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.

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?”

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,

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BCRN Awareness Matters
More information to share:

Raising Awareness with Kevin Nealon

Kevin Nealon Cover

You may know Kevin Nealon from his infectious comedies including Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Daddy Day Care and Anger Management or perhaps as a former Saturday Night Live cast member (1986-1995). Or, maybe you have seen him more recently on Showtime’s Golden Globe winning hit series Weeds.

Source

Source

What you may not know is that Kevin is also an atrial fibrillation – or AFib – survivor. Just like so many of you, Kevin has battled a life-threatening medical crisis and also like so many of you, he is passionate about sharing his story to help other patients facing a diagnosis of AFib or who are facing a treatment of blood thinners as a result of blood clots, heart attack or stroke. Kevin has partnered with Mended Hearts, a national non-profit organization committed to providing peer-to-peer cardiac support for survivors of AFib and their caregivers from diagnosis to recovery, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals during March to help raise awareness about blood clots.

Each year up to 900,000 Americans experience a blood clot (DVT or PE), resulting in up to 300,000 deaths. Blood clots do not discriminate based on age, sex, lifestyle – or even fame, as in the case of Kevin. AFib is an irregular, or fluttering, heartbeat that puts people who have the condition at a five times greater risk for a blood clot that can cause a potentially fatal stroke. And in fact, AFib accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all strokes. It is estimated that 2.7 million people are diagnosed with AFib and many more do not even know it (Source).

While these are frightening statistics to say the least, speaking to Kevin about AFib was like talking to an old friend and his passion for raising awareness and ensuring that others do not feel alone as a result of their diagnosis and recovery is the resounding message he conveys.

“I love talking to people about the same health issues,” Kevin said, “It creates an instant connection.

Kevin was swimming in Mexico with his then girlfriend several years ago when he had a racing heart that was concerning enough to cause him to seek medical attention at the hospital. He thought he may be having a heart attack.

“In the hospital,” he said, “I joked about having to use the paddles on me to restart my heart. And then I found out how serious my condition was. They put me out and when I woke up the cardiologist told me the paddles didn’t work.”

Once back at home in Los Angeles, Kevin was diagnosed with AFib, which was an extremely emotional time for him.

“It was so upsetting to me emotionally and it really affected my life,” he recalls, “I was playing less basketball and missing out on playing with me son and that really started to affect me. When you have a family, you really want to be around.” Kevin remembered being very worried because AFib changed his thinking about his entire life and his previously active lifestyle.

As part of his treatment plan, Kevin was initially placed on Warfarin to prevent blood clots, which were the biggest and most concerning risk of AFib to him because of the possibility of stroke.

“I did not want to end up with a stroke,” Kevin said.

Kevin eventually switched to taking Xarelto after speaking to his doctor about his lifestyle and needs. For Kevin, a vegetarian, Xarelto allows him the freedom from known dietary restrictions and the freedom to travel to numerous appearances throughout the year without the constant need for blood monitoring.

His resounding message is that facing a life-altering medical condition is something we, together as advocates, can overcome.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Kevin says, “You can live again.”

Kevin advocates for finding a doctor you believe in, as he did, and to remain in constant communication with your medical team about treatment options.

“Ask your doctors about the benefits and risks of the blood thinners available to you and do what works for you.”

Kevin and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, along with Mended Hearts and myself, have teamed up this month to raise awareness about blood clots and blood clot related stroke and deliver a message of hope to those who are suffering from AFib, blood clots and stroke.

And, the good news is, you can help us raise awareness too. Visit www.Drive4Clots.com to watch a video featuring Kevin’s story (along with the stories of NASCAR’s Brian Vickers and golf legend Arnold Palmer), and for every view received, Janssen will make a donation to Mended Hearts. You can also make a difference for patients living with or who are at risk for blood clots and stroke by sharing this message.

