My Saving Grace: De’Shawn Spears’ Blood Clot Story

Categories: Patient Stories

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 with questions about this matter.

deshawn spearsAs I look back on my blood clot experience, my symptoms started in mid-July, when I had a sharp pain in my right calf. I recall asking my aunt, a former nurse, “How do you know when you have a blood clot?” I dismissed the pain I was experiencing as due to a recent increase in physical exercise. In late July, I began to notice that I was having shortness of breath walking from my car to my office and while exercising. For two weeks, I often joked with my co-workers that I was really out of shape and thought I was developing adult asthma.

On August 6, 2013, I felt a sharp pain in my chest and immediately contacted my doctor, as I thought I was having a heart attack. I was seen in my doctor’s office,  where I underwent a chest X-ray, EKG, and a series of blood tests. The chest X-ray and EKG came back normal. My doctor ordered a stress test and sent me home. I was contacted two hours later and instructed to go to the ER to have a CT-scan, because my blood tests showed that I might have had a possible blood clot. I was not alarmed and drove myself to the ER for the procedure. The CT-scan confirmed that I had bilateral pulmonary emboli (multiple blood clots in both lungs) and I was admitted to the hospital, where I stayed for one week. I had no pain or discomfort, other than the morning’s incident, and I was able to control my breathing by taking deep breaths and not over exerting myself. It was difficult for me to comprehend that I was being admitted to the hospital and placed on total bed rest. It was not until 2 am the next morning, when I finally got into my hospital room, that I realized the seriousness of my condition. The nurses would not let me walk even a mere five steps and informed me that “you are in ICU, being monitored at the nurse’s station as well as the main hospital downtown.”  I got it then!

I was started on intravenous heparin and warfarin. During my week in the hospital, I was seen by ER physicians, general medical doctors, an obstetrician, pulmonologist, hematologist, and a host of nurses. I had an echocardiogram, ultrasound of my legs and pelvis, EKG, chest X-ray, and blood work three to four times per day. There was never a consistent explanation of why I developed the blood clots, as the ultrasounds showed no clots in my legs or pelvis. One doctor’s theory was my recent travel to Ohio in June and Washington, DC in July. Another doctor thought that fibroids might have been causing a possible blockage of the vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart. On the day of my discharge, I learned that I have a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden, which I had never heard of. It’s a gene mutation you inherit from one or both of your parents.

Needless to say, I was very overwhelmed and confused. I was absolutely clueless about my newly diagnosed disorder and taking new medication with intimidating possible risks, like increased bleeding. The confusion continued as the precise cause of my blood clots remained in question. My conclusion is that my PE was a combination of multiple factors, and I am fortunate to be able to share my story, as I now know that my outcome could have been very different.

Before, I was totally unaware of the symptoms of blood clots in the legs or lungs and simply thought they were due to being out of shape, developing adult asthma, over exerting myself, and possible heart attack. My saving grace involved four crucial factors:  Awareness of my body, my ignorance because I was too clueless to freak out, my faith because I asked God for peace and comfort during a time of uncertainty, and the support of family and friends.

Lastly, it was thought that I would be on blood thinners for life, however I am happy to report that I have been off the medication for over a year.  I am monitored by my hematologist and pulmonologist every four months. At my last pulmonologist visit he shared, “I am very impressed with your progress, you have improved significantly from when we first met two years ago.”

March is Blood Clot Awareness month and I want to bring awareness to this silent killer. According to the American Heart Association, up to two million Americans are affected annually by blood clots. Of those who develop PE, up to 300,000 will die each year. That is, more Americans die from DVT/PE than from breast cancer and AIDS combined, and 74% have little to no awareness.

Take Home Messages:
  • Learn and know your health history
  • Listen to your body, ask questions and be persistent when talking with doctors when “something is just not right”
  • Pulmonary emboli is often misdiagnosed as acid reflux and anxiety
  • Surviving blood clots is life changing
  • Pay attention to unusual shortness of breath
  • Learn and know risk factors of blood clots

To join our online discussion community and connect with other people who have experienced a blood clot, please click here.

To learn more about Factor V Leiden, please click here.

To learn more about risk factors for blood clots, please click here.

To learn more about signs and symptoms of blood clots, please click here.
Author: L F

14 Responses to "My Saving Grace: De’Shawn Spears’ Blood Clot Story"

  1. Lucille Spears
    Lucille Spears Posted on April 1, 2016 at 3:45 am

    Much needed information, very informative. So glad you survived to share your story.

