DVT Awareness Month
Saturday, March 21, 2009
March is DVT Awareness month. Deep Vein Thrombosis causes approximately 300,000 deaths annually, more than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Most of these fatalities result from Pulmonary Embolism- PE, the majority of which are caused by DVT. DVT-related PE is the most common cause of preventable hospital death.
I wish I could say I was a spokeperson for The Coalition to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis-DVT. I am a survivor for two reasons. First of all, I got lucky. Secondly, I was a strong advocate for my personal health. In other words, I knew something was wrong.
In order to get your attention, let me put a famous face to a devastating DVT related death. David Bloom, NBC news correspondent, husband and father of three girls, was killed by a blood clot that traveled to his lung
(Pulmonary Embolism). David's wife, Melanie, is now raising awareness about this silent killer.
In my story, DVT was not only silent, it was invisible.
My daughter Aidan was born on Friday, September 14th, 2007, via c-section and I was discharged with edema of the legs (which the nurses said was perfectly normal) five days later.
As I began to get back on my feet and take my daughter on short walks, I noticed that my left leg was becoming increasingly hard, swollen, and uncomfortable. My right leg was seemingly fine. I called my obstetrician's office and left a message on her nurse's voicemail, explaining my symptoms and pain. I was told to go to the ER to have a doppler scan of my leg because of the concern of a blood clot. The doppler scan showed no blood clot.
I was sent home; now in excruciating pain. I called my obstetrician's office and they reluctantly squeezed me in for an appt., explaining that the doctor had already "dealt with this situation." I came in for the appointment with a partner who told me that the "left leg was larger by a centimeter, but that it could not be a blood clot because the doppler scans are 98% accurate." At this point, I could barely walk and I was taking the maximum dose of Percocet allowed. The doctor diagnosed me with a leg strain, prescribed a muscle relaxer, and told me to take Motrin.
When I went in for my two week, post operative appt., my obstetrician said, "She didn't know what to make of the leg." My obstetrician then sent me to my internist ( the doctor who ultimately saved my life) who looked at my leg and said, " This couldn't be anything but a blood clot and you need to go back to the ER immediately." I went back to ER and the doppler scan of my left leg showed acute Deep Vein Thrombosis. The CT Scan of my chest showed a Pulmonary Embolism. I was admitted to the hospital immediately and I was given a combination of Lovenox and Coumadin for the blood clot.
I spent the weekend in the hospital, separated from my brand new, sweet baby girl, whom I was breastfeeding. When I was discharged from the hospital, the hematologist told me that the combination of drugs would dissolve the blood clot, but warned that it could take a long time.
The day after I was released, I met with the same hematologist to discuss "the plan." I explained that I was still in severe pain. She scheduled a meeting with an intervention radiologist, who explained that he could and should administer localized thrombolytics (clot dissolvers) through the back of my knee to break up the clot in my leg. I was told that I could bleed internally in places like my spine or my uterus because of my recent c-section, but that the benefits of the procedure outweighed the risk.
Following a four-hour procedure was a three-day stay in the ICU. The scan of my leg showed that the clot had nearly dissolved. My radiologist explained that the procedure was complicated because the clot had been there longer than he had originally suspected. He diagnosed an anatomical abnormality called May Thurner's Syndrome. He told me that the clot had likely been developing throughout the pregnancy, although I had no symptoms until after my delivery.
I wish this was the end of my story. My leg would probably have been healed.
Two days later, I went back to the hematologist with severe pain in my groin. My protime levels were unusually high and I was admitted to the hospital. The CT Scan of my pelvis showed a large hematoma. I was immediately pulled off the Coumadin ( blood thinners) that were working to dissolve my clot.
My clot redeveloped and another procedure was not an option. My recovery has been difficult. I do not have full use or feeling in my left leg. The clot is no longer there but the veins are severely damaged. Once having run the Chicago marathon, I push myself to run a 5K.
The worst thing about DVT- some people don't even get a warning. I am here. I am a mom. I am now considered high risk for future pregnancies.
Hear what Melanie Bloom had to say on the Today Show.
For additional information: www.preventdvt.org