When should I call my doctor?

After my blood clot, I felt like I could no longer trust my body anymore. After all, I was taking care of it – exercising, eating well and losing some extra weight – when a blood clot from my leg went to my lung and almost ended my life at just 29 years old. I was healthier than I had been in a couple of years, I was happy, and I had no other out-of-control health problems. The very last thing I expected was a blood clot, in fact, I didn’t expect one at all. If I couldn’t trust my body when it was healthy, how could I possibly trust it when I was sick, on blood thinners, and recovering from a mind-blowing event that nearly killed me? I couldn’t. That was almost as scary as surviving something that kills one in three people that it effects. Not only could I not trust my body, I also wondered if I could trust my head: How would I know if I should call my doctor during my long and difficult recovery?

In the initial days after my discharge from the hospital, I was at my hematologist’s office once or twice a week to have my INR checked. I had an appointment with my doctor every month to discuss my treatment and my recovery, and I had a lot of appointments with a variety of other specialists to fill the rest of my very miserable time with. I am very fortunate that my hematologist – and my main point of contact for my care – is very understanding and supportive and assured me early on that no question was dumb, no phone call was a waste of anyone’s time, and he absolutely expected to hear from me a lot as I went through the stages of healing. So, I figured, what did I have to lose? I called him a lot – for everything in the beginning. If I had any pain, unusual feeling, or question, I just called him. I treated it as a non-negotiable part of my treatment plan: Take your medication, go to your appointments, and call your doctor.

He always answered me in some way. Sometimes, his answer was, “That’s normal, you can expect that,” or it was “Why don’t you make an appointment to come see me?” or, one time it was, “You need to go to the emergency room right now.” That time I thought I had another PE, and thankfully, I didn’t. I did have pleurisy, or inflammation of the lining of my lung, which was nearly as painful and required admission to be treated.

As time went on, I started to learn how my doctor would answer me, and I started to learn how my body felt after a blood clot. I started to learn what was “normal” for me, what was unusual for me, and what was downright frightening for me, or sent me into panic mode. Eventually, I noticed I was calling my doctor a little less than once or twice a week, as I learned to manage my health with my own knowledge and experiences. I went from calling my doctor a couple of times a week, to calling him a couple of times a year. I now know when I need to seek help right away, make an appointment, or when I can handle a situation at home, by myself.

One of the questions I hear frequently is, “How do I know when I should call my doctor?” The answer is simple: If you have to ask, call your doctor. That being said, calling a doctor is not easy for everyone – and not everyone has a supportive doctor. If that’s how you feel, there are some things you can do to help you decide if you should call your doctor.

Listen to your body.

You may not trust your body – or you might be really angry with it after everything you have been through – but trust me, your body is smart. Listen to it. Your body is very good at letting you know, most of the time, when something is wrong. If you feel pain or have symptoms that are unusual for you, your body might be trying to tell you that something is wrong.

Work with your doctor, or healthcare professional.

Your doctor is your best resource for understanding your symptoms and what they may mean. Your doctor works for you – and you should not worry about bothering him or her. If you don’t have a doctor who you feel is a partner in your care, take steps to find a doctor who is. You, and you alone, are in charge of your body and your recovery. Talk to your doctor about a plan to manage your health. Can you call him or her? Can you send an email? Should you proceed right to the emergency room for certain things? What symptoms should you watch out for? What symptoms might be normal for you? Work with your doctor to develop a plan of action – no matter how simple – for handling your health questions. My plan was as simple as this: Call my hematologist with any questions I have.

Trust your past experiences.

This ties together listening to your body and working with your healthcare provider. Once you do these things, you will start to learn what is and what is not normal for you during your recovery. For example, let’s say you have a pain in your leg that feels exactly like your DVT, so you call your doctor, and he or she advices you to seek medical attention right away. You automatically know what to do if and when it happens again. If you have pain in your leg that hurts a lot, but goes away with rest and elevation – when your DVT pain did not – you start to learn what that pain means for your body. Maybe it means you walked too much, or worked out too hard at the gym. Simple thoughts like, “This pain is different,” or “I have never hurt this bad before,” are clues that something could be very wrong, and you should call your doctor for guidance. Thoughts like, “This feels familiar, I need to take it easy this afternoon,” or “I have felt this tired when I don’t get enough rest at night” might be clues that a particular feeling is normal for you. If you can’t remember, or if it seems overwhelming to understand your experiences, keep a journal or log book with simple entries about what you feel, when you feel it, for how long, and what the resolution is.

