Why You Need A Medical ID

Disclosure: I was given a credit from American Medical Id® to select and engrave a medical ID product for review. Although this product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own, and I was in no way influenced by the company.

As a child, I had a friend who wore a medical ID for a peanut allergy. I asked her about it once, “Do you like wearing a bracelet all the time?” She just stared at me, and then she said it didn’t matter. She said it was important because peanuts could really hurt her, and the bracelet let people know. I remember being afraid of peanuts for a little while, because I didn’t understand, and then I wondered what it was like to wear a big, shiny bracelet all the time, even in the swimming pool and to bed. I’ve never forgotten the image of that giant medical bracelet on her tiny wrist.

I never imagined that I would be in a situation of needing to wear a medical ID. For my childhood and a good part of my young adult life, I didn’t have allergies, health conditions, or medications that were important to know about in an emergency. However, a DVT and PE in 2012 changed all of that and I found myself on long-term treatment with the blood thinner warfarin indefinitely. For the most part, I view warfarin as something that I need to stay safe, if not alive, and I don’t hate it. It’s hard for me to think of it as life-saving, but I do know it helps to prevent another blood clot that I might not survive again.

Blood thinning medications do help save lives, but as with any medication, there are risks that come along with taking blood thinners. One of those risks is unwanted or uncontrolled bleeding, and usually, you can avoid bleeding risks by taking your medication as prescribed and keeping in good communication with your doctor. If you take warfarin like me, have your INR monitored regularly to ensure effectiveness.

Catastrophic bleeding – like from a car accident or injury – can produce life-threatening bleeding that requires emergency medical treatment. I don’t think about being on warfarin all of the time anymore, but it’s never too far from my mind, and one of my worst fears is that I will have an accident while I am on it and be unable to tell anyone that I am taking this medication. When I started thinking about all of the ways I could be injured without someone there to help me, or without someone who knew me, I realized that a medical ID was an essential part of caring for myself after a blood clot.

If you take an anticoagulant, you should consider wearing a medical ID so that emergency responders and medical doctors know how to best treat you in an emergency, or if you can’t share your medical history yourself. It is important that they not only work as quickly as possible to stop any life-threatening bleeding, but also that they understand you are at risk for blood clots.

There are numerous places to purchase a medical ID from, and I don’t believe they are all the same. I’ve had a few medical IDs that were not worth the money I spent on them. When I was given the opportunity to review a medical ID of my choosing from American Medical ID®, I was excited to give them a try. I chose the Sterling Silver Medallion Red Charm Bracelet for my medical ID.

Front of my American Medical ID®:

What I love: The medical emblem is large, red and easy to identify in an emergency. The charm design is unique and feminine too, but it is still recognizable as a medical ID. The design I chose is sterling silver and it is of high quality.

What I wish was different: I wish the chain was heavier/chunkier. This is a lot more delicate than I thought it would be, so if you like delicate jewelry, you will definitely love this. I also wish it was easier to get on and off (I don’t sleep in it unless I am traveling away from home), but I think this is pretty standard with any clasp such as this one. I’m not worried about it coming off accidentally, it’s very secure.

Back of my American Medical ID®:

What I engraved:

My Name (first and last)
My Date of Birth (XX/XX/XXXX)
WARFARIN ASPIRIN
PROLONGED PTT W/
INHIBITOR INR
HX VTE

A note about my engraving: I talked to my doctor about my situation, and he suggested I keep this information regarding a prolonged PTT with inhibitor INR readily available in case of an emergency. He also said to let my family members know this information in case I am ever hospitalized or need surgery. I have an interesting and complicated set of circumstances. In short, this information means that a heparin (blood thinner) IV, should I need it, could be inaccurately dosed due to an INR inhibitor that I have. I have this information stored in my phone – and in my relative’s phones – and now on my new medical ID.

What I love: For the size of the charm, I could fit a lot on this ID. The type is large and easy to read.

What I wish was different: I wish the engraving was oxidized, or a little darker (it is still readable).

I consider a medical ID an investment, and it might be something you have with you for a very long time. Since I have been taking a blood thinner, I have had a few medical IDs. Some with different names of the different blood thinners I have been on, updated contact information, necklaces, bracelets, and even a keychain. I am a jewelry person, but I was annoyed and frustrated with always having to think about – let alone wear – a medical ID. I like to change my jewelry around often, and I don’t like to sleep in it. If I am going to wear something all of the time, I have to love it, and let’s be honest, who loves a medical ID?

It may not be something we wish for or want, but I do think American Medical ID® makes it a whole lot nicer to own a medical ID. I love that they offer a wide variety of styles and products – for men and women – with a broad range of prices too. I believe there really is something for everyone from American Medical ID®. I like the way my American Medical ID® stands out among the other bracelets I wear. It looks like a medical ID, but it is also one that I feel good wearing because of the style. This ID is extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear.

