December 19, 2019, will always be a day I remember. Three weeks prior to that day, I noticed calf pain in my left leg that would come and go. I chalked it up to a running injury. I was in the best shape of my life running 20 miles a week and attending fitness classes regularly. I was a healthy eater, non-smoker, always naturally thin, and a 44-year-old busy mother of three boys. I almost died that day.
That morning, I was up early to go to the gym at 5:00 a.m. I was awakened earlier in the night by my calf pain hurting more than usual and the pain had moved behind my leg. I noticed, as I was bustling around the house to gather running shoes and keys, I was out of breath. Suddenly I felt like I was going to pass out, but then I felt my heart racing and I broke out in a sweat. It felt like a panic attack, although I wasn’t sure why because I didn’t have a reason for a panic attack.
I laid down on the couch, hoping the feeling would go away. The morning routine of our household hustled around me— my teenage boys off to their early start of school and my husband off to work. I was later found collapsed on the floor by my hero, our sweet 8-year-old boy. He ran for help at our neighbors, who called 9-1-1.
My small calf pain turned out to be an undiagnosed and large DVT that broke away in the middle of the night and had traveled to my lungs. I was also diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary embolisms in all five chambers of my lungs, along with heart strain on the right side of my heart.
I spent six days in the hospital, and have been on blood thinners for the past year. I am lucky to be alive, and I credit my youngest son for saving my life. My long-term use of birth control pills and May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS) were the main causes of my DVT along with long car rides, long meetings (too much sitting), and dehydration. All of these factors cascaded into a medical emergency.
My message is to listen to your body—even if you are in the prime shape of your life. You can have a life-threatening illness or event. Don’t ignore the signs. One year later, I am so thankful I was in great physical shape to survive the ordeal I went through. My family has taken wonderful care of me this past year. It took months of rest to be back to running and working out. I am nervous anytime I have rib or calf pain, and I live with worry and anxiety that it could happen again.