My name is Jessica Nichols and I am a 28-year-old female living in Cheshire, England. In December 2015, I had the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with a Pulmonary Embolism or blood clot in my lung.
I woke up one Saturday with a very sore knee. However, I didn’t think much of it at the time and put it down to a gym injury. Thinking back, it was completely out of the ordinary, because I hadn’t done anything too strenuous at the gym and also because it was very swollen and painful to the point that it was really bothering me. I typically didn’t let things like my health get in the way of life. Silly me.
The following Tuesday, I woke in the middle of the night with a pain in my chest and back that just wouldn’t go away – and despite it being pretty excruciating – I again put it down to an injury or perhaps a trapped nerve or pulled muscle even though I hadn’t done anything strenuous. Looking back, I should have realized there and then that something was seriously wrong. I went to sleep in the spare bedroom and the next day, again not wanting my health to get in the way of life, I made a silly decision to travel the length of the country for a business meeting, despite feeling like I was being stabbed in the chest with every breath I took.
Not wanting to make a fuss, I carried on as best I could. However, during the train home, the pain worsened and I began to feel seriously unwell. You are never more aware of how many breaths you take in a day until every breath is impossible to take.
I went straight to the hospital, where they wired me up to a heart monitor, X-rayed my chest and did blood tests. All tests were inconclusive and the doctor eventually settled on a diagnosis of pleurisy. I trusted the doctor’s judgment and went home. Over the next two days, my condition stayed the same and I spent the majority of time at home, laying on my left hand side, taking very shallow breaths to try and avoid the excruciating pain.
On Saturday, I decided it was time to try and get out of the house to do some Christmas shopping. This was to trigger the chain of events that led to my diagnosis, and I will therefore be forever thankful that I made the decision to get up and go out. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn’t. It scares me to think that I had a potential invisible killer in my body and came so close to possibly losing my life.
Whilst in the car, I was overcome with the most horrendous pain I have ever felt in my life. Every breath was excruciating, and I was in absolute agony. My fiancé drove me straight to the hospital where, despite me being in unbearable agony, I was seated in a waiting room for what felt like hours. They didn’t seem too concerned!
I genuinely believed I had a bad form of pleurisy, but my Mum turned up and was adamant I had a blood clot of some sort. How she knew I will never know…call it a mother’s intuition. The doctors were again ready to send me home with a diagnosis of pleurisy, but upon her insistence they finally tested me for a clot. The test came back positive. I was admitted to a ward and the following day had a scan which confirmed the pulmonary embolism.
The doctors were openly shocked and confused that a 28-year-old woman had a pulmonary embolism. They believe I had a DVT, which broke off and traveled to my lung, as a result of the oral birth control pill.
Looking back and knowing what I know now about the number of young women who have suffered PEs, it angers me that doctors just aren’t taking this life-threatening illness in young women more seriously. It also angers me that when I was put on this contraceptive pill, I wasn’t informed of the serious, real risks of the medication. You may think, “Well, it won’t happen to me,” but at least if you know the risks – and the signs to look out for – you have a chance to prevent serious illness, and maybe even save your life.
Even worse, in June 2015, I visited my doctor to complain of migraines. They should have investigated the link between my birth control and the migraines, and they should have immediately taken me off of it. Unfortunately, they didn’t.
So ladies, please heed my advice. If you are taking an oral contraceptive, discuss the risks with your doctor. If you have any symptoms which are out of the ordinary, speak to someone as soon as possible because it really could save your life!