American Medical ID® has an easy to use, and very informative, website. The engraving process is also simple – it costs just $7 – and they also have excellent customer service. I got my ID really quickly – within a week of ordering – and it came expertly packaged and included a small carrying or storage pouch. If you’re looking for a medical ID, I recommend you try American Medical ID®. I’m really happy with my bracelet, and I plan on wearing it.

Here are some of my thoughts about how to select and engrave your medical ID.

My Top Tips for Selecting a Medical ID:
  • Pick one that looks like a medical ID (not one that is too “pretty” or that “blends in”)
  • Pick one that is comfortable for you, or that fits in with your lifestyle
  • Pick one that is easy for you to wear, or get on and off

More tips from American Medical ID® about how to select your medical ID.

My Top Tips for Engraving a Medical ID:
  • Talk to your doctor about what to engrave on your medical ID. You may think this sounds silly, but I had no idea what should actually be on mine, until my doctor happened to mention it.
  • Include your full name
  • Include your date of birth (month, day, year)
  • Include the name(s) of your medication (I don’t recommend saying “blood thinner” or “anticoagulant” because it is not specific enough. Some anticoagulants have bleeding reversal agents, and some do not.)
  • Include your medical history, or essential facts about your condition
  • Include an emergency contact number

More Tips from American Medical ID® about how to engrave medical ID.

More Tips:
  • If you think your medication might change frequently, don’t get an expensive medical ID
  • Once you do get a permanent ID, select a material type that will last (I prefer stainless steel or sterling silver)
  • If you can’t fit everything you think you need on your ID, you could engrave “See Wallet Card” or something similar, and then carry additional information on your person
  • If you don’t wear jewelry, consider a keychain, or other accessory that you can carry with you

Read more from American Medical ID® about why a medical ID is critical.

If you’re taking a blood thinners, I strongly suggest wearing a medical ID. Thank you to American Medical ID® for the opportunity to review and wear an ID from you.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writes In: Do you wear or carry a medical ID? Share in the comments.


Thank you to American Medical ID® for the opportunity to review and wear one of your medical IDs.


Get more tips about how to engrave your medical ID from BCRN.


Have an iPhone? You can update your iPhone with a portable medical ID (and it is free). Go to your Health App (pink heart) and select Medical ID to fill in your personal info). Also, find other ways to stay safe on the go.

Fix Your Thinning Hair

Sometimes, medications that keep us safe from a dangerous disease or condition, can also cause unwanted side effects. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, help to protect us from blood clots, they can also cause troubling side effects sometimes. These side effects can range from mild, like a headache, to severe, like uncontrolled bleeding. Side effects can vary from person to person, and are different for different blood thinners. If you have any side effects while taking blood thinners, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about what you are experiencing.

Although listed as a rare, or even nonexistent, side effect for most blood thinners, some people experience hair loss, or hair thinning, while taking them. It’s important to let your doctor know if you are losing your hair, just in case something else is going on. Keep in mind that many things can cause hair loss, such as nutrient deficiencies, other diseases, hormonal imbalances, other medications, stress, and genetics. It’s important to remember that not all medications will affect everyone the same way, and not everyone experiences hair loss, or hair loss to the same degree. The bottom line is, if you are experiencing hair loss – or hair thinning – to any extent, it can be devastating to your self-esteem during what is already a difficult recovery from blood clots. No matter what the cause might be, I am going to share my top tips to help fix your thinning hair.

I have naturally thin and straight hair. I noticed about a year after I started taking a blood thinner, that my hair seemed thinner than usual. Due to my recovery and time away from work, I did not get a haircut for a very long time, and my hair was longer than it had ever been. Seeing my hair coming out in clumps on my brush was very upsetting to me. I found a hair stylist and made an appointment as soon as possible to help fix my hair.

I explained to my stylist that I was concerned about my thinning hair, due to the medication I was taking. I told her I was brushing my hair, and it looked like I was brushing it right out of my head. She inspected it closely, and said that while some medications can cause hair thinning or hair loss, my hair looked to be thinning mostly from the length of it. She explained that hair tends to thin the longer it grows, and when we brush it, it looks like more is coming out because it is so long.

I got my hair cut that day, but since I like my hair longer, I cut it to right below my shoulders, which was still significantly shorter than it had been. I noticed an immediate difference in the next few days as I was combing and styling my hair. It looked fuller and less hair came out on my comb and brush. I am not sure if I experienced hair thinning or loss due to my blood thinner, but I do know that I am more conscious of my hair, and I do care for it differently since starting blood thinners.

