May 01, 2017

Thrombosis Awareness Week

Alright guys... it's been quite a while since my last post.  Couldn't even tell you how long its been or which one was last.  However I have several things to update.

This week begins Thrombosis Awareness Week, May 1-6.  But why am I telling you this?

Here goes the story.

In April 2016 I was put on put on birth control for dealing with acne.  For several years prior to this I was told that it was the only way to deal with my horrible cystic acne.  Antibiotics were temporary, creams only worked for a while, but birth control was the way to go... Or so they said.  

Around the end of September and early October 2016, I started noticing that my stamina was decreasing very greatly.  I was finding it very difficult to make it up stairs without running out of breath, I was extremely tired, and overall just felt useless.  My first thought was: wow, this is awful but it must be because of how stressful school has been.  This was quite a reasonable assumption for me to make, as a couple weeks prior I had been pulling really late nights with a lot of stress and homework to get everything done.  I thought I was feeling the after effects of that hell week.  Boy was I wrong.  

At about the same period as this tiredness, I felt a pain in my left calf.  It was an unusual pain, something that felt close to the bone, like a tendon or something similar.  It somehow felt familiar too, like I had had the same kind of pain before, so I simply ignored it.  It usually went away with walking around anyway.

After about a week and a half, the pain in my leg got worse (though I could still walk it off), and so did my breathing.  It was to the point where after one flight of stairs I felt like I was going to pass out on the landing on my way to class.  I couldn't sing in the shower anymore because there simply was not enough oxygen in my lungs to do that and shower.  I was exhausted.  I had filled out WebMD tools and symptom checkers all over the place.  Most of them led to pretty scary conclusions such as stroke or pulmonary embolism.  "Surely it can't be that?" I thought.  After all, the symptoms for those that had been described by my gynecologist were very different.  She said to be wary of 'stabbing pains' and 'swelling' and things like that.  What I was experiencing was nothing of the sort.  I had a slight tickle in my lungs and the pain in my leg was dull.  "Definitely can't be that" I thought.  My mom told me to go to urgent care but I told her the pain wasn't that bad.  It really wasn't, I could deal with it.

I started taking my inhaler thinking maybe my lungs were reacting to something, but it never helped.  I thought it had expired so that was probable cause.

Eventually, on October 4th, I went to the school nurse, asking for an inhaler refill and something to help me breathe.  She talked to me for a while and I described everything that had been going on.  She thought it could either be pulmonary embolism or some kind of pneumonia.  She did her best not to alarm me with her suspicions but told me to go to the ER.  At this point I was like "Cool, ok thanks, I'll drive over there," but no, she wanted to have me driven over there.  She offered to call an ambulance for me.  At this point I started freaking out.  I declined and called my roommate to pick me up.  She drove me to the ER, doing her best to make light of the situation with me, promising that we'd be out of there after the X-Ray the nurse ordered in time to get pizza.

I was admitted pretty quickly because they had phoned ahead, and they started wiring me up.  At one point there were no fewer than 5 different nurses in the small ER room with me at once trying to figure out what was wrong.  They put me on an inhaler to try to open my lungs, they were drawing blood, running tests, trying to get information from me.  It was crazy.  Finally they discovered that my blood was positive for clotting factors and I likely had clots.  I started crying.  The doctor that had broken that news on me basically just left with no more than a pat on my knee.

They soon did a CT scan and found that I had many blood clots in my lungs (explaining my trouble breathing, haha).  They gave me a belly shot of blood thinners and admitted me for the night.  This whole time my roommate stayed by my side and I am forever grateful for this.  And she got other friends to come visit and bring me pizza!  I was not disappointed by that.  Afterward my other roommate came by with my stuff.

My parents drove six hours to make sure I was okay, arriving there at midnight.  Later that night they did an ultrasound and found the mother clot in my calf where the little ones had broken off of.  I was terrified.  I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and multiple Pulmonary Embolisms (PEs).  After a terrifying and sleepless night in the hospital they ran another ultrasound on my heart to make sure it wasn't labored under the blood clots, and ran some more tests.  Eventually they found that I didn't have any genetic factors involved, it was only my birth control.

Funny isn't it? The one thing that was supposed to help solve unbalanced hormones and acne almost killed me?

This should not have happened.  For multiple reasons.  Just as a PSA, Gianvi is dangerous, so please consider it before accepting this prescription.  There is an open lawsuit against the maker of this product, it should not be on the shelf.  Secondly, the symptoms of a DVT and PEs are NOT always what they describe them as.  They can be different for everyone, so please be extremely careful of this.  This is an extremely dangerous condition, as it can lead to stroke, heart attack, and death.

Because of my close brush with death, I am now suffering several consequences.  There are certain medications that I will never be able to take.  In the future if I decide to have kids I have to be extremely careful.

Anyway, I've been harboring this story for a long time, and brewing over it.  There's still a lot I'm still dealing with, but I think it's good to get off my chest.

I hope this story is useful for somebody who might be experiencing the same things.  To a lot of the doctors I saw, I was a very unique case because my symptoms didn't match.  They are still amazed that this happened to someone who was only 19.  I hope this helps raise awareness about this very serious condition.  Please keep this in mind, and be safe.  

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