Some Important Things to Watch Out For  

There are some signs and symptoms that you should be aware of – especially once you have had a blood clot – and you should always call your doctor if you question how you are feeling.

A blood clot in the leg or arm (or other parts of the body) is called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, and is dangerous because it can break apart and travel through the blood stream, leading to life-threatening problems, like a blood clot in the lung. If you experience signs or symptoms of a DVT, call your doctor or seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Signs and symptoms of a blood clot in the leg or arm (deep vein thrombosis or DVT):
  • Swelling in the affected leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot, or swelling in your arm
  • Pain in your leg, ankle, foot, or arm. The pain in your leg can feel like severe cramping, or a charley horse, and often won’t go away with your regular methods of pain relief
  • Warmth and/or tenderness over the affected area
  • Changes in your skin’s natural color (red, blue, white, or purple)

A blood clot that breaks off from the leg or arm and travels to through the bloodstream to the lung is called pulmonary embolism, or PE. A PE is life-threatening because it can block blood flow and oxygen to the lung(s). If you experience signs or symptoms of a PE, go to the emergency room, or call 911, immediately.

Signs and symptoms of a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism or PE):
  • Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath, cough, or even lie down
  • Feeling lightheadedness or dizzy
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Coughing, or coughing up blood
  • A sense of anxiety, nervousness or impending doom

If you are taking blood thinners, you might also worry about unwanted or dangerous bleeding. If you have any questions about bleeding, you should call your doctor right away.

Signs and symptoms of dangerous or internal bleeding can vary greatly depending on where in the body bleeding may occur. If you experience these symptoms – or any other symptoms that cause you concern – call 911 or seek medical attention right away.

Signs and symptoms of bleeding
  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or fainting (can result from any source of internal bleeding once enough blood is lost)
  • A large area of deeply purple skin, or bruising, especially around the chest or abdomen areas
  • Swelling, tightness, and pain in the leg or arm after an injury
  • Headache and/or loss of consciousness
  • Blood in urine or stool (black or tarry stool)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nosebleeds, cuts, scrapes, etc. that do not stop bleeding after applying direct pressure for 10-15 minutes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Unexplained bleeding from another body cavity, including ears, nose, mouth, or anus
  • More symptoms of internal bleeding
Even though it can be difficult to learn about your body after a blood clot, there are some things that you should never ignore. In the event of a head injury – such as a bump, bruise, cut, etc. – always consult with your doctor as soon as possible for further instruction, or seek immediate medical attention. If you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or the worst headache of your life, always seek immediate medical attention because these might be symptoms of something serious. 

Managing your health after a blood clot is not easy, and there are many things to think about, consider and worry about. In time – as you learn from your experiences and your healthcare provider – it does get easier and eventually, I hope you will find that you know your body very well. While it may take some time to get there, you too can manage your health after a blood clot. In the meantime, if you wonder, always make the call. Your health – and perhaps ultimately your life – are always worth making the call.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 


Reader Writes In: How do you decide when to call your doctor? Is your doctor a partner in your care? Why or why not? How do you manage your health after a blood clot?


There are three symptoms you should never ignore. Find out what they are.


Are you worried that you might have a blood clot? Here is how to talk to your doctor.


Connect with BCRN on Facebook and in our private Group.

Be Prepared for an Unexpected Health Crisis

Four years ago, I didn’t know the pain in my leg and in my chest, along with shortness of breath, were symptoms of life-threatening blood clots. I was incredibly lucky to get help for what I was feeling in time, and perhaps just hours before it was too late. This is especially true when you consider the fact that some people never experience symptoms of blood clots. They just don’t survive a blood clot in their lung, or pulmonary embolism. To say I survived what is an often silent, or invisible, killer is something that I think about quite often. Since my blood clot diagnosis and recovery, I have heard from countless people who have lost a friend of family member to a blood clot because they didn’t know they had one, they had no symptoms or they didn’t get medical care in time. It can feel impossible to be prepared for this type of unexpected health crisis.

To say I survived a silent killer is a large part of why I do the work that I do today. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help educate other people about not only the signs and symptoms of deadly blood clots, but also about their risk for one in the first place. I believe that knowledge is one of our best defenses against blood clots and knowing can help to save lives. Now that I know I am at risk for blood clots – and I know what they feel like – I will never delay seeking treatment for as long as I did. Two days of wondering what was going on nearly cost my life.