Share this message on Facebook:

Visit www.Drive4Clots.com to watch a video featuring actor/comedian Kevin Nealon’s story (along with the stories of NASCAR’s Brian Vickers and golf legend Arnold Palmer), and for every view received, Janssen will make a donation to Mended Hearts to help raise awareness about AFib, blood clots and stroke during #BloodClot Awareness Month.

Share this message on Twitter:

Visit to watch videos featuring real stories about blood clot survivors and make a difference. #BloodClot Awareness

Share your story. Did you know Kevin Nealon’s story? Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with AFib? What are you doing to make a difference this month?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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Thank you to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Kevin Nealon and Michele Packard-Milam of Mended Hearts for the opportunity to discuss AFib, blood clots and blood clot related stroke and raise awareness during Blood Clot Awareness Month and beyond. Together we can make a difference.

A Survivor Speaks: The Trip of a Lifetime by Lori

In 2010, I experienced pain in my calf, which I thought was a charley horse and ignored for several weeks. When my leg and foot began to swell, my husband insisted I get checked out. I went to a walk-in clinic and was immediately sent to the ER. I was diagnosed with a DVT in my lower left leg. I was shocked! The doctor said it was caused by birth control pills, which I had only been taking for about six months for the hormonal benefits. I spent five days in the hospital, followed by two months of bed rest. After six months, my doctor took me off Coumadin, despite being diagnosed with Factor V Leiden.

Fast forward to February 2014. My husband and I were going to New York City for a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend. The week of our trip, I wasn’t feeling good. I had been working out very hard with a trainer and also tried a new exercise class. My thighs hurt, but I thought I just over-exerted during my workouts and pulled a quad muscle. I got light-headed one time when I got up from my desk at work, but I paid no attention, thinking I just got up too fast.

On Valentine’s Day, my husband picked me up at work to go to the airport for our flight to New York. We parked and started walking to the terminal. Suddenly, I had to stop and rest every few feet. I wasn’t having any pain or shortness of breath, but for some reason, I just couldn’t move for more than a few steps. After what seemed like an eternity, I made it into the terminal. When I did, I had to sit down immediately, as I suddenly could no longer breathe. Someone nearby noticed my distress and called an ambulance. My blood pressure dropped to 75, my heart rate was over 170. I went into tachycardia and was rushed to the nearest hospital.

I had two PE’s in my right lung, four DVTs in my left leg, and my right leg was completely blocked from my knee to my groin. Instead of going to New York City for the weekend, I was now fighting for my life. Due to the amount and severity of the clots, I was transferred to the ICU. After a few days with no improvement, I underwent a procedure where catheters were inserted behind both knees and a clot busting medicine was dripped through my veins.  It didn’t work. My feet turned blue, the nurses had trouble finding a pulse and I was scared. The doctors then went in again and basically “scrubbed” the clots from my veins. I spent the next five days in ICU, urinating blood and unable to move. I finally began to improve and was moved to a regular room, where I stayed for another week while they tried to get my INR to a therapeutic level.

It’s now five months later and I feel pretty good, other than some chest pain and extreme fatigue from anemia. I think about how lucky I am and that I got to the hospital in time. At times it’s overwhelming to think how close I came to dying. I also wonder though, why I survived and others don’t.  It’s hard to not overreact to every ache and pain, but also remember how important it is to get things checked out. It’s a delicate balance. I’m happy to say we finally made it to New York City over the 4th of July weekend this summer! I was anxious about flying, considering my close call but I made it! I don’t like the fact I’ll be on Coumadin for life, but each time I take it, I remind myself that I have been given another day to live and that I’m a survivor!

Thank you, Lori, for sharing your story with BCRN!

