My name is Pat, and I am a professional fireman in Iowa. In January of 2008 – after fighting a house fire in subzero temperatures – I got off shift and later that day I was having trouble breathing. I checked my vitals and saw that my oxygen saturation was low, so I went to the ER. As I was being examined, the doctors came up with a diagnosis of reactive airway – which includes a group of conditions with reversible airway narrowing due to an external stimulation – because of my job and the temperatures that I work under.
After further testing – including a stress test, which I failed – they did an angiogram on my heart and found out I had pressure in my pulmonary artery. All my other testing, like x-rays and CT scans, were negative. So, after the angiogram, I was taken to get a VQ scan, which in return found out that my lungs were full of blood clots. I was admitted to the hospital for a week, and I was put on blood thinners for seven months, during which time I was off work. The city doctor would not let me return to work on blood thinners, so I had a vena cava filter put in and was taken off blood thinners.
I thought everything would be fine, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Six years later, I got a clot from the filter, which extended down both legs, after fighting a huge fire. I had to have emergency surgery to take the clot out. I am a person that can take a lot of pain, but my family and coworkers never knew I could scream that loud from the pain when they tried to stand me up. Now, I have one swollen leg, and not all the valves work in my veins. I must wear compression socks, and the discoloration of my skin on my legs is because of the poor circulation.
My doctors and I did some family research and found out I have a rare blood mutation, and a DVT with the largest baker’s cyst in my left leg. This experience has change my lifestyle a lot. I made my son get checked too, and now we watch for the warning signs so we can act on them, if need be. It’s not fun planning your funeral in a hospital bed in front of family, so watch for cramps, shortness of breath, and chest pain, which I did not experience the first time. I am very active and that’s why the doctors did not think I had a blood clot at first. I didn’t have any symptoms until it was almost too late. I went through this twice, and I hope to never go through it again.