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is another often-ignored silent killer. It is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision or loss of consciousness. CO poisoning is especially dangerous if you are sleeping or intoxicated, and is a medical emergency because symptoms can be subtle, but can also be deadly.

Those symptoms bring back some unhappy memories of what I experienced with my pulmonary embolism minus the severe pain. It was my hope to never feel anything that caused me great concern again. Yet, there I was on Saturday night, winding down and watching TV after dinner, when out of nowhere, I got a headache, felt dizzy, and felt nauseated. I shook my head around, trying to clear my eyes. The TV screen was blurry, and I suddenly felt out of place, or unsure of what was going on. Generally, my first thought would be “something is wrong with my INR,” but instead I thought, “It might be carbon monoxide poisoning.” I don’t know why I thought this. All I know is that I Googled the symptoms of CO poisoning (I know, never, ever do that) and the rest is history as we know it: I had carbon monoxide poisoning.

As it turns out, even more people experience CO poisoning that I realized. Per the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Carbon Monoxide Info Center, more than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that an average of 430 people die in the U.S. a year due to CO poisoning and countless more are hospitalized due to symptoms. CO poisoning is often associated with consumer products, such as generators. Other products that can omit deadly CO include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces.

So, while I’m not exactly sure just how many people do die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, I was exactly sure that I was going to be one of them. There was nothing that anyone could have said or done to convince me that I was not experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. While I wasn’t running a generator, and I did not have a faulty or improperly installed stove, refrigerator, water heater, furnace or fireplace, I was certain I had missed something, somewhere, and one of these things was omitting odorless, tasteless, deadly gas directly into my bedroom. I was certain that when I went to sleep on Saturday night, I would not wake up on Sunday morning. The only thing the Internet could not tell me was if I had CO in my house.

When my husband came in from outside, shaking the snow off his boots, and proclaimed, “I feel funny in here, but fine outside,” that sealed my fate.

“I think we’re suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning,” I said. He promptly turned around and started lacing up his boots again.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He responded, “I know where this is going, you don’t have to tell me. We’re going to the store to buy a detector.”

Sure enough, at half past midnight on Sunday morning we were on our way to the closest store to find a carbon monoxide detector, but not just any carbon monoxide detector would do. We visited a total of three stores (thank goodness for 24-hour stores) before we found one that plugs in (and will therefore move when I am worried about another room in the house or work when the power goes out). Over an hour and over $40 later, I was back at home, eagerly reading the instructions to set it up. Much to my complete panic, it beeped wildly as soon as the back-up battery was installed, but soon settled on a “0” CO reading, and my sense of peace was restored. I must have been tired or dehydrated – or maybe I ate too much at dinner, much too late – and that’s why I didn’t feel good.

“So, we’re not dying of CO poisoning,” I said to my husband, thoroughly relieved. He replied, “I never thought we were,” equally relieved to be getting ready for bed. I proceeded to thank him profusely for trekking miles from home with me on a cold Saturday night just so I could have peace of mind. Okay, we didn’t trek – and I drove – but I am still grateful for his support in situations just like this.

I nestled into bed, a smile on my face, when one last thought crossed my mind: You’re crazy. I sat up like a lightning bolt, once again unable to relax. A thousand different thoughts entered my mind after that ranging from, “you don’t have every disease, ever” to “you might, you never know” to “you can’t tell anyone about this” to “that was probably a waste of $40” to “what if that $40 saves your life someday” to “you should probably have a CO detector in every room now” to “when was the last time you checked the smoke alarm.”

I only spoke one of them, “Do you think I’m crazy?” My husband answered from the darkness, “No, at least you know we aren’t dying of CO poisoning.” I waited for the “but,” the “and,” the “next time,” but nothing came.

Then he said, “Do you think you’re crazy?”

I didn’t answer him that night, but I laid awake for a while thinking about it before I came to one conclusion: No, I’m not crazy. But surviving something that can kill you – maybe even silently, with no warning – sure does change your perspective on things. I worry about more health-related things, I wonder if I have a health condition that isn’t easy to detect, I wonder if I am sick with something horrible I don’t know about, and yes, I sometimes think the tiniest inconsistency might mean something horrible is wrong with me. It can be maddening if I let it control me.

What I have also come to realize is that all I can do is be prepared, and if that means spending money to buy a detector so I don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning, then that is what it means. While having a CO detector might be pointless to someone else, it is invaluable to me to have peace of mind about one health condition I can’t otherwise control. Not unlike blood clots, I know my risk for CO poisoning, I know the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning, and I know how to protect myself and my family from it. This happens to be a health concern that was handled outside of a doctor’s office – my symptoms had subsided by the time we returned from the store – but even if it wasn’t: be prepared.