There are many things you can do to help fix thinning hair, and not everything works for everyone. It is important to make sure you are eating as healthy as you can, and that you are getting the right nutrients in your diet, which is also important for overall health and well-being. I personally don’t choose to take any extra supplements or medications to help fix my thinning hair, because that can cause interactions with my blood thinner.

I have found a few simple ways to help fix my thinning hair, and these things are part of my daily personal care routine. I am not a hair person, and I try to spend as little time on my hair as possible, but I do like for my hair to look presentable, if not nice. If you’re looking for hair styling advice, this is not the post for you. If you’re looking for some simple ways to help fix your thinning hair, here are my top five tips:

Tip #1: Get your hair cut, or trimmed, regularly.

This is my number one tip to help fix your thinning hair. Keep in mind, shorter hair sometimes looks fuller. I get my hair cut about every four months, which is not as regular as some people, but it is regular for me. Keep a close eye on your hair at first to see how fast it grows, and schedule your appointments around your hair growth. You can tailor your appointments to fit your schedule and your budget. Haircuts don’t have to be expensive, and sometimes you can have a friend or family member cut it for you to save money. No matter how you choose to do it, get your hair cut on a regular basis.

Extra: Find a hair stylist that listens to you, and specifically addresses your concerns about your thinning hair.    

Tip #2: Wash your hair with shampoo and water less frequently.

I was hesitant about this at first – because oily hair is not nice – but it really works for me. I only wash my hair with shampoo and water twice a week, sometimes three times if I have done something active or sweaty. The other days, I use dry shampoo to clean my hair without the stress of a full shampoo. Dry shampoo takes care of oil, and also adds body to my hair.

Extra: Not all dry shampoos are the same, and I tried about 167 before I found one I like. I use this dry shampoo. Get it here

Tip #3: Use products to help add body to your hair, like a root lifter.

Root lifter made a difference in my life long before I started taking blood thinners, and it is my favorite styling product. Most days, I spray dry shampoo, or use root lifter, comb my hair, and go. If you’re using multiple products, be careful not to use too many, which can cause your hair to become weighed down, which yes, can make it look thinner. I don’t use dry shampoo and root lifter together because the dry shampoo also adds body to my hair.

Extra: I don’t like wet products that tend to weigh my hair down and make it heavy, or thin. I use this texturizer/root lifter, which comes in a powder form. Get it here.   

Tip #4: Use products to help add texture to your hair, like sea salt spray.

If your hair is thinning, sometimes adding texture can help. You can do this with cut layers, but you can also do it at home, in your own bathroom. During the summer, I like to use sea salt spray on my hair, which adds a little texture, and smells like I just walked onto a tropical island. It’s easy – just spray it in damp or dry hair, and tousle with your hands.

Extra: A little goes a long way. I bought a travel size container of this sea salt spray, which lasted me all summer. Get it here.

Tip #5: Style with heat as minimally as possible.

I like to vary how I care for my hair from day to day. I mix up washing it in the shower, using dry shampoo, root lifter, and sea salt spray, depending on how my hair looks on any given day. Sometimes, I fully style my hair with a blow dryer, and that adds body and texture too. However, since I started a blood thinner, I try to style minimally with heat, which can further damage hair. Often times, I dry my hair fully at the scalp to add body, and dry the ends to a damp dry, and then let it air dry the rest of the way.

Extra: If you dry your hair on a regular basis, use a lower heat setting on your dryer. If you use a curling or straight iron, use a lower heat seating.   

I hope these tips help you fix your thinning hair. Give them a try, and come back to let me know what you think.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writes In: Is your hair thinning since you started blood thinners? What tips can you share to help fix your thinning hair? Have you tried any of my tips? Did they work for you, or not?


NEW: Shop my favorite hair care and beauty products here.


If you’re feeling down in the dumps, here are my 7 Steps to Feel Better about Yourself.


 

Why I Use the Sagely Smart Weekly Pill Organizer

Please note, I have been given a Sagely Smart Weekly Pill Organizer by the Sagely company to review. Although this product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own, and I was in no way influenced by the company.

For as long as I can remember, I have taken a pill. I was diagnosed with hypothyroid disorder early in my life, and I started taking medication to treat my condition at that time. My parents were really good at teaching me that it was important to take my medication like the doctor instructed, and I carried that knowledge into my adult life. Periodically, I also took other medications, vitamins and supplements, based on various needs or problems as they arose. It was never difficult or problematic to manage two or three medications. I just took my pills out of the container they came in first thing in the morning.

Now, as a patient who must take a blood thinner every day, medication remains important to my daily routine, perhaps now more than ever. When people ask me how I feel about depending on a pill to keep me safe – if not alive – I don’t know how to answer because I have always had to take a pill to stay healthy. What I wasn’t expecting was to take pills multiple times a day and feel like I am years and years older than I am. I wasn’t expecting to get excited by pill containers or medication management systems – maybe because I never thought pills would require managing – yet I do. Currently, I take between six and eight pills total, two times a day.

