You Are Never Too Healthy: Jen’s Story


You Are Never Too Healthy: Jen’s Story

On a Sunday evening in February, I got into bed and noticed I had a headache on the right side of my head. I felt pressure in my ear and thought I might have an ear infection. I couldn’t sleep much, but I got up on Monday and went into university assuming it would settle. I realized I could barely focus on a spreadsheet and that the pain was getting worse. I called my general practitioner (GP) and got an appointment for the next day. Looking back now, I had been getting headaches for a few weeks prior, but I just put them down to the stress of being a PhD student.

The GP gave me the all-clear for an ear infection, but luckily she didn’t stop there, because she was uncomfortable with the pain I was experiencing. I explained that I never suffer from migraines and I hadn’t been able to sleep for the past two nights. She decided to send me to the A&E (hospital emergency room). Of course, I spent hours feeling embarrassed that I was sitting in A&E for a headache until a consultant sent me for a CT scan. The CT scan confirmed that I had a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis – a blood clot in a vein in my head. At that moment I panicked. I had a second scan with dye and was sent home with subcutaneous injections of blood thinners. It was put down to the hormone contraceptive pill that I had been taking for 8 years.

Looking back, I wish I had taken it more seriously. The day after I was in A&E, I went back into work and even continued to go on runs and work out. I realize now that I was terrified of missing any time on my PhD, but also embarrassingly scared to take a break from exercise in case I became unfit and gained weight. This is likely due to the fact that my research is in sports and exercise science.

Six weeks later my headaches had eased, but I was experiencing breathlessness, chest pain, and heart palpitations, suspected to be due to a blood clot in my lung or pulmonary embolism (due to the impact of COVID-19 at the time, I was not sent for a scan). After that, I finally took some time off from exercise and made a conscious effort to put my health first. I ended up being on the injections for three-and-a-half months – a lot longer than I had hoped – but I am now on tablets and will likely be on these for the rest of my life.

For me, I was almost embarrassed that I had a blood clot at the age of 23. I was supposed to be so fit and healthy. I kept telling everyone I was fine, and it was nothing serious, but I spent most days on the internet worrying about how close I came to having a bleed in my brain. I find it hard even now to tell the important people around me that I still get headaches and feel tired. It is hard for some people to understand that there are days I feel good and days I feel rubbish – but I am getting there!


MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES:
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.