At 44 years old, I never knew the impact a blood clot could have on someone’s life, especially my own! Both physically and emotionally, 2019 has been a rough year for me. I was diagnosed with a chronic back issue in January 2019, and after many months of conservative treatments, I decided to schedule a back-fusion surgery on September 3, 2019. Everything was in order for the upcoming surgery, or so I thought.
Two weeks prior to my surgery, I started to experience sharp and agonizing pain in my chest that radiated down my left arm, behind my sternum, to my back, up my neck, down my collarbone, and under my left arm. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, it was easily a 10. Prior to this, my 10 on the pain scale was kidney stones. I thought it must be the stress of the upcoming surgery causing this pain. I had just recently undergone and passed an in-depth pre-operative exam that included a chest x-ray and an EKG, and was cleared by my doctor for surgery just days before the onset of pain.
The pain continued and it got harder to breathe. With the support and love of my boyfriend, we went to the ER. I had a chest x-ray and EKG, both of which came back normal, but my CT scan came back with a diagnosis of bilateral pulmonary embolisms. I had multiple blood clots in both of my lungs, and I was admitted to the hospital for the next nine days. I was in complete shock. Me? Blood clots?
My clots were unprovoked, meaning there were no known risk factors that contributed to them. Additional testing disclosed the reason for the clots. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune clotting disorder called antiphospholipid syndrome, or APS, which increases the risk of excess clot formation, organ failure, and pregnancy complications. I was told I would have this the rest of my life. I would be on warfarin therapy because it is the best choice for me having APS. My chronic back pain that I’ve suffered with for nine long months would continue with no surgery date in sight, for at least three months while my clots dissolve and it is safe to operate.
With the countless setbacks I’ve endured this year, I am humbled at getting another chance at life! Many families learn of blood clots only after the loss of their loved ones. There are no guarantees in life. Nothing is absolute. I hope my story provides others with hope. I may never know the reason why I recovered, but I hope that my experience can be the survival guide for others.
If you are overwhelmed with a loved one or yourself having a diagnosis of blood clots and/or a diagnosis of a clotting disorder, embrace your uniqueness by seeking the right treatment plan, asking questions, and reducing the risks. Tell others your story so we can spread awareness and embrace prevention. Let your light shine for others always and forever.