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed I often share medication management systems because if you take blood thinners, as with all medications, it’s important to make sure you take them and take them at the right time. I have found that a pill box or container is the easiest way for me to know if I have taken my medication or not. Since I take multiple pills, taking them right our of the prescription bottle is no longer a good solution for me. It makes it hard to remember if and when I took my medication.

I’ve used many different types of pill containers over the last few years and although I have a few I like, lately I have been searching for the perfect one. I need something that has enough space for all of my pills, is easy to use and fits within my budget. I began using the Sagely Smart Weekly Pill Organizer, which is revolutionary in its design and definitely unlike anything I have used before.

Below, I am sharing my thoughts about the Sagely Smart Weekly Pill Organizer. Watch my video to hear what I have to say, or read on for my review.

Sagely Smart Weekly Pill Organizer Review

What I like about this pill container:

  • Each day is a separate box (or Pod) with two distinct compartments.
  • The Sagely system allows you to count out your pills on top of the Pod – so you can see which pills you have already distributed – before pushing them through the lid into the Pod itself (you don’t have to open the Pod at all until you are ready to take them). Watch this video to see how it works.
  • The Pod lids are made of soft, food-grade safe material and are very easy to open if you have pain or swelling in your hands.
  • Each Pod sits on a magnetic base, so if you are traveling, you can grab the days you need and go.
  • The Pods are very deep and can hold multiple pills and capsules.
  • It is a very attractive, contemporary design and is nice to look at.
  • There is an accompanying App to help manage your medication.

What I don’t like about this pill container:

  • The base is long (about 12 inches) and takes up a lot of space on a counter or dresser.
  • The Pods are divided into two compartments which are distinguished by color, but do not have AM or PM printed on them, so I can get easily confused about which is which when I am filling the Pods. This problem is resolved once I make up my mind which color to use for which time of day.
  • The lids close like a Tupperware container, and I find I have to double check to make sure they are closed after I take my pills.
  • This pill container is expensive, but it is worth the cost if you are looking for an extensive or unique medication management, with multiple features.

Average Price: $29.95 – $39.95

Where to purchase: Sagely gifted me this product to share my thoughts with all of you, but you can purchase it on Sagely’s website here, or through my Amazon Influencer Shop.

My bottom line: I am currently using the Sagely to manage my medication, and I really like it. My favorite features are the push-through system for putting pills in the containers, how easy it is to open the containers, and the ability to travel with as many days as I need without the days that I don’t.

Are you purchasing a pill container? Get my buyer’s quick tips:
  1. Pick a pill box that suites your medication schedule. There are a variety of containers, including one day, three day, weekly, AM/PM, and even three or four times a day options.
  2. Pick a pill box that is easy for you to use (e.g. opening, closing, portability, etc.)
  3. Pick a pill box that is within your budget. If cost is prohibitive for you and you need more space, sometimes you can purchase two separate containers (e.g. one for morning and one for evening) that suites your needs.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writes In: How do you manage your medication? Do you have a favorite system or pill container? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Do you take warfarin and need to keep track of your INR? Get the OATBook App for iPhone to help make it easier. *Once again available for download*


Do you struggle to remember if you took your pills? Get my tips to help you stop asking, “Did I take my medication?”

Bye Bye Bad Periods…Hello DivaCup!

divacup

{Disclosure: I was given a DivaCup Model 2 to review in order to write this post. I was not paid for my review, or endorsement, of this product, nor was I asked to write a positive review. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.}

I have always had a hard time with my periods, even before I was diagnosed with a clotting disorder, antiphospholipid syndrome, in 2012. My menstrual cycle has always been heavy, painful, sudden to start, irregular and generally wreaks havoc on my emotions. If I could bury myself in a dirt hole for the duration of my cycle, I would, gladly to spare myself and others the misery of my company. Since my diagnosis, my periods have only gotten worse and while I do have months that are uneventful, my body seems to make up for it the next time with a period like no other.

Throughout the pre-blood clot years of my menstrual cycle, I almost exclusively wore pads (Always, extra long, overnight, jumbo pack) and I continued wearing pads after my blood clot.

My Problem

In the initial months (read first year) of my recovery from DVT and PE, I found that my menstrual cycle was nearly unmanageable in terms of flow. I rarely left the house during my period and if I did, I went armed with a stack of pads (which I changed hourly). I planned out where I was going to go and when I was going to use the restroom. I couldn’t be gone for very long, and I certainly couldn’t do anything spontaneous like drive to another store or friend’s house because I was uncertain of how long it might take. I wore dark pants, multiple pairs of panties and cursed my light car interior. I didn’t sit on anyone’s furniture, as a matter of fact, sometimes I didn’t sit at all for fear of leak.

