On Thursday, December 20, 2018, I was 19 years old, and one day away from finishing my first semester of college. As I opened my eyes that day, I was having excruciating pain on the left side of my lower back. I had been dealing with lower back and hip pain since July 2018, and I thought it was from working out and playing basketball. As I got out of my bed, I felt very lightheaded, and I noticed that my left leg and foot were swollen and a dark shade of purple. I picked up my phone ans FaceTimed my Mom, who was 90 miles away from me. It was very apparent to her that my left leg was purple and swollen and my circulation was affected. I tried to pinch my thigh but was not able to feel a thing. At that point, my Mom and I knew I needed medical care.
I was rushed to the nearby hospital by the Resident Assistant of my dorm. An ultrasound on my left leg was done and I had numerous blood clots in my leg. The doctors did not immediately know why I ended up with these blood clots, and they decided that I must be rushed in an ambulance to my hometown hospital 90 miles away. There, I was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome, and sent into surgery to have a stent placed in my iliac vein. I was in the hospital for two days and given heparin, before switching to a direct oral anticoagulant. Then, I was sent home and was told that in a few days I would be active like I was before.
That was not the case. In the days leading up to Christmas, I was unable to walk, and my left leg was hard as a rock and painful. I knew in my gut something wasn’t right. On Christmas Day, my parents made the decision to take me back to the hospital. The doctors discovered that I was still clotting and had a new DVT (deep vein thrombosis or blood clot in the leg). I had thrombolysis and a catheter placed in the back of my left knee to help break up the dangerous clots. I was in the ICU for two days to be monitored. After I was released for a second time, I was switched to the anticoagulant warfarin and low molecular weight heparin blood thinning injections.
Several days passed and my leg started to feel better, but I still felt something was wrong. I had constant chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat and I even fainted. I had a CT scan and doctors found pulmonary embolisms (PE), or blood clots in my lungs. I met with my hematologist to try to find more answers to why I was continuing to clot. After having blood drawn for thrombophilia and genetic testing, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disorder called PAI-1. Once again, I was switched to a direct oral anticoagulant, and it took four months from my initial diagnosis before I started to feel better physically.
After I made it thought this health scare, I continued to ask the question to God, “Why me?” The answer in my heart was: I am here for a purpose. God is not done with me or my story yet. He has a plan for my life. I am blessed this experience had brought me closer to the Lord, and has made me more resilient.
I didn’t know how dangerous blood clots were. I didn’t know the signs and symptoms, and I didn’t know what DVTs and PEs were. I didn’t know how many people die from blood clots, and I never thought something like this could happen to me because I was young and active. Through my experience, I have a chance to share my story and raise awareness and, every day since December 20, 2018, I have lived my life with new meaning. I am so grateful for my hematologist who cared deeply about me and my health. Most importantly, I am thankful for my family, friends, and others who have prayed and supported me throughout my journey. For all that are survivors of blood clots: We are brave, and we are strong.