My name is Andy Morris, age 26.
I have always been aware of the threat of blood clots, because my dad has had to take a “blood thinner” daily due to a protein deficiency. He has a history of blood clots in his legs, and in one instance in particular he developed not just one, but hundreds of blood clots in his lungs, yet somehow survived. Due to my father’s history of blood clots in his legs, I was always on the lookout for any strange pains occurring in mine. Little did I know that wouldn’t be my problem.
Out of nowhere, in February 2006, not quite a year and a half after I got married, I had back pain. I had hurt my back while on my high school wrestling team, so I did not think much of it initially. Unfortunately, the pain persisted and worsened with each passing day. Nothing relieved it, not medicine, or change of position, or lying down. No matter what, my pain stayed at a very high level. At one point, my wife and I went to Wal-Mart to buy a heating pad. I had to slump to walk and realized that I was not even sure whether I would be able to make it back to the car. I can be stubborn, and do not like hospitals, so I ignored my wife’s wise advice to see a doctor, at least until I had no choice.
I got sick to my stomach, and dried blood was part of what came up. My wife drove me to the emergency room. The doctors first assumed I had appendicitis and told me I would have surgery that night, which I did not object to, given the pain I was in. When I woke up, I was informed that my appendix turned out to be fine, although they removed it as a precautionary measure anyway. However, when the surgeon performed exploratory surgery, he said that my small intestines were like rubber and he wasn’t even sure what he was feeling. The surgeons removed between 2 and 3 feet of small intestines that night. I wasn’t put on any sort of “blood thinner,” despite the fact that my dad suggested that it may have something to do with his clotting history.
The doctors were convinced it was Crohn’s Disease, which is a bowel disease. Eventually I was moved to ICU, because my condition did not improve, and at this point I became completely unaware of what was going on. The doctors told my wife they were going to do a routine CAT scan. Later that same night, she received a call that immediate surgery was necessary to save my life, because more of my small intestines had died, due to blood clots. They removed between 1 and 2 feet more feet of dead small intestines during this surgery. The surgeons did not fully close the abdominal wound after the second surgery. They were concerned that I would not be able to withstand a third incision if another surgery was necessary. This has made for what I like to call my “trophy scar,” which is about six inches in length on my lower abdomen and close to an inch in width, a daily reminder of what I went through.
Once I was finally put on “blood thinner,” I was out of the hospital in around a week, and back home to begin the long recovery. It took from February through early May for my surgical wound to completely heal. My hospitalization was approximately three weeks long. We later found out my grandfather had died from blood clots in his small intestines back in 1989.
I now take 5 mg of a “blood thinner” every night, as well as folic acid. I will be on a “blood thinner” from now on. Between this, my scar, and how close I was to death, I certainly have to say my life has changed. This experience makes me extremely determined to share my story and family history, because it is a dramatic demonstration of how life-threatening an unrecognized blood clot can be, and how important it is to know and emphasize family history with the healthcare team.