Flash forward to now, three years after my clotting incident, and my periods are still really heavy, can happen out of nowhere, with no pre-symptoms, and last for an extended period of time. Sometimes, I get a day or two of relief and then it starts all over again. Just when I think it is under control – I tried to wear a tampon at a festival this summer – I am back to running for the car so I can rush home and take care of the leak (by staying in my bed for the next four days). The emotional turmoil and anxiety I feel during my cycle every month is in part due to the fear I have of leaking at work, a friend or relative’s house or anywhere that is not my own room – and even that can result in a fit of tears and anger. It’s miserable, I’m miserable and desperate for relief. 

My Solution 

First and foremost, I was in constant communication with not only my hematologist, but my OBGYN too about my flow and frequency of periods. My OBGYN told me that remaining on warfarin and progestin-only birth control and aspirin will continue to contribute to a heavy flow. He ensured nothing else was going on (i.e. cervical cancer, a miscarriage, etc.) and informed me that my options for controlling the flow included a contraceptive implant, which is not an option I am comfortable with personally. So, after ruling out any medical concerns, I began my search for something to offer the relief I so desperately sought.

What I found is the DivaCup. And the DivaCup is a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn internally (yes, in your vagina), collecting rather than absorbing your menstrual flow. It lasts for 10-12 hours before it needs emptied, is comfortable, holds my entire flow in a day (no, I’m not kidding either), and is cheaper and healthier than traditional menstrual products like pads and tampons. Wait, wait, it’s gross, right? Hear me out before you make a determination about how sanitary it is and enter to win your own DivaCup to try for yourself.

Cup-Pouch

The Basics

The DivaCup costs around $40 and you can find it online or now at CVS. It is not disposable and you should only need to replace it about once a year, or when it is best as determined by you. It offers 10-12 hour leak-free protection and is made of health-grade silicone. It really holds my entire flow, and I actually found thorough the measurements on the side of the cup that I was not bleeding as much as I thought I was. It comes in two sizes, 1 if you are under 30 and have not had a vaginal delivery or C-Section and 2 if you are over 30 and/or have delivered a child(ren) vaginally or via C-Section. You wear it when you use the restroom, but not during sexual intercourse and it is not a contraceptive device. You wash it using a mild, unscented soap, or the DivaWash, which I prefer to use. Read more details about the DivaCup basics.

DivaCup-DivaWash-Kit-2-WEB(multi)

The Pros

I have not leaked at all while wearing the DivaCup, not once, not for the entire 11 or so hours I wore it during heavy flow. The first time I tried the DivaCup I wore it on the heaviest day of my menstrual flow and I was really worried about it, but I did not have any leaks. That to me is worth the entire product. Toward the end of the day, I will say I felt the DivaCup slide down slightly, but it did not leak or spill and I adjusted it upon emptying it. Most people empty it 2-3 times a day, but you may need to empty your DivaCup more often depending on your flow. The great thing about is it is much easier to monitor your menstruation cycle. I don’t have to worry about carrying a bag of pads with me anymore, the DivaCup comes with a discreet cloth bag that I store it in after cleaning and generally I carry it in my cosmetic bags in case of emergency or a sudden start. It’s always available and I’m no longer running to the store at midnight or on my lunch break, praying I make it there and back in time. I save money using the DivaCup (an average of $100-$150 a year) and I am healthier. The last thing I need is a possible health complication, for example, from the ingredients found in tampons.

Pink_DivaCup-Logo_No-Star-Final-Aug-2014

The DivaCup has given me back a piece of my self-esteem and self-confidence when it comes to my menstrual cycle. I no longer worry about leaks, stains, unsanitary messes and where will be the next time I need to change my feminine product because the DivaCup holds my entire flow in a day. My periods have become more manageable because they are not managing me for once! I feel like a new woman using the DivaCup.    

The Cons

Wearing a cup is different from wearing a pad or a tampon and it took me a few tries to be able to insert it correctly (although, with practice, it is not too much different from a tampon and I struggled with that at first too). I suggest either wearing a pad with it at first to ensure you have it inserted correctly or wear it in a place (like home) where you know you can handle it right away if you feel a leak. For me, it is very easy to tell if I have the DivaCup placed incorrectly because, much like a tampon, I can feel it. Most of the incorrect positioning comes from pushing it up into the vaginal canal, instead of back, towards the tailbone. You can find great instructions on how to insert it here and the Diva Team is more than happy to help with questions, should you have any. At $50-$55 for the cup and the wash (or about $40 for the cup), it can be expensive to get started, but remember, you are saving money in the long run. Most ladies I have spoken to are most worried about emptying the cup, but when you remove it by pulling is straight down, the contents do not spill out and are easily disposed of in the toilet (then wash the DivaCup in the sink with the DivaWash or mild, unscented soap). The inconvenient part is it is not practical to empty it in a public restroom so I make sure I do that somewhere where I feel comfortable, like my house. To me, it is more sanitary than removing a pad (where the contents are already outside of your body) or a tampon (where there is no container at all). I actually feel cleaner using the DivaCup.

