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I was 23 years old when I gave birth to my daughter in June 2010. During the last few months of my pregnancy, I sat and laid in bed a lot, because I suffered from sciatica, a condition in which compression of the spinal nerve causes pain in the lower back. Everything was normal with my labor and delivery, and I came home. However, as the weeks went by, I was having increasing pain in my lower back and legs. Every time I stood up, I felt dizzy and faint. I was also having trouble moving. My general practitioner diagnosed me as having back spasms.
The next day after my doctor’s appointment, I woke up and both of my legs had doubled in size. I went straight to A&E and was admitted immediately. I had scans of my legs and 24 hours after I was admitted, I was diagnosed with a blood clot in the femoral vein of my leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT), which is the vein that supplies blood to both legs. I was in shock to hear my diagnosis. I was immediately put on a high dose of warfarin, and I was told not to move at all.
Unfortunately, while in I was in the hospital, part of the clot broke off and traveled to my lung, resulting in a pulmonary embolism or PE. The blood clot lodged at the bottom of my lung – if it was a half of an inch smaller, it would have traveled further into my lung and collapsed it.
After ten days in hospital, I was transferred to a different hospital to see vascular surgeons, who would attempt to remove the clots from my leg. The vascular surgeons went in and couldn’t get past the first clot in my veins. They telephoned the top surgeon in Dublin, Ireland, for advice, and he advised them to stop the surgery and continue with anticoagulant treatment instead. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful, and they told me my case was the worst of its kind they had ever seen. I was released from the hospital after 14 days with very limited mobility.
Since my hospitalization, I have seen several doctors and, over time, I have found that I am among the worst cases of DVT ever recorded in Northern Ireland. I am on warfarin for life, and I am too high risk to have any more children.
To this day, I still have several clots in my legs, I have very limited mobility, and I suffer from post-thrombotic syndrome. I am on strong painkillers every day. Physically, I’m left with swollen legs and scars from a vascular rash I developed due to the deep circulation in my legs shutting down and the blood traveling through the veins in my skin. Any knock to my legs causes major bruising. This experience has left me emotionally scarred – being so close to dying was terrifying for me. Before all of this, I had no idea what exactly blood clots were, and I had no idea pregnancy increases the risk for blood clots. It is sometimes hard to explain to people how it feels. The hardest part for me is not being able to have any more children. I’m blessed with a beautiful daughter, but it breaks my heart that I can’t give her a sibling.
I would advise anyone to stay active before and after pregnancy, and to get any unusual aches and pains checked out immediately. It is my hope that by sharing my story, I can help prevent this from happening to someone else and to let anyone suffering from DVT know they are not alone.