Cassandra Bradshaw was at death’s door due to a large blood clot found in her inferior vena cava and an infection after delivery, but she refused to believe her prognosis and is now a hopeful survivor who wants to spread awareness.
I was 23 years old when I gave birth to a sweet baby boy on January 5, 2007 and began to hemorrhage seconds after his arrival. I later found out was due to a piece of placenta (afterbirth) left inside. Doctors and nurses filled the room to stop the bleeding. I had placenta previa during my pregnancy and delivered my baby vaginally, and I have since learned that a C-section is a safer choice for delivery when placenta previa is present.
My bleeding stopped after about an hour, and I was sent home 2 days later. I felt weaker and weaker as days went by, and I began to lose feeling in both of my legs and could not put weight on them to stand. I woke up to go to the bathroom and stumbled into the wall two weeks after giving birth, as if I was losing my balance.
My husband took me to the ER, where the doctor first thought I might have kidney stones since I was feeling sharp pain in my middle back. The doctor ordered a CT scan without contrast, but the technician accidentally used contrast. This turned out to be a lucky mistake, because the scan revealed a 6 inch blood clot in my IVC (inferior vena cava). I was med flighted right away from Texarkana, TX to Little Rock, AR.
I was admitted to the coronary care unit (CCU), where extensive testing was done, although I don’t recall what all those tests were. I was given blood thinners and antibiotics, because I also had an infection and a fever along with the clot. Specialists, including vascular surgeons, obstetricians, pulmonologists, hematologists, and an infectious disease expert assessed me. I was told there was nothing that they could do for me, and there was no doubt that I was going to die, because of the infection and the fact that my clot was in the vena cava.
I refused to believe this, even though I had 2 emergency surgeries during my two week admission. A filter was placed in my inferior vena cava to prevent clots from going to my lungs as a pulmonary embolism. Placenta was left in me, so I had a procedure to evacuate it. After two weeks in the hospital, I was told there was nothing else they could do and was discharged home to “wait and see.”
A vascular surgeon tested me for factor V Leiden in 2009, which was positive. The presence of a blood clotting disorder was not on anyone’s radar until that point. I had used the birth control patch in 2006 and 2007, and thus far, there is no history of blood clots in my birth family.
Fortunately, I am now a happy and healthy 27 year old, given what I have been through. I still live with the 6 inch blood clot in my inferior vena cava, so I will be on blood thinners for life. I self-inject with low molecular weight heparin daily. A venogram showed that my inferior vena cava is shriveled and blocked without blood flow. However, I have been told that there is enough collateral circulation of other veins to provide pathways for blood to flow. My clot has grown each year.
I hope to spread awareness to other women about risk for blood clots associated with blood clotting disorders, use of birth control, and pregnancy. I realize that not everyone can be tested for blood clotting disorders, but I want people to know their presence may add to risk of blood clots.