I Couldn’t Catch My Breath: Kim’s Story

I Couldn’t Catch My Breath: Kim’s Story

My name is Kim Gronholz.  I am a 38 year old married mother of 3, an exercise addict, a former high school English teacher, a school/church volunteer, a stay-at-home mom, and most pertinently, a DVT/PE survivor!

My husband and I had just returned home from a 5 day business/pleasure trip to Canada on a Sunday in March of 2009.  That Monday I headed to the gym to work off the vacation calories.  It was there that I noticed slight shortness of breath that I chalked up to tiredness from the long day of travel the previous day.  Tuesday morning came, and once again, I headed to the gym.  I had experienced some pain in my lower right leg the day before, but nothing that seemed very out of the ordinary (nothing extremely painful or constant, and no swelling).  I again noticed that I felt short of breath when I climbed the stairs to the workout studio.  Moreover, I was unable to keep up in class and I couldn’t catch my breath.  This was a first.

I went home and rested, feeling once again that I either was still tired from travelling, or coming down with something.  On Wednesday, I was awakened very early in the morning with a piercing pain in my lower right leg – it was then I knew something was up.  I made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon, and then hopped in the car to take my kids to school and run errands. While I was running my errands, I again experienced shortness of breath like I had never felt before.  I could not walk from the parking lot to the store without needing to stop.  After feeling as if I might pass out, I called my husband and we headed straight to the clinic!

Thankfully, the doctor that I saw that day was nothing short of miraculous!  I discussed my symptoms with him, and he asked me whether I was taking birth control pills.   I said that they were prescribed by my gynecologist approximately 6 months before for pre-menstrual symptoms rather than contraception.  He also asked whether I had been traveling recently.  Once again that was a yes!  We had a grueling 3 plus hour bus ride and a 4 hour plane ride home the prior Sunday.

He immediately ordered a CT scan and Doppler of my leg that confirmed that I indeed had 3 blood clots in my lower right leg, the largest of which was almost 3 inches long.  On top of that, the CT scan showed a massive bilateral PE in my lungs, so I was immediately admitted to the hospital.  My doctor had the foresight to draw blood for genetic testing.  I was on IV heparin for 3 days before being sent home on low weight molecular heparin injections and Warfarin.  The result of the genetic test showed that I have heterozygous Factor V Leiden.

I was referred to the Bleeding and Clotting Disorders Clinic at the University of Minnesota (U of M) where I found out about NBCA-MN, Factor V Leiden, and the meaning of a provoked clot. I was placed on Warfarin for 6 months, and I stopped taking the birth control pills.   Just this past September, I returned to the U of M for a repeat Doppler of my leg.  Fortunately, no residual damage was found, and it was determined that my DVT/PE was provoked by a combination of the birth control pills and the immobility related to travel longer than 4 hours.  Therefore, I was able to discontinue the Warfarin therapy.

This series of symptoms and events has truly been an education, and one I take seriously.  My sisters have all been tested for Factor V Leiden and I have spent the last several months informing family, friends and anyone who will listen about the risk and signs and symptoms of DVT/PE.

I am truly blessed to be alive today and thankful to NBCA for the information and their support. It’s because of the NBCA website, and more importantly, the personal stories that are posted there, that I was motivated to share my story with others.


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