On the way to my 37th birthday celebration, I suffered a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in my lung, but I chose to ignore the symptoms. As a dancer, marathoner, mountain biker, and hiker, it did not even cross my mind that something serious was happening to my body, so I ignored every symptom I had over the next few days. My symptoms started a week before my birthday, after a mountain biking trip. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed my calf hurt. It felt like one calf was bruised, but I blamed the calf pain on barre classes and the biking trip.
After that week, my calf felt better, and I was back to my usual activities, although I did feel exhausted. The day of my birthday, I received a new bike, and I went on an easy ride. It was a few hours later on the way to my birthday dinner when I began to feel tightness in my chest. It felt like it was difficult to catch my breath. Over the next few days, I experienced what I thought was back pain, and I blamed it on my new bike set-up. The pain radiated through my shoulder and upper part of my back and chest. It felt like a sharp stitch whenever I moved or took a breath. Sleeping was impossible and had to be done sitting up because laying down flat was not an option.
I finally went to the doctor to ask for muscle relaxers so I could go backpacking in the Tetons. The doctor immediately recognized the seriousness of my pain and scheduled me to go for a CT scan of my chest. I made the poor choice of leaving my doctor’s office and cancelling the CT scan, because I thought I was too healthy, and she was being too cautious as a newer, younger doctor.
Thankfully, my doctor likely saved my life because she also did immediate blood work to check my clotting levels. She called me back that evening to tell me to go straight to the emergency room. Through a CT scan, the doctors did then find a large blood clot in my right lung and immediately began blood thinners.
While this entire experience was scary, and limited my adventurous activities during the time I was on blood thinners, I am extremely grateful for this doctor, because I wasn’t listening to my body. We are not certain about what caused my blood clots, but I immediately stopped taking the low-dose estrogen birth control I had been on for years. Whenever I travel by car or plane, I always make sure to stretch my legs.
Upon recently discovering I was pregnant, my doctor put me back on blood thinner injections stating I was at increased risk for another blood clot. This time I listened to her! Through this humbling medical experience, I learned the importance of trusting doctors and listening to your own body, because a blood clot can happen to anyone.
MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES:
- Join our online peer support community to connect with other people who have experienced a blood clot.
- To learn more about birth control and blood clots, visit here. To learn more about pregnancy and blood clots, visit here and here.
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