Surviving Two DVT & PE Episodes by Victor Zarate

Vic Survivor Speaks Post Graphic

The first one was in July 2011 after a long car ride from Colorado to Florida.  I drove without circulating and developed a DVT in my right calf.  It was sore for about two weeks (I never go to the doctor), I had no clue what was going on. One night soon after, while going to bed, I hurt my back.  What I didn’t know was that what actually happened is that the clot in my leg moved to my lungs.

I waited a couple of days and one day at work I just didn’t feel right.  So, I called my wife and said that I was going to go to urgent care to get myself checked out.  I went there and everything checked out okay.  The doctor said just in case I should go and get an ultrasound done on my calf the next day.  So, I made the appointment for the following day.  At the appointment the technician said that she couldn’t tell me if I had a clot or not and said that she would just go get the doctor if she found one.  It turned out that I had a clot the full length of my calf.  The doctor said that I should go to the ER right away.  I went there and the doctors begin to give me Lovenox and a Heparin drip via IV.

As the ER doc was leaving my room she said, “By any chance do you have any chest or back pain?”  I said come to think of it, I do have some back pain.  She said let’s take a CT scan just in case.  By the way….I’ve come to hate CT scans with contrast with a passion.  Soon after the CT scan a bunch of people, nurses and doctors came into my room with a sense of urgency.  I was diagnosed with multiple bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms.


I had no clue what that was and just tried to enjoy my time in the hospital since I was going to be there for awhile.  According to the doctors I had a very serious condition and I was a very atypical PE patient since my O2 sats remained at 99 the entire time.  I stayed three days in the hospital and took two weeks off of work.  I went back to normal life, except the Coumadin therapy of course.  In fact I went back to exercising.  I ran in a few 5K races and even in October 2011 went for a 26 mile hike on the AT while still on Coumadin.  I had no clue how serious that could have been if I were to have an accident.  After six months of Coumadin the doctor said I should be fine to get off the Coumadin and then  have some blood drawn to test for blood clotting disorders.  All the results came back negative.  Great news!  No more Coumadin.

The second one was much different.  It happened in January 2014.  I again had a sore calf.  This time it was the left side.  I had been exercising and I just thought that I had a sore calf from straining it.  I noticed that I was a little out of breath going up hills and stairs.  So, I decided that I was going to get in better shape.  I was so out of breath that it was hard just to walk home from work up a relatively small hill.  I went to work one day and I noticed that I was having a hard time breathing.  So much so that I couldn’t even finish a complete sentence without having to take a breath.  I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.  So, off to the ER again.  I walked into the ER everything was looking good, O2 saturation was good while resting, heart rate perfect and blood pressure a little high.  The doctor said that I might just be having some anxiety but that since I had DVT/PE history they would do a CT scan.  Long story short I was diagnosed with a very large saddle PE with multiple bi-lateral PE and a DVT that was the whole length of my right leg.  This time I was in trouble big time even though I was feeling well.  I had to be flown flight for life to the hospital.  Upon arrival to the hospital, I was informed that I needed to have open heart surgery immediately.

After being there for a couple of hours the doctors came back to me and said that since I was very stable that they should wait to do the surgery until the morning.  Morning came and so did the doctors.  A lot of them.  They all were coming to see the “walking dead”.  I should’ve died they all said.  So, they scheduled the surgery.  I signed all the paper work.  Called my mom and my children, my wonderful wife was by my side, and said prayers.  Soon the doctors came back and they decided that I was a good candidate for interventional radiology.  They said it would be risky but that I was a good candidate because I was so stable.  Praise God the angiogram worked!  The catheters that they put in my heart and lungs broke up and dissolved the clots and after another CT scan, did I mention I hate those, I was all clear.  The saddle PE was nearly gone along with most of the PEs in my lungs.  I spent 10 days in the hospital.  Several weeks in a bed recovering because I was so exhausted from just a walk to the car.