While the unexpected – and the unknown is scary – I think it is possible to be prepared for an unexpected health crisis. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, get your annual wellness and physical exams and tests, pay attention to what your body might be telling you, and take care of yourself to the best of your ability. If you do get sick or injured, have resources on hand to help you, know where to go to get the information you need. Know how your insurance works, how to get care if you don’t have any insurance, find a primary care physician you can rely on to help you get to the specialists you need to see, as soon as you need to see them. Whether you install a CO detector, quit smoking, start exercising, eat healthier, or wear a helmet riding a bike, be prepared to take care of the one and only you.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

 

 

 

 


Reader Writes In: Do you worry about health-related things more since your blood clot? How do you handle your anxiety?


What does recovery from a pulmonary embolism feel like? Get more info to share in this post.


Do you suffer from panic attacks? You’re not alone. Here are my tips for how to handle a panic attack after PE.

How I Eat After a Blood Clot

How I eat after a blood clot

Before I was a VTE blogger, I was a health and fitness blogger. Before I started writing about my blood journey, I wrote about my weight-loss journey. Before I was diagnosed with a DVT and PE, I was diagnosed with insulin resistance as a pre-cursor to diabetes, which motivated me to make changes in my life related to nutrition and fitness. I started running half marathons and eating better – and I eventually reversed the damage being done to my body and came off insulin-sensitivity drugs. In the process, I became enamored with nutrition, fitness and running and continued training – and writing about it – up until that weekend in June of 2012 when un-relenting calf pain turned into a blood clot in my lung and I was out of the fitness game for the next three years.

During my recovery, I gained back all of the forty pounds I had previously worked so hard to lose – and then some. I stopped focusing on making good choices when I ate food and while I didn’t go overboard, my body reached its highest weight ever and I plateaued there. There was nothing I could do – or wanted to do – to change it at the time. My singular focus was on recovery from my blood clot including managing my pain, decreased lung function, leg swelling, a fluctuating INR, multiple doctor visits, physical setbacks, emotional trauma and the numerous lifestyle changes that come with all of the above. Still, in the back of my mind, I knew I had to get the weight off. Once physically recovered from my blood clot, I still felt horrible, lethargic, fatigued and out of control because of my weight. My self-esteem took yet another beating when I already didn’t have much self-esteem left. Eating – and the choices I was making about food – were wrecking havoc on my emotional health.

It’s hard to eat consciously on a regular day, let alone when you are managing an ongoing illness. Now, some of the most common questions I receive at BCRN are, “How do I eat healthy on a blood thinner and how do I lose weight after a blood clot?” While I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist, I am sharing what as worked for me and some tips that I believe can help benefit anyone who is trying to lose weight or make better choices when it comes to food. Studies tend to show that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise – and just because you are taking an anticoagulant does not mean you can’t eat for weight loss and/or optimal health. As a rule, it is important to discuss any dietary changes you want to make with your physician before you make those changes. I talked to three of my doctors – hematologist, endocrinologist and GP – before I made these changes.

Overview: Establish or find a nutrition plan.

Worst first, right? When talking about nutrition for weight loss, it is important to find a diet plan that works for you (here is the only place you will see me use the word “diet” in this context. I refer to the way I eat as a lifestyle, not a diet because it is how I prefer to eat and it is what makes me feel good). The internet, books, magazines, etc. are filled with an overwhelming amount of information about how to eat, when to eat, what to eat and what’s the right way to do things. The thing is, though, finding a plan is just as individual as the blood clot treatment plan you are on. There is no right way because each of us is different.

I have spent many years researching ways to eat and tried a multitude of the plans that are out there – Weight Watchers, Paleo, Whole 30, Low-fat, Autoimmune Protocols, Gluten-Free, Blood Type Diet, Low Calorie, High Calorie – all of them have their pros and their cons. Finding one that works is entirely up to you.

