World Thrombosis Day: Know Your Risk

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A year ago, I never thought I would be at risk for a blood clot, otherwise known as a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). After all, I am active, healthy, and have no underlying conditions. That all changed when my 4th baby was just 9 days old, and I was in for the scare of my life.

Regardless of what you may think, you may be at risk for a blood clot and not even know it. I’m here to tell you that blood clots don’t discriminate.

My DVT story

I took a blissful afternoon nap with my newborn snuggled on my chest, and woke up to a painful, charlie-horse feeling in my groin. By that evening, my entire left leg was swollen and turning purple. The pain was getting worse, and my entire thigh hurt.

Luckily, I went to the ER that night. I had a massive DVT in my left iliac vein (the vein that pulls blood from your leg back to your heart) into my thigh. I was put on anticoagulants immediately and sent home. They told me if I had any pain in my chest or difficulty breathing, it was a medical emergency because I was at risk for a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). This is when the blood clot breaks off and goes into the lungs. It’s life threatening.

I went to bed that night, afraid that I would die in my sleep.

I hoped and prayed that I would live to see my kids grow up. A few days later, I had surgery to dissolve the blood clot, and spent 6 months on anticoagulants. I spent the next several months consulting with a vascular surgeon and hematologist to figure out why this happened, and how to prevent this from happening again.

I found out I have a condition called May Thurner Syndrome, which causes the iliac vein to be compressed. This, combined with my pregnancy, family history, and age likely contributed to my clot. However, I have no blood clotting disorders that would otherwise cause me to have a DVT, which I’m thankful for. I’m back to doing everything I enjoy doing – loving on my kids, running, triathlon, and teaching fitness classes.  I’m still on guard, though, because I know it could happen again. 

My story is just one of many out there. Every day, otherwise unknowing, healthy people are victims to DVT and PE. I consider myself extremely fortunate because there are many people who die from DVTs or PEs.

October 13 is World Thrombosis Day

Last October was the first time I ever knew there was even a day dedicated to spreading awareness about DVTs and PEs. This year, I want to spread the word. You need to know your risk, because it can seriously happen to anyone.

If you are pregnant–or plan to become pregnant, listen up!

According to StopTheClot.org, women are five times more likely to have a blood clot during pregnancy and in the 3 months after delivery. C-Section delivery increases that risk even more. If you have a pregnancy over age 35, your risk goes up too.

One of the most common pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. is a blood clot in the lungs.

It happens to the healthiest people, too. Tennis star Serena Williams suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her daughter last year.

It’s not just pregnant or postpartum women, though. If you take hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy, your risk of a blood clot goes up.

 

 

 

WorldThrombosisDay.org lists these additional risk factors for blood clots:

  • recent hospitalization
  • surgery
  • extended periods of immobilization (Netflix binge, anyone?)
  • cancer/chemotherapy
  • family history of thrombosis
  • age 60+
  • obesity
  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking

What are the symptoms of a blood clot?

It’s important to know that you might not have the same symptoms as another person with a DVT or a PE.

Symptoms of a DVT are (but not limited to):

  • Pain or tenderness, often starting in the calf
  • Swelling, including the ankle or foot
  • Redness or noticeable discoloration
  • Warmth

PE Symptoms are:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain (may be worse upon deep breath)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lightheadedness or passing out

What should I do if I have DVT or PE symptoms?

Take your symptoms seriously, and go to the ER or call your doctor immediately. I’m not one to ever go to the ER, and actually almost talked myself out of going. My story could have ended differently if I hadn’t taken my symptoms seriously and gotten immediate medical attention.

If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor. Don’t wait until your annual exam. Make a special appointment and discuss your concerns. Do it for yourself, your kids, and for your family. You don’t ever want to go to bed at night wondering if you’ll wake up the next morning.