Grateful to Be Alive: Melanie Polk’s Blood Clot Story

Grateful to Be Alive: Melanie Polk’s Blood Clot Story

The personal story below is intended for informational purposes only. The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) holds the rights to all content that appears on its website. The use by another organization or online group of any content on NBCA’s website, including patient stories that appear here, does not imply that NBCA is connected to these other organizations or groups or condones or endorses their work. Please contact info@stoptheclot.org with questions about this matter.


I am 53 years old, a busy business owner, wife, and mother. Being diagnosed with PE has rocked my world.

I ran a marathon in May 2016. A month later, during my annual exam, my gynecologist suggested I take target=”_blank”birth control to “get through menopause without having to deal with the nuisances.” A voice inside me said “no” because I had not been on the pill for 15 years, but I agreed.

Several weeks later, I awoke with a painful Charlie horse behind my right knee. I was doing Pilates and thought I had pulled it. When it didn’t improve, I went to my orthopedist. He noticed it was swollen, but told me to enjoy the vacation we were taking and to see him when I returned if it wasn’t better. In the back of my mind, I thought it might be a blood clot, because my father had just been through his second bout with PEs, but I also thought I was being paranoid.

Eventually, the pain subsided, but several weeks later, I was presenting in front of a large group and started feeling breathless. It shocked me as I often speak in public. I tossed it off as anxiety. For the next month, I would often feel I could not catch a deep breath. I started meditating, but the breathlessness lingered. I went on a few runs but could not go a mile without stopping and was then fatigued for the rest of the day. I decided to see my doctor.

Our insurance had changed so she was a new doctor, and she saved my life. She took my symptoms seriously, ordering a blood panel of tests, including D-Dimer, saying she suspected a small blood clot. It was amazing because I had not mentioned my dad’s PEs, and I never thought I had anything similar, given how healthy I thought I was. They drew blood that day.

I flew to Houston the next morning. A voicemail from my doctor was waiting for me when I landed, telling me my blood work showed elevated D-Dimer. She told me to go to the ER right away for a CT scan. I was in a strange city, not my home!

I drove myself to an ER clinic. A lung x-ray was “unremarkable,” but my CT scan showed PEs in both lungs. My life changed in that moment. An ambulance took me to the hospital, where I stayed two nights. It was all surreal, with concerned texts and calls from my husband and family back home.

In the hospital, I was given anticoagulant injections every 12 hours. I had an echocardiogram that was normal. Ultrasounds on my legs showed no current DVTs. I was released with a prescription for a new oral anticoagulant. The hardest part has been the recovery. It’s been six weeks since diagnosis, and I feel like it’s three steps forward, three steps back. I am emotionally fragile. I am hypersensitive to any leg pain. When I fly, I am fidgeting. I worry that because I am still breathless sometimes, I am not improving.  I go weeks feeling almost normal, and then I am hit by fatigue and breathlessness.

I am not sure I will ever know how I got PEs. My best guess is a genetic predisposition (given my dad) and the birth control pills. My genetic blood tests came back normal, with a slightly low protein S level that will be re-checked.

Reading others’ stories is comforting as I wade through recovery. I am grateful to be alive.


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To learn more about the treatment of menopause symptoms and blood clot risks, please click here.
To learn more about birth control and blood clot risks, please click here.
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The personal story is intended for informational purposes only. The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) holds the rights to all content that appears on its website. The use by another organization or online group of any content on NBCA’s website, including patient stories that appear here, does not imply that NBCA is connected to these other organizations or groups or condones or endorses their work. Please contact info@stoptheclot.org with questions about this matter.
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