Back to School and Almost Back to Normal: Abbey’s Story

Back to School and Almost Back to Normal: Abbey’s Story

I am 19 years old right now, and in my second year of university. The school I attend is about 3.5 to 4 hours from home, so I live on my own with a few friends. In the beginning of November 2019, when I was still 18 years old, I started coughing a lot and having the sniffles. I then started feeling very short of breath. I couldn’t even walk from my apartment to my school without being in a complete sweat and wheezing, while trying to catch my breath. I didn’t think much of it, since I was dealing with what I thought was a cold, and I also thought maybe I hadn’t been active enough, so my heart was working too hard.

I went home for Christmas break, and on Christmas morning when I woke up, I noticed I had a sore rib on my right side. I brushed it off, thinking I had slept funny, and planned to make a chiropractor appointment after the holidays. That day, I went to a family breakfast, and also had dinner at my boyfriend’s house. Throughout the day, the pain got progressively worse, to the point where it was painful through my right rib, right arm, and the side of my back. I decided to go to bed early that night and try to sleep it off. It was around midnight, and I was having a really hard time sleeping. I was in so much pain and could hardly breathe. I tried to push myself to get up and go to the kitchen to grab pain medication, but when I tried to move, it was agonizing. I went to my mom’s bedroom to wake her up for help, and at that point I was in tears. It was the worst pain of my life. My mom decided to take me to the emergency room to get checked out.

Once at the hospital, they tested my blood and found I had extremely elevated D-dimer levels. I was taken by ambulance to the next hospital for a CT scan. At this point, my anxiety levels were super high.  Around 6:00 in the morning, I was diagnosed with multiple blood clots in both of my lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE), and the right side of my heart was struggling. My vitals were very unstable, and I was super upset about the diagnosis. I was told I would have to stay overnight at the hospital, so they could monitor my vitals. The doctors and nurses were all very supportive and kind to me, but all I wanted was to go home.

That night, my parents went home to get some rest, which I really wanted my mom to do because she had been up with me the whole time. I knew she was feeling anxious and stressed like me. That night, with them gone, I started feeling very stressed. I was terrified to go to sleep, because I was scared I would have a stroke and not wake up. Even though I knew I was in the hospital and safe, I couldn’t help but think the worst. By that time, I began taking a new oral anticoagulant, so I was on track to getting better, but I kept wondering how I missed something this big. The past two months I had been ignoring my health because of school, and now I was a glimpse away from death.

At this stage, I am still waiting to find out what caused the blood clots. I have been on birth control for the past five or so years due to needing an acne medication. My doctor said, since I had been on birth control for so long, it was unlikely they would have caused me to have a blood clot at this point in time. I have had blood sent to a hematologist to test for any genetic mutations, and I am waiting to hear back about that.

Since I am at high risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT or blood clot in the leg or arm) and PE now, I try my best to stay active and increase blood circulation. I also take my medication. Fortunately, I am back to school and my life is pretty much back to normal. My advice for anyone reading is that if you notice any symptoms of a blood clot, even if it seems small, tell your doctor. Don’t hesitate to get checked out, because it could save your life.

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