I have chosen to incorporate pieces and parts of these plans to make my own plan, with the guidance of my doctor. The basics of my plan include:

  • 1,500 calories a day (or about 500 calories a meal) – drastically cutting calories does not work for anyone.
  • A focus on eating macronutrients each day with a goal of not more than half of my daily intake of nutrients being carbohydrates, about 30 percent of my daily intake of nutrients being fat and about 30 percent of my daily intake of nutrients being protein.
  • I do not eat (or I limit) white grains (rice, pasta, bread), potatoes (all kinds), sugar (and alcohol), dairy (cheese, sour cream, milk, creams, etc.), soy, whey, protein powders.
  • I eat chicken, beef and fish (although I do limit my intake to a few times a week as a personal choice), beans, eggs, nut butters, vegetables (the list is large: peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, squash, asparagus, etc.), sweet potatoes, whole grains (limited to once a day and is either whole grain rice or bread), fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes), olive oil, coconut oil, butter (not margarine) and on occasion bacon fat or lard. I cook with almost every spice except rosemary and fennel.
  • I eat three meals a day and an afternoon snack, usually. I eat breakfast every single day (not an easy accomplishment) within one hour of waking up. A typical day for me is brown rice, spinach, and an egg fried in butter for breakfast; more spinach and beans or roast beef on a whole grain tortilla and spinach with mustard for lunch; chicken/steak and vegetables or a sweet potato with almond butter and vegetables for dinner. Snacks might be an apple with almond butter or Greek yogurt.
  • I do allow myself to have treats. I eat out about once a week with no restrictions, have a pinch of sugar and sometimes cream in my tea each morning and consume wine every now and then.
Fill up on good things – what works for you.

Finding out what makes you feel good – and is healthy –  is important. Once you do, eat those things in excess, even in spite of calories goals. I eat spinach every day because it makes me feel healthy, strong, energized and full. Eating protein makes me feel full. Eating nut butters, fruit and on occasion chocolate makes me feel happy. If I am hungry at the end of the day, I eat a sweet potato, popcorn or a even a piece of chicken, even if I am going over on my 1,500 calorie goal.

Cut out the bad things – what doesn’t work for you.

In the beginning, I read It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, which gave me a lot of insight into how poor nutrition might be affecting our overall health, including inflammation in the body. I did the Whole 30 Challenge where I eliminated grains, dairy, sugar and alcohol according to the plan for 30 days. At the end of the thirty days, I started adding things back into my diet that I previously loved to eat and was certain I couldn’t continue living without. Certain things made me feel horrible – and still do to this day. I avoid milk and white grains (rice, pasta and bread). On the other hand, I do love white rice – especially from Chinese take-out with a lot of hot sauce. I eat it once in awhile, but I am prepared to face massive joint swelling and pain the next day so my once in awhile is really only that – once in awhile.

I rarely eat anything that is not whole – meaning I eliminate processed foods or things that come out of a box, a bag, a container, etc.

Consistency is key.

When talking about nutrition – especially if you are taking medications that can be affected by food, like warfarin – it is important to talk about consistency. Consistency is more important than elimination, especially when discussing the foods that are healthy for you. I eat about the same amount of spinach everyday. I eat about the same amount of protein in a day. I eat about the same amount of carbs in a day. I eat about the same amount of calories in a day.

I also consistently cook at home, make two or three meals out of one (before it even goes on my plate I divide it up) and shop the perimeter of the grocery store (that’s where you find whole foods like vegetables, fruits, eggs and meat).

Write it down, somewhere, somehow.

In writing down what I eat everyday (as a means to keep track of calories), I realized two things: We as human beings consume entirely way too many calories without realizing it and we eat generally the same things each day without realizing it. Write down what you eat. I think you might find consistency is more present than you realize and you eat more than you realize. I use MyFitnessPal mobile app (or checkout the desktop version) to keep track of my calories and macronutrients. It’s free to download for iOS and Android. You can also use a paper or electronic journal.

Drink water.

I exclusively drink water – and black tea in the morning with sugar and sometimes cream. If you feel thirsty, you need to drink more water. I don’t really pay attention to cups or ounces, but I do drink to not be thirsty. If I go out, I order water. I don’t drink soda, juice or coffee very often, if at all. If I want flavor in my water, which I rarely do, I put my own sliced lemon or lime in it.

Treat yourself.

You cannot eat according to plan 100 percent of the time. It’s not healthy, either. What I refer to as treat (not cheat) meals are important to your mental attitude. I do this about once – maybe even twice – a week. I do not take a treat day, but I take a treat meal where I eat what I want (usually from a restaurant) and do not worry about calories, nutrients or goals. I may or may not write my treat meal down. I eat what tastes good and looks good to me (insert Chipotle here). Over time, I have found my desire to do this is less and less and I tend to have treats that are not really meals – a chocolate bar, a glass or two of wine, or French fries with my salad at dinner.

Don’t do weight loss alone.

