Lisa was an active 27 year old woman when her life was interrupted by blood clots in both her left leg and her lungs that she found out were related to May Thurner’s Syndrome. My name is Lisa Jensen and I am a fortunate survivor of both a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).
I was busy starting a new school year as a high school English teacher and a graduate student at Western Michigan University in September 2011. I noticed that I felt out of shape, which irritated me, because I live a pretty active life. I run on a regular basis, and even once completed a marathon. I also participate in a co-ed soccer league, and walk my dogs routinely. However, these activities kept getting harder to do, and I felt out of breath even when I walked my dogs.
One night, while I was getting ready for bed, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my upper left thigh. Given that I was a healthy 27 year old, I figured I pulled a muscle. I went to bed, but the pain kept worsening. The next morning, I made an appointment to see my doctor.
At that point, I could no longer walk normally. It felt as if I pulled every muscle in my upper left leg. My doctor said not to worry, that it probably was just a pulled muscle, but that she wanted to do a blood test (D-dimer) to check for the possibility of a blood clot.
My doctor called me the next morning to say that my blood work was abnormal, and ordered an ultrasound on my leg. I set up an appointment for the next day, but the pain became so excruciating that I could not sleep that night nor could I put any weight on my leg. I considered going to the Emergency Room (ER), but put it off, since I had a doctor’s appointment the following afternoon.
I had my husband (then fiancé) take me to the appointment, because the pain made it impossible for me to drive. While they were doing the ultrasound, the nurse discovered that I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that stretched from my groin to my knee and was completely blocking blood flow in my left leg. The nurse stated that I had to be admitted to the hospital immediately, because the clot could break off and travel to my lungs as a pulmonary embolism (PE) and possibly cause sudden death. I was in utter shock, since I didn’t know anybody in my family with a history of blood clots, and I certainly didn’t know how serious blood clots were until I had one.
Two pulmonary emboli (PE) were discovered while I was in the hospital; one in each of my lungs. I realized they were the cause of my recent shortness of breath and lack of energy, as well as my sense that I was out of shape. The doctors said that the cause of my DVT was May Thurner’s Syndrome, a syndrome in which my artery was compressing my vein, which caused the clot, because blood could not flow freely. I was also taking hormonal birth control pills, which added to my risk for blood clots, so I stopped them right after I was diagnosed.
My left leg became twice the size of my right leg and I was on a heparin drip and warfarin to treat the blood clots, and pain medication to relieve the pain. A filter was placed in my inferior vena cava to prevent any more clots from entering my lungs. A stent was placed in my vein to open it up and stop it from being compressed, and the clot was removed from my leg. This surgery has allowed me to live a normal life and prevented me from dealing with lifelong severe leg swelling and pain.
After five days in the hospital, I was sent home to heal. I was put on injectable low molecular weight heparin, and took warfarin for six months. After three months I was able to have the filter removed. I still experience swelling in my left leg during heavy exercise, but the fact that I can exercise is a gift. I recently passed the one year anniversary of my ordeal, and am now training for a half marathon. I can now run seven miles. I took my ability to run for granted before my clots, and I am no longer on warfarin or low molecular weight heparin!
It is crucial that people become informed on the seriousness of blood clots, DVTs, and PEs. Such knowledge can save lives! Symptoms can be severely underestimated, and I am lucky to be alive today as a DVT and PE survivor, because I checked out what I thought was a muscle pull right away, and my doctor responded appropriately
Take Home Messages
- Three months is usually the best time to remove filters that are placed to prevent blood clots from entering the lungs.
- Lisa’s doctor recognized the symptoms of a possible blood clot (pain, swelling, sense of a muscle pull) and ordered the appropriate tests
- Exercise is a healthy choice before and after a blood clot
- Hormonal birth control pills add to risk for blood clots
The National Blood Clot Alliance’s mission is to advance prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of blood clots, clotting disorders and clot-provoked strokes through public awareness, advocacy and patient and professional education.
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