A year ago today, I had no idea the curve balls 2009 would throw at me, and I would have never guessed they would involve a life-changing experience involving my health. You see, I’m the “healthiest person” all of my family, friends and colleagues know. I’m studying for my Master’s in nutrition, eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, shun anything processed or laced with saturated fats, rarely order takeout and run miles and miles almost every day. I never thought I had to worry about conditions that affected those less vigilant about their health than I – I loved feeling in control of my health both in the present and future.
This all changed quite drastically in the fall. In late August I went on a long-anticipated vacation to London and Dublin with my twin sister and had the time of my life. I had no idea what was going on inside my body during and after that trip – the combination of long flights, dehydration and being on the birth control pill had caused dangerous blood clots to develop in my leg and lungs. I returned to my home in Manhattan and my right calf was sore – I thought I overdid it on my running while on vacation (I loved running in Hyde Park and along the River Liffey) or walked too much in the wrong shoes.
In true runner fashion, I pushed through my running and workouts and thought I was getting sick when I felt extremely short of breath after some easy running. My leg and breathing started feeling better after a few days and I assumed I was fine. However, shortly thereafter my leg was much worse. The pain was unbearable – my calf was red, hot, swollen and it hurt with every step I took. I still thought it was most likely a running injury – perhaps a muscle tear. Some nervous Googling made me wonder if I had a blood clot.
I was diagnosed with two DVTs behind my right knee on September 25 and immediately put on Lovenox shots and Coumadin. I was shocked – why had I gotten these clots? And why now? I was HEALTHY, for goodness sake. I knew what DVTs were, and I knew what a pulmonary embolism was, and most importantly, how serious they are. I was immediately scared for my life and although I had medication, felt very helpless.
My leg was feeling better by the following week, but I was still uneasy and anxious, and knew the strange feelings I had been having in my lungs weren’t normal. I felt at times like I needed to cough, or my chest was tight. I was scared to even mention it to my doctor because I knew what it could be, but one week after my DVT diagnosis my anxiety got the best of me and I went to the ER, where I was diagnosed with a large pulmonary embolism in my left lung and hospitalized for three days. The fact that I was so healthy and had such great lung capacity could have very well saved my life.
Throughout this ordeal, even though I’ve had my “why me?” moments, I have made it a priority to stay positive. I know experiences like these happen for a reason, and I have a new perspective on almost everything. I’m lucky to be recovering well from the incident – I’m back to my regular activities and taking Coumadin for at least six months. I’m so thankful for the people in my life that have helped me through this ordeal and for every day I have on this earth. I try not to let little things bother me so much and am very motivated and focused on my future.
I’m not the type of person to sit on the sidelines while other people go through experiences like mine, which could have been prevented or at least treated earlier. I am living proof that these serious clots can in fact happen to ANYONE, and can’t emphasize enough the importance for EVERYONE to know how to stop them from happening and to recognize symptoms and get immediate treatment if they do develop a DVT or PE. As we begin 2010, I’m setting my sights on raising funds for NBCA through various road races here in NYC (and gearing up to run the 2010 NYC Marathon in November), and hope to raise public awareness about these clots in any way that I can.