 

March: Blood Clot Awareness Month

I seem to have always known blood clots were a serious health concern – especially if you had one in your heart, lungs or brain. I heard about them in the general sense; for example, when discussing the elderly who had passed away or when talking about recovery from a major surgery or hospitalization. I didn’t know the signs or symptoms; that fatality from a blood clot could happen within moments of the first symptoms; or that it would ever happen to me at 29 years old and as an active runner. I thought I had a simple running injury and if I had known the symptoms, it may have made the difference between a treatable Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), behind my left knee, and the Pulmonary Embolism (PE) that went to my lung and almost killed me. It was nearly two days since my calf started to hurt until I went to the Emergency Room, breathless and in excruciating pain, both in my leg and side. I couldn’t believe the extent of the injury to my body, mind and emotions. It completely changed my life – no aspect was left untouched. And the thing is, other people – like me and unlike me – don’t know or don’t think it can happen to them. March is Blood Clot Awareness Month and as a blood clot survivor, I am doing everything I can to spread awareness about this deadly and often treatable injury.

I know they majority of people I know do not understand what I went through during my PE and recovery. They do not understand my physical pain and how I could look okay in spite of it. They do not understand that I took almost a month before I could even breathe without the assistance of an oxygen tank and how I went from running several times a week to not even being able to walk from one room to another. They do not understand how I could not use the bathroom by myself in the hospital, that I was in a hospital room well-equipped for medical personnel to take life-saving measures at a moment’s notice or that I couldn’t even sit up for days on end. They do not understand how my personal relationships, professional life and self-confidence suffered, some to irrevocable ends.

I attribute most of this to the fact that many people simply do not understand blood clots and the damage they cause to the body. People understand what it means to have a heart attack, stroke or cancer, but they do not often understand what it means to have a blood clot. They also do not understand that it could happen to them. I am trying to change that and help spread awareness not only for Blood Clot Awareness Month, but always. Consider this post a crash-course in blood clots and while it is in no way all-inclusive, I hope to present to some useful information for you or others you may know who don’t understand what happens when a person has a blood clot. Share it, print it or post it! Let’s get the word out about this silent killer.

Just the Stats

  • Blood clots (DVT and PE) affect am estimated 900,000 Americans each year (Source).
  • Blood clots (DVT and PE) kill an estimated 300,000 Americans each year. The number of deaths from blood clots  exceeds those from breast cancer, AIDS,and motor vehicle accidents combined (Source).
  • Blood clots are a leading cause of preventable hospital deaths in the United States (Source).
  • Blood clots are the leading cause of maternal deaths in the United States (Source).
  • 1 in 3 people who are diagnosed with PE will die.
  • In 25 percent of people who experience a PE, the first symptom is sudden death.
  • One person every minute will be diagnosed with DVT in the U.S. One person every six minutes will die from a PE in the U.S. (Source)
  • 10 to 30 percent of people affected by DVT/PE will die within one month of diagnosis.

The Facts

Who…
  • Can get a blood clot? Anyone can develop a blood clot for a variety of reasons. There are many risk factors that increase your risk for a blood clot (see below for more detail). 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.
  • Most commonly treats a blood clot? Patients commonly see their general practitioner for treatment of a blood clot, but can also see a pulmonologist, cardiologist or hematologist. A hematologist is best equipped to handle ongoing care particularly if the patient has a clotting factor or other blood condition/disease contributing to the blood clot.
What…
  • Is a DVT? DVT (short for Deep Vein Thrombosis) is a type of clot that forms in a major vein of the leg or, less commonly, in the arms, pelvis, or other large veins in the body.
  • Is a PE? DVT can develop into PE (short for Pulmonary Embolism), a dangerous condition in which the clot detaches from its point of origin and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it becomes stuck and prevents blood flow.
  • Causes a blood clot? Blood clots may form when either the flow of blood in a vein slows, damage to a vein occurs, or the blood is more clottable (such as with a genetic or autoimmune factor already in the body/blood).
  • Is a blood thinner? Also called an anticoagulant, a blood thinner helps to prevent clots from forming in the blood. They include medicines like aspirin, clopidogrel or Plavix, Warfarin — more commonly known as coumadin — and a variety of other medications that are used in the hospital setting, including injections like Heparin and Lovenox.
  • Happens after someone is diagnosed with a PE/DVT? Often times, a person is admitted to the hospital, especially if he or she is experiencing a PE. They are usually put through a variety of blood and imaging tests to check for high blood clotting factors in the blood (D-Dimer) and actual blood clots (Dopplar Imaging scan). Patients are usually put on blood thinners of some sort as soon as possible. Patients are often treated with pain reliving drugs and sometimes surgery is performed to remove the clot or place a filter to stop the clot from moving (usually in the groin), but these procedures are not always performed.
  • Does it mean if someone has a clotting factor? If someone says they have a clotting factor, it usually means they have a genetic (an example would be Factor V Leiden ) or autoimmune (an example would be Antiphospholipid Syndrome) mutation or condition that causes their blood to clot when it should not.
Where…
  • Can you develop a blood clot? You can develop a blood clot anywhere you have veins, but they are most commonly in the leg and less commonly in the arms, pelvis or other large veins of the body.