Just For You

Connect with The DivaCup on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and through their website for great ideas, tips, information, and chances to win a DivaCup.

You can order your own DivaCup through my Amazon Influencer Shop.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

Learning to Live on Blood Thinners (a.k.a. That Time I Fell off a Cliff)

cliff cover

My life came to what felt like a grinding halt after my PE in early June 2012. I went from running half marathons, working out, eating right, hanging out with friends and spending time outside to what felt like nothing. I didn’t run for nearly a year, ate whatever was quick and easy (and usually not healthy), withdrew except for a close friends and family and stayed inside as much as possible. Not only that, my thoughts, emotions, reactions and even my personality changed. I became afraid to do everything and didn’t take any more physical risks if it could be avoided. Having withdrawn from people and activities I previously loved, I also became depressed, unsure of myself and fearful. Everything was different from my thoughts, to my body to what I needed to do to take care of myself. I felt like I was serving a life sentence after being diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome placed on blood thinners indefinitely. Not only that, didn’t particularly like learning to live on blood thinners so I gave up on life for the past year.

I knew I should expect a long recovery, my doctor told me a week after my discharge to expect to be in intense recovery for one or two years at the least, but what I did not expect was the toll it would take on my physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Running was the one thing I could do to feel good about myself, take care of myself and still feel connected to my mother who passed only two years ago – and I couldn’t even do that anymore. I asked “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” without any discernible answers. I attempted walking and running several times over the last year, but I always stopped when it hurt or when I was gasping for air. I handled pain differently – as in, not at all – and I used to thrive on pushing my body to and even past limits I thought I never would.

After 363 days of recovery, I ran again and felt good about it. I was feeling normal again and physical fitness, including pushing myself past my comfort zone became part of my life. I trained for and ran my second first 5K, which was more difficult than I ever imagined. Still, I did it and while running will never be the same for me (I’m struggling to run since that 5K), my body, mind and soul still longed to be challenged in new and different ways. While I remained cognoscente of the fact that I was on blood thinners, including reporting for my weekly INR checks without fail, I gradually stopped living in the past in terms of my illness and started to take on new challenges again.

When my husband, an avid woodsman, invited me to go backpacking last weekend I jumped at the chance without hesitation because I had never been before. The hesitation came after I made the commitment when I briefly pondered what precautions I needed to take since taking blood thinners. I packed my pills, alerted friends and family as to where I would be and donned my compression stockings. I was ready – and it was a big step for me to take on a new physical challenge since my PE. I was scared, yes, but also excited.

There is something undeniably liberating about placing your belongings on your back, lacing up your boots and walking into the woods. You have to rely on your own instincts, your own abilities – and not to mention your own strength, of which I am lacking at this time. About a quarter mile into the four or more mile hike, I was struggling with the weight of my pack (about 30 pounds) and the rough terrain of the Zaleski State Forest in Southern Ohio.

Zaleski sign

The countryside is riddled with hills and ravines and while not mountainous, the trails harbor steep inclines. In many places, the trails border the cliff face with a path only about a foot wide and are littered with roots, sticks and loose rocks. One wrong step and you could be dangling over the edge of a cliff or sheer rock face. I quickly discovered that I had lost my sense of balance over the past year and had to work had at simply walking and staying on the trail. It was a challenge and sure enough, I fell flat on my back after about a mile on a slab of previously unnoticed wet rock. It hurt. My husband and I checked over myself completely before moving on for signs of bleeding or injury. There were none and my husband asked numerous times if I wanted to turn around after the fall, but I was out to prove a point and we continued on – and on.

I was feeling confident. I had fallen on the trail, picked myself up, checked for injury and moved on when there was none – all while on blood thinners. I exhaled a little longer as I mentally told myself I had overcome the worse – injury on the trail and I was okay! Why had I lived my last year afraid to do anything?

It was then that the trail took a long detour out of the ordinary way and we came to the cliff. I had been on my feet for several hours at this point and was tired. A detour was not something I had counted on – either had my husband – but I figured it was all a part of backpacking in the wild, unpredictable and quite often unforgiving, great outdoors.

