3 days to go! Thank you to all!
March 28, 2017
March is Blood Clot Awareness month. In honor of this month dedicated to raising awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors for blood clots, the National Blood Clot Alliance is sharing stories from survivors and families as part of a virtual fundraising project. Our goal is aimed at highlighting and showcasing just how many people, of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances and affected by blood clots.
Please read my story and then continue on to read all the staggering statistics, as well as the signs, symptoms, and preventive measures you can take to protect yourself (via the stoptheclot website). Please donate any amount you can spare to this wonderful organization, so they can continue to educate and save lives.
Here is my story……….
Conquering the Perfect Storm
By Nicole Wilkins
“You are the healthiest person I know. I can’t believe this happened to YOU!” After a two-month sick leave from work, I was happy to hear someone still thought of me as a healthy person. Recently my mind had been filled with self-doubt that everything I had ever done in my life to lead the healthiest lifestyle I possibly could, may have been for nothing. It wasn’t true, of course, but my mind was overwhelmed with the uncertainty of what my future would entail. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of my condition was my seeming loss of identity as a health conscious, “fitness fanatic”. It had been a primary focus of my life for so long, that my mind stretched to recall a time that it wasn’t. My profession was teaching, but my passion was healthy living. Ten years prior I had earned my personal training certification and had taken courses to stay current. I read countless books and magazines about the topic, sharing my knowledge with anyone interested. So when this unfortunate turn of events roared into my life, it was like a tidal wave – totally unexpected, striking with life-threatening force, and carrying with it a life-altering aftermath that would stretch months, years, and possibly for life. In the end surviving “the perfect storm,” as one doctor coined it, came down to simple lessons that I already knew, but until now had never fully understood the magnitude of the impact they could have on my life.
Warm days in October in Michigan are such a wonderful rarity that I couldn’t resist a long bike ride on the trail after work. I wasn’t a mile out when suddenly it felt like I had pulled multiple muscles in my leg. Thankfully, I listened to my instincts that something was wrong and I returned home immediately. After icing my leg that night, I felt much better. Two days later I woke up and my leg looked like an over stuffed sausage. The following morning my doctor took one look at me and sent me to the emergency room, suspecting blood clots in my leg. An ultrasound confirmed her suspicions, but the situation was bad. Within hours I was whipped into surgery. A filter was strategically placed in a main vein to catch any clots that might break off and travel to my lungs or brain. Next, they went into main veins in my leg to try to grind up and suck out the long clots that extended the length of my leg and beyond my left hip. Throughout my five-day stay in the hospital, a stream of various doctors all seemed to have the same message: I was lucky to be alive.
The cause was three-fold: birth control pills, a recessive gene for a blood clotting disorder, and a genetic abnormality called May-Thurner Syndrome - the perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances. This rare combination left my prognosis uncertain.
My recovery was excruciatingly slow, physically and emotionally. In the beginning I could go only to and from the bathroom with a walker. Upon returning to my bed, I took long, deep breaths until the pain was manageable. I cried a lot in the beginning, particularly when I didn’t seem to be making any progress. My husband pointed out that I was recovering faster from my painful six-foot “walks” to the bathroom. The feat was small, but my realization was monumental. I had to reframe my definition of progress. The big steps were easy to recognize: moving from a walker, to a cane, to walking unassisted, and being released to drive. However, these steps took weeks to accomplish. Recognizing some small accomplishment every day became my focus: extending my leg, showering standing up, walking for one minute more than the day before, eating a meal at the kitchen table rather than my bed. I soon learned that focusing my attention on my successes boosted my confidence, spiked my motivation, and empowered me to take control of my recovery.
Staying positive wasn’t easy. I feared my life wouldn’t be complete if I could never again do the activities that had enriched my life for so long. I feared if I pushed myself too far or too fast, it would not only be the end of my regime to stay healthy, it might be the end of my life. Beyond this, I feared failure. I knew if I set a goal that I was physically unable to reach, my mind might catapult into a vicious cycle of self-defeating thoughts. To help prevent this, I tried to set goals that were short-term and easily attainable. At times I over shot my capabilities and my “failure” quickly reminded me what I was up against. I had to remind myself that progress does not mean always doing better or more than you did the day before. I could truly only fail if I stopped trying.
Nearly six years later I’ve come to terms that my body may never be capable of what it once ways. My current condition is “my new normal”. You can still find me at the gym five or six days a week, committing to my personal best for that day. Since doctors weren’t able to remove all of the clots, and my iliac vein is still closed off, my leg still gets swollen due to the reduced blood flow. So, for the rest of my life I will need to take blood thinners, wear my compression stocking religiously, adhere to my strict new diet restrictions, and elevate my leg.
Although my experience is uncommon, the lessons are universal. We all have barriers and commitments that impact our progress towards our goals: kids, work, injuries, finances, health problems, and countless others. We all have our issues. We can either choose to focus on the positives and factors we can control, or dwell on and blame our situation. My choice is to continue to live my life as “The Picture of Good Health,” and not as a victim of the storm.
FACTS and INFORMATION:
274 people will die from blood clots today. That means this month alone 8,494 Americans will be killed from a condition that could have likely been prevented. This already staggering number does not take into account the people who will survive but live with complications. Blood clots kill more people every year than AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents COMBINED. It is our mission at NBCA to raise awareness and ultimately reduce this number. Knowing the signs, symptoms and risk factors saves lives.
While there are many faces to blood clots, each one is so different. As you will see in the following stories, blood clots do not discriminate. Regardless of age, race or gender, we’re all at risk. No matter how young or physically fit you may be, you can still be affected. Please take the time to read the stories featured in this campaign and consider donating to the National Blood Clot Alliance to help us continue our mission of advancing the prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and clot-provoked stroke.
- The National Blood Clot Alliance, a 501(c)(3), non-profit, voluntary health organization dedicated to advancing the prevention, early diagnosis and successful treatment of life-threatening blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and clot-provoked stroke.
- Blood Clots kill more people each year than AIDS, Breast Cancer and motor vehicle accidents combined.
- An estimated 900,000 Americans are diagnosed with blood clots each year. 100,000 will die.
- Blood Clots kill one person every 6 minutes
- Although blood clots can be prevented, fewer than 1 in 4 people know the signs and symptoms, making awareness so important.
- 274 people will die today from a blood clot, and tomorrow, and the next day. Every day, 274 Americans will die of a blood clot.
- Many of these deaths could been prevented with increased awareness and education. Knowledge is power!
Visit us at www.stoptheclot.org for additional information on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from blood clots.