I am a trail runner, CrossFitter, MMA/jiu jitsu player, and mountaineer. I trained hard, ate clean, and slept enough so that I could maximize both my performance and longevity. I was a hybrid athlete balancing strength and endurance.
Then I twisted my knee at jiu jitsu camp. I needed a meniscus repair, which caused massive fully occluding blood clots the length of my leg (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). It swelled to twice its normal size and turned purple. The clots caused three pulmonary emboli that damaged my lungs, but the full extent isn’t yet clear.
I am normally comfortable with pain. I can run for miles in the Alps and take a punch in Muay Thai. But this pain was beyond what I knew existed. Standing up made me feel like I would throw up or pass out from the agony. I would have happily amputated the leg were that the only solution.
In terms of risk factors, I am factor V Leiden homozygous. I have not yet been able to return to any of the activities that make life worth living. All of my friends are off running/lifting/rolling/climbing while I’m stuck immobile at home, so it has had a big impact on all aspects of my life. Every day since the clots has been harder than any day before them.
My heart kept beating, but barely. I’m not out of the woods as recurrence is common. I’m thankful to have a family and resources to get me through this. I have survived so far despite long odds due to my family and friends and big medical team. I have no idea how anyone could get through this alone.
So what can I do about it now? I have been writing about my experience and raising money for the National Blood Clot Alliance. I have not cancelled planned mountain expeditions starting next June, so I have something to live for. Now I put one foot in front of the other as I rebuild my health and my life.
My advice to others is to reach out to other survivors. It can feel isolating, but many others have gone through this.