My husband asked me if I was comfortable going down the hill. It was steep at about a 60 percent incline and the soil beneath my footing was loose. I nodded I was, too tired to think about it too much, and started down the hill after my husband. My original plan was to shimmy between the few trees that were there, but after slipping almost immediately, I sat down and slid downward. The hill was steep enough that even sitting down, I was moving forward without meaning to. I made it to the first tree and stood up to catch my breath. Braced against the tree, I noticed we were actually on a cliff shelf, as I call it, with one smaller shelf below us and a cliff edge just beyond that. I put it out of my mind and prepared to sit down to slide to the next tree. I was tired, hungry, frustrated and sore. All I wanted to do was make camp before nightfall.

I don’t know what happened next. All I know is in one instant I was standing against that tree and the next; I was tumbling head over heels down the shelf, barreling towards the cliff edge. I briefly remember seeing my husband turn around to say something and I remember my ankle twisting behind me in a way I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to. I remember feeling 30 extra pounds pushing me faster and I remember trying to determine which way was up. Once I did, somehow, I dug my fingers into the soil and tried to do the same with my feet. Too much pain in my right ankle. I felt my wrists being bent backwards and then, I felt myself start to slow down. Just as abruptly as it started, it stopped. I was on the second cliff shelf and my pole went over the edge. I didn’t see where it landed – but it was out of sight. The woods were deathly quiet.

The first sound I heard was my husband making his way to me, asking me if I was okay. I don’t remember if I answered. I remember I was lying on my side/stomach, fingers still in the dirt and my right ankle sprawled awkwardly in front of me. I tasted dirt in my mouth and spit out sticks. It suddenly occurred to me to check my teeth to see if they were all there, and they were. I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. I remember staring at my ankle, not sure of what I would find under my pants. It seemed like several moments passed before I felt it – pain surging from my ankle to my leg and back down.

“Can you walk?” my husband said the moment he got to me, a look of panic flashed over his face, and I know he tried to hide it. I didn’t answer. I didn’t know. And we were a long way from any form of assistance.

Are you bleeding? I thought to myself as my husband started touching me all over, lifting my clothes and looking under my hat. He asked me to move my ankle and I did with a slight grimace.

“I don’t see any blood,” he said.

“Okay,” was the first thing I said, “Just let me sit here for a while.”

He helped me up and I gingerly put my right foot down. It held my weight, even though it hurt and I knew it wasn’t broken.

“We have to get you down,” he said, which was when I realized I didn’t even fall all the way down the hill. You have got to me kidding me. I nodded my head took a deep breath and prepared to slide down the rest of the way when the extreme terror overtook my body. I stared shaking from head to toe and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I was done. I looked around me wildly – I couldn’t go up, I couldn’t go down and no one could do anything to help me, but me!

Somehow, I made it to the bottom of the hill without further incident and eventually, we made it to camp, although my ankle slowed us down even more. We set up camp just before nightfall and after eating, I immediately laid in my hammock where I could elevate my ankle.

Our Camp

I fell asleep almost instantly, but awoke in the middle of the night with vivid dreams of extreme swelling, recurrent clots and helicopter extractions from the middle of nowhere. My ankle was throbbing which made it even harder to fall back asleep and I tried to have faith in my compression socks. I fell back into a restless sleep and awoke with the sun.

Completely dedicated to hiking back out.

I did walk back out, but we took the access roads to avoid further incident on the trails. What should have taken a couple of hours actually took half a day.

 Me and Michael at the end of the trip

I’ve struggled with what to write about all of this – besides I am extremely lucky to have very minor injuries and the ability to walk anywhere, let alone out of the woods. My purpose in writing this is two-fold, I think. First, don’t let blood thinners stop you from living the life you want to live. It’s scary, it’s rough and you might get hurt – but you might also get to do something you never thought you could before and make a beautiful memory along the way.

And second, if you are recovering from a blood clot be careful while learning to live on blood thinners. While I have a wonderful (and all too exciting) memory from this weekend, I also need to keep in mind that I do have extenuating circumstances that other people, may not and that puts me in a different situation. I do need to be careful, pay attention and take care of myself above all else. In hindsight, going down the hill was not the smartest decision I made that day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, but next time – especially if there is a cliff involved – I need to take some extra precautions.

Learning to live on blood thinners is about balance and we all need to find the balance that works for us. I would say to you – don’t be afraid to live your life, have new adventures, try something different and make the most of the precious gift we have been given; but also respect what your body, mind, heart and soul have been through. Sometimes, that might mean slowing it down a little bit or taking a different path than the one you want to take –literally or figuratively! Be kind to yourself, respect what happened to you and your recovery, but don’t let it rule your life.

Share your story. How are you learning to live on blood thinners? Have you been afraid to do something because of your diagnosis or did you do something you never thought you would in spite of it? Have you been seriously injured since your clot(s) and what did you do? Have you ever fallen off a cliff? Would taking blood thinners stop you from doing what you want to do? Why or why not?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate (“I can’t do that, can I?”)