Apps like MyFitnessPal have a community component where you can “Like” and “Comment,” just like Facebook. Find a group, an app, an online forum, a book, etc. – anything to make connections with other people who are on the same journey as you. Not only is it motivating, it also helps hold you accountable to your own goals.

Tips for eating well 3

To sum it up, this is what works for me – and might not work for you too. This is what I discussed with my doctor – your doctor might make different recommendations. All of that is okay.

Weight loss takes time, dedication and hard work. Changes can be slow – they should be slow, as should weight loss. With small changes, comes lasting progress. I take one day at a time. My today is not my yesterday or my tomorrow. By eating to feel good and fueling my body well, I have noticed I feel much better – and while I am losing weight slowly, the emotional benefits far outweigh the physical ones. I feel more confident, happy and secure in my decisions to take care of myself. For me, self-care extends far beyond my initial recovery to caring for my body and my mind from this point forward.

Reader Writes In: Are you trying to lose weight or eat healthy after a blood clot? What works for you? What is your favorite treat?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

 

 

BCRN Awareness Matters
More information to share:

The Invisible DVT Symptoms: My Story by Sam DeBrule

sam debrule

None of the doctors or ultrasound technicians saw my DVT symptoms coming.

I was the only one who felt the pain.

I was a 15 year old football player in peak physical condition. The typical blood clot symptoms just weren’t there. My leg wasn’t swollen. It didn’t turn red, or even feel hot to the touch.

As I went undiagnosed for 6 weeks, my legs took a beating on the football field. The doctors would eventually find what my family had told them was there all along: a chronic deep vein thrombosis that stretched from my ankle to my hip.

My diagnosis came just in time. I’m sharing my story so you never find yourself, or anyone you love, in the same position I found myself. You must advocate for yourself, or risk doctors being blind to your DVT symptoms.

Refuse to take no for an answer

It took 4 trips to the emergency room before I was properly treated for my blood clot.

My clot started with a small muscle pull in my right calf. The pain initially felt no worse than a typical running injury, but quickly morphed into an intense aching pain that I hope to never experience again.

I have a history of blood clots in my family. My father had 2 DVTs and a pulmonary embolism before his 40th birthday. As soon as I told my mother that I was experiencing pain in my calf she took me to a medical imaging office to be scanned for a blood clot. The results appeared negative, and so to did the next 2 ultrasound scans over as many weeks.

Fortunately, my mom refused to take no for an answer. She took me to various hematologists and vascular surgeons, but everyone was thrown off by my unique DVT symptoms. It wasn’t until many weeks later, a 104 degree fever, and a complete inability to walk that doctors took me seriously and discovered the clot.

Had my mother been satisfied with the first or even 4th ‘no’ she heard, I wouldn’t be here today. My clot could just as easily have broken off and traveled to my lungs.

Don’t ignore your pain

Pain was the only DVT symptom I experienced with my first clot.

I was an athletic 15 year old in top physical shape, so doctors quickly shot down the idea that I had a blood clot. I was far from fitting the profile of a sedentary, elderly, post-surgery patient they are used to seeing.

You are the only one who knows your body, and knows how much pain you can tolerate. If any doctor tells you that “you would be in far worse pain if you had a blood clot,” leave the office immediately and find a doctor who takes his/her patients seriously.

Stupidly, I continued to play football with each mis-diagnosis from doctors. I tried to fight through the pain. I am incredibly lucky that my story didn’t end tragically. Don’t be too tough for your own good, or try to find excuses to not make that trip a doctor’s office.

Find the experts

I have permanent vascular damage in my right leg that causes me pain and discomfort every single day.

Had my DVT symptoms been addressed more quickly, I would be pain free. If you begin experiencing DVT symptoms, you will likely be fixated on your pain, or finding treatment as quickly as possible.

Be sure to ask around to make certain the doctor you visit has a better track record than anyone in the area at properly diagnosing and treating blood clots. You’ll save yourself from a life of discomfort.

Editor’s Notes:
Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story with Blood Clot Recovery Network.
Catch up with Sam on Twitter @SamDeBrule. Sam has created a workout program to help others who are looking to get in shape for the first time or maybe get back in shape after a debilitating illness or injury. Sam’s fitness plan is free, completely customizable, you don’t need any equipment or gym memberships and for me, it’s just the step I needed to take with the start of 2015 to take control of my health! All you need to sign up is an email address so check it out today or click below. 
Click here to sign up for Sam's workouts.

