At 23 years old, I never thought I would be lying in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors who were baffled by one of the youngest cases of blood clots in the lung that they had ever seen.
It was the summer of 2014, and my husband and I had just bought our first home and we were trying to figure out the whole “new homeowner thing.” I was young and felt healthier than I ever had before. Aside from all the house work, I was exercising at the gym and going for morning runs with my dog. I started having pains in both of my legs and calves. I assumed I gave myself shin splints because that seemed normal with all the exercise and activity I was doing. I complained for days, but didn’t think much of it, and assumed I was just out of shape.
One weekend, I decided to get a quick workout in before working on the house again, but little did I know what was happening to my body, or the warning signs it was trying to give me. In the midst of my run, I started to feel a sharp pain in my left rib cage. Thinking I was maybe still “out of shape,” I shrugged it off and continued my run. Shortly after, I noticed each breath I took became more strenuous than the last, and the pain seemed to be getting worse. I stopped for a minute to try and catch my breath, hoping to ease the pain, but nothing seemed to help.
When I got home, I tried my best to hide the great discomfort I was feeling from my husband and spent three days in excruciating pain. I was up in the middle of the night crying in the living room in silence so my husband wouldn’t hear me. I was afraid to see a doctor about it, which seems so silly to me now. With being new homeowners, I knew I couldn’t afford to skip work, let alone be stuck in a hospital bed, but the pain was too much for my body to handle. I couldn’t sit or lay down without being in pain. My chest felt tight, and I felt like I was being suffocated while having to slowly gasp for air. After the pain became too much for my body to handle, my husband had enough and drove me to the emergency room. I was rushed back for a CT scan where they found I had a bi-lateral pulmonary embolism, or blood clots in both of my lungs, which would leave me in the hospital for a week, and in recovery for over a year after being discharged.
I was diagnosed with heterozygous prothrombin G20210A mutation, also called factor II, which means people like me produce more prothrombin protein than needed, which can increase a person’s risk for blood clots. I inherited two of these mutated genes – one from each parent – which leaves me at a greater risk for recurrent clots, even being on an anticoagulant or blood thinner, which I will take for the rest of my life.
I was told that if I had waited another day, I would have died. While I feel so lucky to be alive, I have struggled with severe depression along the way. Something changes when you go through something like this that I can’t explain, and no one who hasn’t been through it understands. I had thoughts of how I wasn’t ready to “leave” yet, fear of falling asleep and never waking up again, and regret for not showing or telling my husband or my family and friends that I loved them more often then I already did.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond blessed and thank God every day for giving me a second chance at life, but this journey hasn’t been easy. It doesn’t just happen and then go away. There are countless appointments, endless bills, numerous scans, and doctors to see. At times, it is so overwhelming, but I know I have a huge support system behind me made up of people who encourage me and push me to be strong still to this day.
I’m so grateful to be able to share my story with the hope that I can help others know the signs before it’s too late. I hope reading my story encourages other people to write their own story too. It took me years after finding the National Blood Clot Alliance to get the courage to write my story, but I believe this was my final step in my journey of healing.