The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate

For those of us on injections, warfarin or other blood thinning medications, whether or not to engage in physical activity, at what time and for how long remains a constant source of personal and, as I have noticed, even medical debate. What forums, articles and websites exist are full of questions about can I do this or that, when can I do it  and for how long can I do it, and they accumulate into what I like to call The Great Blood Thinner Activity Debate (“I can’t do that, can I?”)

I remember quite vividly sitting in my doctor’s office one week after I was discharged from the hospital for my first follow-up appointment when I asked him, “Can I run again?” He assured me I could and would in fact if I so desired. “Can I run again now?” I questioned. He actually said I could run anytime I wanted, but my body would most definitely let me know when I was ready and when enough was enough. I set out that weekend to walk to the mailbox and back (thinking I would leave my oxygen tank inside for about 10 minutes) and I made it about six steps before my body said, “Enough is enough.” I retreated to the air conditioned living room, oxygen and a seat on the couch. I hated being inside, but I wasn’t ready to be outside in the dog days of summer, let alone on my feet for more than a minute or two. Emotionally, it was a setback I wasn’t at that time prepared to deal with; physically it was exactly what my body needed.

As the weeks and months went by, my doctor and I made several attempts to transition from injection thinners to warfarin, but the attempts failed and I remained on injections for about nine months since my diagnosis. It was only recently that I made the transition to warfarin and was able maintain healthy INR levels. It has taken me even longer – about 12 months – to get back to running with any degree of regularity and there are still days when I wonder, “What the heck am I doing?”

Once you are required to take blood thinners, especially if it is a lifelong prescription, you start to view life and the activities of it differently. A side effect of warfarin, combined with increased INR levels, is the potential for internal bleeding that can be dangerous, and even life threatening. The fact is, blood thinners do save lives because they treat or prevent serious blood clots; but they also pose one potentially serious side effect, which is bleeding because they slow the clotting of blood.

I don’t believe you have to stop living your life the way you want to when taking blood thinners. I believe we can still participate in the same activities we did before – or even new and better ones – we just have to be cautious of the potential side effects. It doesn’t mean we have to stop living, after all, many of us feel like we were given a second – third or fourth – chance, why not spend it how we want? You can still run, bike, hike, ride roller coasters, swim, travel, ride horses and learn archery along with a myriad of other activities. While a certain level of caution is necessary, especially if we hit our heads or see unusual bruising, there is nothing on the prescription bottle that says, “People taking this blood thinner should not___________.” I personally was never given a restriction on any activity, just to listen to my body – I would know what I could do, when I could do it and for how long. So far, that has been true.

Most of the time, bleeding caused by blood thinners is not serious or life threatening, although it is worrisome and inconvenient. Some examples of non-life-threatening bleeding are nosebleeds; a small cut while shaving with a razor; or minor cuts or skin tears. All of these types of bleeding may bleed longer than normal, but are not necessarily cause to panic and seek medical attention because they are superficial and can usually be controlled with added pressure apply to the wound for a longer amount of time. It takes me about 20 minutes to stop a nosebleed, which sometimes happen with the slightest wrinkle to my nose. Several products also exist to aid with clotting such as bandages, gels and powders like QuickClot, which aid in blood clotting, but do not disrupt the blood’s natural clotting abilities.

People taking blood thinners do not need to stop the activities they once enjoyed, especially after we are feeling well enough to participate in them again. They just need to take some extra precautions to maintain safety and peace of mind. For example, we do need to be cautious about things like high risk sports that may result in a head injury, but we do not need to stop them. We need to take extra precautions to increase our safety like wearing proper head gear when biking; gloves when gardening or working with tools and taking care with a few extra minutes when trimming hair and nails. Many people taking blood thinners also wear a medical alert bracelet to let others know they are on certain medications – like first responders in an accident – which can really add to peace of mind. You can find a myriad of medical alert bracelets on the internet and even find ones specific to sports and physical activity through RoadID. It could really save your life in an emergency or accident, especially if you are not able to speak for yourself.

No matter what activity we participate in, accidents do and will occur and sometimes these can produce superficial bleeding like from a cut or nosebleed and sometimes it could be serious, like if in a car accident or fall down the stairs. Just because we are taking blood thinners does not mean we need to stop or stop considering participating in activities that are viewed as dangerous. We can still participate in them, or even learn them for the first time, with a few extra safety precautions and common sense awareness. If you see unusual bruising or sustain a serious head or abdomen injury, you should contact medical professionals. There is no reason to stop living – even the life we’ve always imagined – when taking medications that undoubtedly save our lives. After all, it’s why we’re still here.

Share your story. Does taking blood thinners impact your decisions about normal day-to-day activity? What about extreme activities or sports? Have you given something up because you are worried about life-threatening bleeding? Did you start an activity you had always dreamed of participating in because of taking blood thinners?

 

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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