In the summer of 2022, I started having shortness of breath but thought nothing of it. I had just run an 18-mile trail race the Saturday before, and it can take a few days for your body to feel normal again. A little coughing and sore throat from running in the dirt for four hours isn’t new to me, so I figured I’d just rest for the week.
Cut to a few days later. I ran for the first time since the race, and after 60 seconds, I had to stop because I could not breathe. My heart rate was at 110 but felt like 160. So, I made an appointment for a Wednesday with my doctor to get checked out.
I went to work that Tuesday morning and felt normal for the first couple of hours, but I began to feel short of breath again and started pouring sweat. I sat in my boss’s office in the air conditioning for a bit to cool down and decided it was best for me to get checked out ASAP.
I was shocked. I had no idea that as an endurance athlete I was at increased risk for blood clots due a variety of factors, such as dehydration, injury and inflammation.
I went into surgery that same afternoon. Doctors went into my body through the femoral artery in my groin with a little device and snaked it all the way up through my heart and into my lungs, where they removed most of the clots. The best part? I was awake for the whole thing. They numbed my groin where they did the incision, but other than that, I was wide awake on the operating table for 90 minutes.
The theory is I had developed clots in both legs throughout my training, and my 18-mile run may have jarred them loose. Then they moved up into my lungs, which could have easily killed me. If I had $1 for everyone who told me I should have died, I would probably have $15-$20.
In terms of genetic factors, my brother has factor v Leiden, but I don’t, and neither does anyone else in our family. My advice to others going through this is to remember that no matter how hard life is right now, it will always get better.