Sarah Zayyad Raises Blood Clot Awareness Through Exercise

Sarah Zayyad Raises Blood Clot Awareness Through Exercise

In the Summer of 2021, Sarah Zayyad started experiencing calf pain. As a doctor of physical therapy, she had some knowledge of blood clots and what could cause them. She thought her symptoms aligned with deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot in her leg, and wondered if her oral contraceptive use could be a factor.

But when she visited her doctor and mentioned her concerns about a DVT as well as her oral contraceptive use, she was dismissed.

Over the next few weeks, Sarah noticed that her resting heart rate was increasing. Looking through the data in her smartwatch, she found that her resting heart rate was 15 bpm higher in August than it was in July.

When she contacted her doctor, she was advised to make an appointment at a hospital to get a heart rate monitor put on. The first available appointment was two days later, and in the meantime, she started showing more symptoms: shortness of breath and severe chest pains.

Not wasting any time, Sarah went to the ER and was quickly diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. After about a year of tests and bloodwork, the clot was gone but she gained a new diagnosis: acquired protein S deficiency caused by her birth control. Now, she is on blood thinners indefinitely.

“The clot traveling to my lung could have completely been avoided if my doctor had listened to me and ran a simple test,” she said. “If you feel something about your body isn’t right, chances are it isn’t. Keep being your own advocate – you might save your own life.”

It took Sarah about six months before she could breathe normally again. Since her blood clot, she has become more active and even completed a half Ironman last year. In May, she is also riding in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour as a member of Team Stop the Clot for the second year in a row.

Sarah’s blood clot journey and recovery have prompted her to advocate for blood clot awareness. She joined forces with Heights Cycle, a cycling studio in the Chicago area, and has organized two special cycling events benefitting NBCA, one in 2023 and one in February of this year.

During the 30-minute cycling class, the instructors make it an inspirational experience by sharing facts about blood clots and recovery, and after the class, food, drink, and educational materials about blood clots are available.

“I never thought this would happen to me, and I feel it’s my duty now to tell people my story,” she said. “Some people aren’t as lucky – this could happen to literally anyone at any time.”

It’s vital to know the signs and symptoms as well as your risk factors and seek medical attention immediately. If you have an unsatisfactory experience with a health care provider, keep pushing for answers, as Sarah did. It could save your life.

Interested in spearheading a fundraiser or awareness initiative? Email tpatrikis@stoptheclot.org for more information. 

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