This one hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had none of these problems with my first DVT/PE.  None!  I experienced exhaustion, anxiety, depression and fear.  I couldn’t even talk about or watch something exciting without getting exhausted and anxious.  I did not expect this.  It changed my life.  To this day I still have problems with all the above mentioned conditions.  Thank God not all of them at once.  I will be on blood thinners for life.  However, I will say that I am getting better.  Just the other day I exercised with my son.  I walked a half a mile, did some jump roping, squats and lunges.  However, I did very few of all those activities and it wiped me out.  I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

I write all this to say that you can experience all different types of complications from DVT/PE.  I will say that you have to keep fighting.  Don’t give up.  That fact that you survive these awful problems means that God has some plans for you still.  Listen to your doctors.  Don’t be ashamed of taking medicine to get through the PTSD.  It is God’s grace that we have these medicines to help us.  I hope my story helps someone out there and that we all can have hope that things do get better over time.  It’s the waiting part that is hard but we have to be patient.  I’m speaking to myself as well.

God bless and I hope you all have quick and easy recoveries.

Thank you, Vic, for sharing your story! You can connect with Vic on Facebook

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A Survivor Speaks: Without Notice by Kimmi

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I never imagined it would ever happen to me, but it did on Oct 27, 2009. A massive bilateral pulmonary embolism happened to me. I remember that afternoon. I had no symptoms, except not being able to breathe. It was a struggle to go from my bedroom to my bathroom without having to stop to catch my breath. I went to an emergency doctor appointment and the doctor thought it was asthma. She gave me a breathing treatment and an inhaler. I went home and got in bed.

Next, I received a call from the hospital to come in immediately for a chest CT with contrast. I did, and after I was finished and on my way home, I got a call from my doctor who said to go back to the ER because I had massive bilateral pulmonary embolism. I rushed back and they were ready for me. Doctors and nurses, all rushing in with oxygen, lovenox shots and IV’s. They seemed to be panicking. I was given Morphine twice. I heard the doctors talking outside of my room, “put her on the pulmonary wing and take her vitals until she passes.” I was given a 30% chance to live.

And I did live….I lived….I survived. I was put on lovenox shots for ten days, then Coumadin. After four months, I was taken off the medications, tested and cleared. I thought to myself I just cheated death. I told myself never again would that happen to me.

But then it did. 

On Oct 27, 2013, I was ready to board the jet to go to see someone, someone that is and has always been my life, besides my son. She asked me to get a chest x-ray because I was having trouble breathing. She could hear it.  I was stubborn, but went to ER hoping to get out fast so I could board the jet.

The doctor wanted a chest CT with contrast because of my PE history. I agreed but asked him to hurry. I had the CT done and waited back in my ER room. The doctor came back pretty fast and he sat and said “Well Kimmi,” and I thought “sweet, I am bailing.” Then the words that crushed my world came out of his mouth, “Sorry, but we are going to keep you for at least five days. You have massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms again.”

I remember putting my hands on my forehead and crying, “No it’s wrong read it again.”

He said, “I can show you.” My head was spinning. What do I do with my son? We are supposed to get on a private jet. The doctor, who was so kind and compassionate, said,  “Kimmi you know you would of died if you got on the jet. You worked in the medical field, you know. You know it, don’t you?”  I said, “Yes, I know I would of died if I got on the jet.”

This time it was worse – the pain, the fear, the constant worry that a clot would pass through my heart and into my lungs again. I am now a lifer on Coumadin. It is harder to keep my INR within range and I still feel pain in my calf that had the clot in it. I still experience shortness of breath and my o2 sats are at 86% most of the time. I am terrified, but I can’t live in that fear everyday. The stress is too much.

I want to say be aware know your body, don’t ignore the signs. Because clots kill, and all of a sudden at that. I am blessed to be here. I pray for those that survived like me, for those that didn’t get the chance too, and for those going through it right now.

I want to thank my very special someone  for saving my life that evening. If not for her, I would not be here today; ALIVE, BREATHING AND LIVING. I love you with all of my heart and soul.

Kimmi (From California to Colorado where the doctors said I could never live)

Editor’s Note: Kimmi is a published author and has written a book of poetry about about life, loss, loneliness, appreciation and love called Layers of my Soul. You can find her work through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also connect with Kimmi on Facebook or in the comments section below. Thank you, Kimmi, for sharing your story with BCRN!



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