led me to the NBCA website. I reached out and inquired about volunteer opportunities. With their help, I was soon organizing my first Walk to Stop the Clot® event in 2013. Plans are currently under way for the 2014 Walk. I am determined to spread the word about this silent killer – if more people know what to look for, more lives can be saved.
I learned about the VTE Symposium through the Anticoagulation Management Service at Johns Hopkins Hospital. My hematologist, Dr. Michael Streiff, is the Medical Director of the department, and also a member of NBCA’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. I was honored to be invited to participate on the patient panel at the symposium and share my story with other patients and medical professionals. I was also excited to learn more about blood clots. My participation in this program has led to more opportunities to add to my knowledge of blood clots and offer feedback from a patient’s perspective. Knowledge is so important. You can never learn enough.
I have enjoyed being involved with NBCA. It’s refreshing to know there is a reputable nonprofit organization where patients, like myself, can go to get information and become involved. Unquestionably, our society still has a lack of awareness about VTE. We need to continue to help others understand and spread the word about this condition that claims so many lives each year. Quite often, blood clots are preventable. With awareness, we can lower the mortality rate. NBCA has certainly been instrumental in raising awareness through their website, educational opportunities, and volunteer events. My wish is that more patients will get involved in their communities to make a difference. It’s not only fun and challenging, but also very rewarding.