Why…
  • Is a blood clot so damaging? A blood clot is damaging because, depending on it’s path, it can cause great trauma to the body’s circulatory system, including the heart. It takes time and energy for the body to heal damage done to the heart and lungs, even if it is micro-damage. A PE is consider a traumatic event for a person’s body to go through.
  • Isn’t there more public awareness about DVT/PE? A lot of times blood clots are not named as the cause of death because a person may have also suffered from underlying conditions, such as cancer. There seems to be more public energy focused on educating people about heart disease, diabetes and cancer, yet organizations like the National Blood Clot Alliance (Stop the Clot) and Clot Connect are making great strides to raise awareness. More recently celebrities such as NACAR’S Champion Driver Brian Vickers, 2010 Olympian, and two time US Sprint Champion, and a Master Sprint World Champion in Speed Skating Rebekah Bradford and Reality TV Star NeNe Leakes have spoken out about their personal encounters with blood clots to help bring awareness to the public.
How…
  • Long does it take for someone to recover from a DVT/PE? Recovery from a DVT and/or PE varies greatly from individual to individual and can take anywhere from several weeks to a year or more. Some people will face complications from DVT, including Postthrombotic Syndrome (PTS) for the rest of their lives.
  • Can I prevent a blood clot?  The good news is, yes, there are many things you can do to help prevent a blood clot. Stay active. Immobility increases the risk of developing clots. If you’ve been sitting for a long period of time (such as at your desk or while traveling) stretch your legs often; Maintain an ideal body weight; Know your risk factors for developing a clot (see below) and discuss with your doctor; Know your family medical history; If you are hospitalized or planning for surgery, ask your about what will be done to prevent blood clots (such as being placed on blood thinners or wearing anti-embolism, also called compression, stockings).

Did you know?

  • One-half of clot patients will have long-term complications and one-third will have a recurrence within 10 years (Source).
  • An estimated $10 billion in medical costs in the US each year can be attributed to DVT and PE (Source).
  • Blood clots are a treatable condition and often preventable condition.

You may want to know

  • A PE is sometimes called a “heart-attack of the lungs.”
  • Deep red is the awareness ribbon color for blood clots, including DVT.
  • Red and white (together) is the awareness ribbon color for PE.
  • Burgundy is the awareness ribbon color for clotting disorders.

DVT (and subsequently PE) risk factors include

  • 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

Symptoms of a DVT

  • Swelling in the affected leg, including swelling in your ankle and foot.
  • Pain in your leg; this can include pain in your ankle and foot. The pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a charley horse. It won’t go away with regular stretching, massaging or rest.
  • Warmth over the affected area.
  • Changes in your skin color, such as turning pale, red or blue or purple.
  • You need to know in about half of all cases, deep vein thrombosis occurs without any noticeable symptoms.

Symptoms of a 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 light headed or dizzy, or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Coughing up blood
  • A sense of anxiety, nervousness or impending doom

What to do if you think you have a DVT

If you are at all concerned or have any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your primary care physician or visit your local emergency room.

What to do if you think you have a PE

PE is life-threatening, seek emergency medical care immediately or call 9-1-1.

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There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

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