Click here to sign up for Sam’s workouts.


The Top 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions Cover

As a [former] runner, I am accustomed to making New Year’s Resolutions around this time every year. Most of them stemmed from fitness goals: I’m going to run five half marathons, run a marathon, run faster, run smarter, lose weight, eat better, drink more water and start lifting weights again. And then some personal ones like I am going to journal every day, spend more time planning blog content and do more outdoors. Sometimes they are even ambitious like I’m going to take a three-day canoe trip or backpack with my husband. Sometimes the Resolutions happen (I survived backpacking indeed, but just barely) and well, that’s about it. Mostly they don’t happen and I end up feeling bad about it every time I reflect on what I should have or could have done – but didn’t. I feel guilty and sometimes even worthless. And all because of the New Year’s Resolution label. So here it is, The Top 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because in reality, they don’t work out.

We set a goal at the first of the year – a really big, scary, hairy goal (like run a marathon) and sometimes, we have no idea about the commitment behind making such a promise. When the goal proves to be or later becomes unattainable, it feels like a failure to not complete it. Failure is hurtful, damaging and painful – both physically and mentally. And, it is in reality often not a failure because plans change, people change and circumstances change – making New Year’s Resolutions a great challenge to successfully complete.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because I prefer to set goals with measurable progress.

Instead of deciding to run the marathon, it is more beneficial for me to set small goals like walk around the block with my husband and dogs or maybe even run-walk a 5K. Small goals, with measurable progress, work better – small steps one at a time eventually add up to a great distance. Instead of losing 75 pounds next year, maybe I will find a successful weight loss program that works for my schedule and lifestyle, join an online support group or commit to doing Weight Watchers for six weeks. If I start to see results with a program that works, I can alter my goal to fit my needs without scratching the Resolution by January 19 and getting discouraged. I’m still getting healthy and I’m not damaging my self-esteem by setting too high of a goal early on in the year. If by March I have successfully ran-walked a 5K race, maybe I then set the goal to run the next one of run-walk a 4 miler. Maybe my goal is to being an exercise program, to lace up my shoes or to join an aerobics class and from that foundation, my future goals can grow. Progress is made little by little, and I am inspired to keep going.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because life doesn’t go according to plan.

Especially for someone moving through recovery or facing a chronic illness. Sometimes taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can resolve to do. If you face additional health challenges during your DVT and PE recovery – which can be common – your health may completely derail what you had in mind for a Resolution. Or, for example, your recovery could take longer than expected. Just because you need to focus on yourself and getting well does not mean you are a failure for not obtaining your New Year’s Resolutions – it makes you normal.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because a lot can change in a year.

And let’s face it, it probably will. The person you are today is not the person you will be tomorrow, next week, next month or at this time next year. Your goals, priorities, motives and direction in life may all change from day-to-day, especially as you move through a difficult, confusing and frightening recovery and guess what? That is okay.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t have to wait a year to make positive changes or modify the ones in place.

It is important for me to live the healthiest life possible and take care of myself in every way possible, especially since surviving a PE and DVT. Sometimes, I think it is easy to get caught up in the thought that because it isn’t December 31, we can’t make changes. It’s also easier to wait another year before cashing in on the “big one” – the year I am going to run a marathon or lose 75 pounds; but, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make small choices and changes every day – at anytime – to help us reach a goal. Something as simple as drinking more water, walking to get the mail or limiting eating out to twice a week can make a difference and if a change isn’t working out in the long run – don’t wait to make it work for you.

To you and yours, wishes for a Happy and healthy New Year.

Reader Writes In. Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Why or why not?  Share it in the comments below.

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

 

Top 5 Ways to Prevent a DVT from Forming

Top 5 ways to prevent dvt

An article published by Harvard Health states, “When it comes to under-the-radar health conditions, deep-vein thrombosis is at the top of the list. Most [of my] patients have never heard of this common problem. Yet deep-vein thrombosis puts more than one-quarter million Americans in the hospital each year, and complications from it are responsible for upwards of 100,000 deaths.” Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is a term for a blood clot that forms deep within the leg veins, but one can also form in the pelvis, arm or other areas. Some DVT’s cause pain, swelling and redness; yet others cause no symptoms at all, which can make prevention all too difficult. I had no idea what a DVT was until I was diagnosed with one in June of 2012 after a piece of the clot broke free from behind my knee and lodged in my left lung, causing a pulmonary embolism or PE. A PE, or blood clot that lodges in the lung, is particularly dangerous because it can be fatal and in fact, almost all DVT-related deaths are a result of PE. While I had no symptoms of a DVT except pain, which I attributed to a running injury, if I had been aware of this injury and its consequences, I may have been able to prevent the PE, which was indeed life threatening. DVT can cause life-altering and lifelong consequences including lifelong treatment medications such as blood thinners and over 40 percent of those diagnosed with DVT, suffer from post-phlebitis syndrome (PTS) as a result of permanent damage to the vein, which causes persistent leg pain, swelling, darkened skin, and sometimes hard-to-heal skin ulcers. Prevention of DVT is preferable to treatment, read on to learn the top 5 ways to prevent a DVT from forming.