  2. Janice Spears Patton
    Janice Spears Patton Posted on April 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Shawn I was very glad the read your story. I learned a lot about Factor V Leiden from work I think it’s in Spears genes. I’m glad you’re doing better an hopefully this will help someone else and not to ignore the signs.

    TWILA OLIVER Posted on April 4, 2016 at 6:02 pm


    • tyler
      tyler Posted on April 12, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      I felt like that many time all you can do Is cry and feel helpless asking why me it’s a dark place to be I have been there and on my really bad day I can easily find myself back there
      Hope you find a coping method

  4. tyler
    tyler Posted on April 12, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I am turning 27 this year i have been dealing with factor V linden since I was 21. 6 year of the ins and outs of the hospital injections to pills to CT scans to radiation therapy to ultrasounds to blood work weekly and I cant get over it. its heard to live your life with all this demanding medical needs and the doctors don’t really help glad your story had a happy ending

  5. Velma Criss
    Velma Criss Posted on April 12, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    My doctor discovered My blood cloths after my kidney transplant. I already had lymphedema in my right leg and it don’t hurt. In December of 2015, my left leg swollen up and it hurt. That is when Dr. Hayes found the blood cloths and called my kidney doctor. Well They put me on Eliquis. My question is, how long did you have your blood cloths?

  6. Jill
    Jill Posted on April 12, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    This is exactly what happened to me. In fact, I was already very educated on clots, having had them twice before in both legs and both lungs. But believe it or not, this most recent episode surprised me just like the others. I too thought I was just working out harder than normal, completely not putting my leg pain together with my shortness of breath. I was only off my blood thinners for two months in between the second and third episode. No one has been able to find a reason why I keep getting clots, but now I’m on blood thinners for life.

  7. Debbie Scott
    Debbie Scott Posted on April 13, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Jill. Get s hemo doctor and be off Coumadin snd get tested for blood deficieny. I have FREE PROTEIN S deficiency. There are lots of them. Eleven in my family are on Coumadin for life. My Mom was the culprit.

  8. Karen
    Karen Posted on April 16, 2016 at 3:07 am

    I had a very similar experience as you . I was not even afraid until it hit me that night when family went home . Then I broke down crying . My cat of 5 years woke me from a deep sleep by gently pawing my face . I was vaguely short of breath , profusely sweating, very nauseated, and just felt horrible . I thought I had the flu. God bless and I’m happy we both lived to educate ! I’m an RN and did not recognise the vague shortness of breath with drenching sweating .

  9. Karina Gordillo
    Karina Gordillo Posted on April 18, 2016 at 1:19 am

    My name is Karina from Colombia I had a PE and a DVT of left leg three months ago. I had factor v leiden too. My haematologist recommend me lifelong anticoagulation. Why your doctors decided to stop the anticoagulation after a year. Thak you very much miss Spears

  10. cristy Garcia
    cristy Garcia Posted on May 12, 2016 at 2:12 am

    I was just diagnosed with dvt and PE, started with back pain 4/22/16 went to the hospital on 4/25/16 and discover this diagnosis at first I was told it was kidney stones then gallbladder, but a blood test revealed the right diagnosis, I was in the hospital for 2 weeks, was just discharged 3 days and still struggling with adjusting Inr level.

    • magali roman
      magali roman Posted on May 13, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      How are you doing now I see that you posted your statuse recently.. they told me it was ammonia in my lung then they called me and told me it was a clot. I was so confused and affraid. For those that don’t know how the pain fells.. I won’t recommend this pain to nobody….

  11. magali roman
    magali roman Posted on May 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Im so glad you mad it out of that terrible feeling.I’ve been in the hospital for 4 days already. It’s a horrible pain to go though I was very scared and still am. Im just praying that I come out good. Especially for my kids. My beautiful five kids that are my world will help me stay strong and pull through.. please pray for me im very scared hearing alot of people don’t make it… Sencerly, Magali Roman

  12. Georgia Spears
    Georgia Spears Posted on May 15, 2016 at 2:15 am

    I had a blood clot in my leg that broke off in traveled to my right lung. My left leg keep hurting . I had been going back in forward to the hospital complaining about my foot and leg pain .once I started having pain in my chest and breathing issues the hospital finally did a CT Scran in found out that In had a blood clot. I was admitted into the hospital . I have never been so scared in my life ! . I thank God that my blood clot has dissolved after so time and am on a daily aspirin . Am still having after effects from the blood clot and am still afraid of getting an blood clot. My life has changed so much from having a blood clot. I watch everything that I do , because of the fear of possibly getting an clot. It can really mess with your mind at times. Am praying for all that have a DVT or PE and or has had one.