In order to prevent DVT, it is first important to understand your risk for DVT. While DVT can affect anyone, there are certain risk factors that put some people at a greater risk than others. These risk factors can include and are listed in order from high risk to moderate risk (Stop the Clot):

  • Hospital stay
  • Major surgery such as abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Major trauma such as an auto accident or fall
  • Nursing home living
  • Leg paralysis
  • Older than 65 years
  • Trips over four hours by plane, car, train or bus
  • Active cancer or chemotherapy treatment
  • Bone fracture or cast
  • Birth control pills, patch or ring
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy or a recent birth
  • Prior blood clot or family history of blood clots
  • Heart failure
  • Bed rest over three days
  • Obesity
  • Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder

In a nutshell, you are at increased risk if you or a close family member have had a blood clot before; you have had recent major surgery; you have an inherited clotting condition; have cancer; are immobile for a long time (confined to bed, long-duration plane or car trip, etc.), or use birth control pills. It’s important to understand your own personal risk and also that anyone can develop a DVT at any time.

There are some definite ways we can all work to prevent DVTs before they become something that needs treated.

Top 5 Ways to Prevent a DVT from Forming

  1. Get or stay physically active. Whether you are at work or at home, get up from your chair frequently and move around. Short walks contract the muscles in your legs that help pump blood back toward your heart. If you’re at work, walk to the restroom farther away from your desk, take the stairs after lunch or offer to hand deliver a memo instead of dropping in in a mailbox. If you’re relaxing at home watching TV at night, get up from time to time and walk to the kitchen and back, even if you don’t necessarily need something. If you are traveling by plane, get up frequently and walk around as best you can. If you are driving long distances, stop every couple of hours to walk around whether it be at a rest stop or restaurant. Park a little farther out from your stops and walk in when you do. If you’re ordering fast food on a road trip, skip the drive through and walk inside for a meal. While exercise in the initial stages of recovery from a DVT is difficulty and often disheartening to attempt, incorporate a walk into your day as best you can, if only for five or ten minutes to start; then work up to 30 minutes a day.
  2. Stay hydrated. Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. This is especially important if you are going to be sitting or traveling for long periods of time. If you’re at work, sip water between phone calls, walk to the drinking fountain or break room every hour to refill your glass or make a goal of how many water bottles you would like to consume in a given day. Generally you should be drinking enough water to not feel thirsty and produce light colored urine throughout the day and the exact amount of water needing consumed can vary from one individual to the next. The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake or have health issues, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian. He or she can help you determine the amount of water that’s right for you.
  3. Move your legs. If you are bedridden and can’t take frequent walks (such as during a hospital stay or during the early stages of recovery), contracting your leg muscles will help prevent blood from pooling and clotting, which is important. Even small movements can make a huge difference. If you are in the hospital, make sure the nursing staff regularly helps you move your legs to help prevent blood clotting. If possible, bend then back and forth, lift them up an down and rotate your ankles. Any movement in the lower extremities when bedridden or immobile is helpful.
  4. Maintain a healthy body weight. Remember, obesity increases the risk of DVT. It is important to exercise, hydrate and eat whole, clean foods that are non-processed and low in sugar. If you need help losing or maintaining a healthy weight, there are countless programs, plans and support systems available to you. Be sure to discuss your weight-loss options and what is the best course of action for you with your doctor.
  5. Be proactive if you are hospitalized. If you are hospitalized for some reason, ask your doctors and nurses to make sure you are receiving measures—such as wearing special stockings, getting low-dose heparin or getting leg exercise—to prevent blood clots. Make sure your family members or caregivers are aware of the possibility of blood clots so they can ask for this care in the event you are unable to or forget.

Share your story. What steps do you take to prevent a DVT from forming? Do any of the risk factors listed above apply to you that you may not have known about previously? Were you aware of the risks for DVT?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA