Survivor Spotlight with Suzie White Korte

This journey for me all started in 2005 when my back went out. I was literally in bed for two and a half months before they could get me in for surgery. I could not walk and had to have my son, mother- in- law, sister and my husband assist me to the bathroom and back to bed.

My first back surgery was August of 2005. During this surgery they took the bottom two discs out and didn’t put anything in their place. Another surgery came in 2008 where they removed another disc above where the other two were. At this time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe nerve damage in my left leg, irregular heartbeat, severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks and several other medical conditions.

In May 2011, I had a spinal cord stimulator put in. It is supposed to help with the chronic back pain.

In January 2014 ,I started swelling in my face, legs, hands, etc. The then put me on a water pill.   It worked for a little while.

Then in September of 2014, my legs swelled so bad they looked like tree trunks.  I couldn’t see my knees or ankles and my face swelled up enormously.  That evening I started having heart palpitations and really bad chest pain. I honestly thought it was a heart attack. I took my blood pressure and it was really high.  I told my husband that I needed to go to the ER.   He stated to me that he didn’t have the gas to take me there and still be able to go to work in the morning.  By this time, my chest hurt so bad I was crying.  I told him I was going to call 911 and he said “No don’t do that. What if someone has a life threatening situation?” At that point, I didn’t care. I called 911.  The paramedics came and took my BP.  It was 175/110, my pulse was 168 and my O2 was sitting at 87 .  I was then placed in the ambulance.  By this time, I was wheezing really bad and so they gave me a total of 3 Nitros in the ambulance.  It didn’t change anything.  I got to the hospital where they took me straight to a room.  They did the IV and several other things.  Then they rushed me for a CT scan.  When the results came back the doctor came in and said you have massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms and a DVT.   I had never heard of it before now.  He said to me that usually when he places this type of diagnosis on someone they are already deceased.  I spent 3 days in ICU. I don’t remember much. I do remember my husband came to see me in ICU.  He walked in crying.  He said he was so sorry and that he had no idea I was that sick.  After 3 days I was sent to a regular room. I spent a total of 6 days in the hospital.  They had me on Lovenox injections and Coumadin. I went home with a script for Xarelto for which I am still taking.  

A few weeks after all that,  I went back in and had another DVT. They kept me a few more days and sent me home.  I finally got in to see a hemotologist and asked him to run tests for blood clotting disorders.   He said there were too many to test for but he did test for a few it came back I had MTHFR.  I had to do some reading to find out what exactly it was.

After I came home from the hospital I was afraid to even move.  I had many panic attacks and I was scared to death.

Now, 2 years later, I got a second chance at life! I never take not a minute for granted because it can all be gone in the blink of an eye. I want to say I don’t know what I would have done without this group.  You ALL got me through the scariest time in my life ever and for that I can never EVER repay you all! I love each and everyone of you ❤

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Survivor Spotlight with Gary H. Steadman

                                       Half Marathon Finish Line Photo
                                              
At 54 yrs of age, I was more healthy than I’d been in decades. or so I thought. What I didn’t know was my life was at greater risk than ever before. Four years earlier I’d made significant changes to improve my health and quality of life. I began exercising consistently, changed my diet, lost 50 pounds and transformed blood test results from ugly to spotless. It all worked fabulously and yet, my life was in grave danger with every breath and heartbeat. I had no idea what was happening, none.
The end of October marks my one year anniversary from the moment my world suddenly changed. I should say my awareness suddenly changed because what was happening in my body took time and developed slowly. It was late October of last year that I found myself desperately short of breath. I couldn’t climb stairs. I’d been fighting for what I thought was a cold for weeks, over eight weeks to be exact. The cough I told everyone would go away in time, was getting so severe I could barely breathe without having a coughing fit. I’d made three visits to the doctor, gone through every prescribed course of treatment and was only getting worse.
At the same time, I was limping along with knee pain. A pain I believed came from my running. I’d trained for weeks in preparation for an early September Half Marathon. With distance training, for me anyways, has always had some form of pain somewhere and the pain in my knee wasn’t new at all. This time it couldn’t be soothed in the usual ways with icing it down, stretching, foam rollers or even deep tissue massage. I completed that Half Marathon in early September. Knowing what I know now, I feel fortunate I made it to the finish line alive.
My wife had seen what was going on with my health but it wasn’t till late October, when I shared one more symptom with her, we decided I had to get to the hospital. The leg with knee pain was now swelling and the pain extended from my ankle up to mid-thigh. We were received at the hospital ER rather routinely, checked in and waited three hours till a room was available. The nurse ran us through the routine of questions and examined my leg and lungs for the coughing. From there, things got a little crazy.
This ER nurse was an angel. Although she wouldn’t say so directly, she knew what was going on right from the start. She pressed for quick action in getting specialists in to see me, tests ordered and processed. Over the course of the next few hours, I would see no less than five different specialists. They ran round after round of blood tests, x-rays, EKG, ultrasounds, CT scans, more CT scans. It was a long night and very much a blur.
My diagnosis was Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in five separate major veins of my right leg extending from ankle through hip. On top of that, the CT scans confirmed extensive Pulmonary Embolisms (PE) in both my lungs and in all lobes. There’s not a lot of detail I recall from this blur of a night but a few things that I do recall clearly are numerous medical professionals reviewing my case and shared I was “very lucky to be here”. I don’t recall any doctor willing to state I’d be ok, just that they’ll do everything they can to help me. The Pulmonologist, reviewing my chest CT started to count the PE’s then stopped because there were too many to count. His comment was, “It looks like a snowstorm, this’s impressive!”. I really didn’t want to be, impressive.
For the next four days, I would be in Critical Care. I was administered Heparin by IV to stop further clotting. We reviewed numerous potential avenues to resolve the clots in my leg and my lungs. Ultimately, we were advised, my situation was so extensive any invasive action which could be taken would put me in even greater danger (of a terminal event).  We’ll use medication to stop the clotting and the rest is up to my body’s natural healing processes. In time, that’s exactly what has happened. My body has largely healed itself. My leg is still not what I would consider normal, but it’s 95% and that may be my new normal.
All that being said I have to be honest, this is where things actually got difficult for me. This was, and still is, an emotional roller coaster like I’ve never before experienced. For me, this was the first time I’ve been convinced I was truly facing my pending mortality. The challenge of this and the changes it brought on an emotional level have been something I simply didn’t see coming. This is very hard to share and something I’ve pondered countless times in the last few months. I don’t see many addressing this side of what’s happened to them, the emotional impact, and that’s part of the problem. You can feel very alone even though you’re not. So if you’ve been through this or something similar and that roller coaster is hitting you hard, know you’re not alone.
To survive a day you’re absolutely convinced was to be your last, profoundly changes your outlook on everything. EVERYTHING.
I can’t think of a better way to characterize the impact of this event. It can be a good thing. There are highs on the roller coaster I refer to above. You appreciate everything in new and more powerful ways. Your family, music, the spring air, fall colors, a baby’s cry (even if it’s in the airplane seat behind you). You have less time for things that waste your time and more time for things that don’t. There are countless cliche’s I could rattle off here but what I’ve come away with is this. At my one year anniversary of this life event, I can appreciate this year which might not have been. Better than that though, knowing my risks means I have a better shot at enjoying many more to come and I’ll be savoring every bit of it.
Learn the symptoms of thrombosis and your personal risks. One day it could save your life or the life of someone you love.
To Survive a Day...

Survivor Spotlight with Maria Buchan

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My Survivor Story

In 1996 ,at the age of 23, I was celebrating my 1st wedding anniversary and the news that we were expecting our first child.  Everything was going well with the pregnancy until 36 weeks. At this time, I developed pre-eclampsia and was admitted to hospital for rest. My body was swollen, I had high blood pressure, protein in my urine and the most excruciating pains in my legs so much so I couldn’t lie on them.

At 38 weeks, I went in to labor.  I had complications and had to have a C-section. I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and went into shock.  I was on a drip, antibiotics and pain meds. After 5 days, I left hospital with my gorgeous newborn son, but things just were not right. I was breathless, unable to walk very far and still had the pains in my legs. No one listened to my concerns. At my 7 week post-natal exam, I mentioned this to my doctor and she told me not to worry for the fact that I had just had a baby. She assured me things would be fine.
Three days later, I collapsed at home with only my baby boy with me. Luckily, I woke and phoned my mum. She ran over and phoned a doctor on a Sunday afternoon.  After the doctor saw me and examined me he told us that I had to go to hospital immediately.  I wasn’t in a good place.

In the hospital, I was placed in a critical bed near the nurses, I couldn’t even walk the 2 feet to the bed! I was placed on oxygen. I had chest scans, vq scans, more tests, bloods etc. Later, I found out how lucky I really was.  I had numerous blood clots including a sub massive clot in my left lung, and pneumonia.  They had medical students round me listening to my double heartbeat, they said they probably wouldn’t hear one again soon. I was on heparin, painkillers and antibiotics.  I went into shock again, my body was in trouble. Eventually, after 10 days in hospital, I was discharged and left to get on with life at home with only 6 months of warfarin, and no check-ups. What was meant to be the happiest and most wonderful time in any woman’s life was blighted and turned upside down, but that was only the beginning.
In 2003, after the sudden death of my only brother, my mum was rushed to hospital with blood clots in her lungs. She was released within 5 days and on blood thinners for 6 months. Less than a year later the same thing happened again and she was admitted with blood clots again.  The doctors then starting asking questions about our family history. When mum was discharged from hospital and a lifer on blood thinners we checked and found death certificates.  We found out that my maternal grandfather and his mother my great grandmother also had died of pulmonary embolisms! At the ages of 61 & 58.
We were sent for genetic testing in 2004 where it came back positive for antithrombin def III and unfortunately, I have passed this down to my son.
In 2009, I was having breathing problems.  By this time, I was diagnosed with asthma and after seeing my GP I was admitted to hospital with numerous blood clots in both lungs.  I had a stroke also.  Now, I was a lifer on blood thinners.
Since then my breathing and stamina has declined.  I have had various problems and recently had tests to see what’s happening.  Some of the clots in my lungs have never absorbed (pulmonary thromboembolic disease) and I have been left with scar tissue (fibrosis).  I have 2 holes in my heart, a irregular heartbeat and the start or pulmonary hypertension due to the strain on my heart due to the clots.
I have problems that probably in time will get progressively worse but I still get up every morning, swallow a handful of drugs and use inhalers. I live life to the fullest and I enjoy my life. I appreciate everything and everyone in it.  I have people that love me, help me, look out for me and most of all I appreciate being able to breathe. We all have problems.  Some of us must live with the consequences but don’t dwell on them. Life is to short and too precious.

I would like to add that in 1997, I was depressed and in a bad place.  By 2003, I withdrew from life and this continued right up to 2009. With the second blood clot, it gave me the wake up call I needed. Why was I playing around and wasting the best days of my life? I decided instead of wallowing in self pity… I now had another fight, rehab, speech therapy, physio and a whole lot of Staying Alive!

Survivor Spotlight with Beth Bruning

I moved to Albuquerque,New Mexico from Phoenix,Arizona in July of 2015 and have had a hard time breathing since. I have allergies really bad and that makes breathing worse. I got worse when I had mildew growing under my carpet in Arizona. The complex was going to redo the apartment so they didn’t do anything while I was there. They have corporate health care here in New Mexico and I had to wait until December to get an appointment with a pulmonary docotr. I found a primary doctor but she was fresh out of school and didn’t help me much.

Now to take you back to my first clotting episode. My first clot was caused from a laser vein procedure that a nurse practioner did and she couldn’t access the vein so she entered from behind the knee which caused the clot. This was January 24th, 2012.  I went back the next day and was in excruciating pain. I saw a sonograoher not a doctor or nurse practioner. She patted me on the arm, said for me to get some Arnicare and I woukd be ok. My leg was huge at this time. They gave me hydrocodone.

On February 14th, 2012, I saw the doctor and he gave me Gabapentin. Never even caring or giving a second thought that my left leg was huge and red. I was on my way to see another doctor when the nurse practioner’s office called and told me to come in. They did an ultrasound and told me “you have a blood clot”.  I had to be put on blood thinners. Now I had a chronic blood clot in my left leg. The doctor took no responsibility for doing the damage. I had my INR done every week. It was a nightmare.  I was put on blood thinners for six months. 

At 10 months , I was still on them. I finally had the discussion of getting off of them and that is when they told me the clot was chronic and would never go away.   They kept me on blood thinners for 10 months.  Now this is where the allergies come in. I was told I had COPD and asthma. I was given medicine for the allergies,COPD  and everything. As I mentiined above, I had mildew under my carpet and developed a horrible cough but no one did anything about it. My ribs were sore from coughing.

In September, I went to the doctor and had an ultra sound on my chronic blood clot but nothing was done about me being short of breath. They just figured it was my COPD or something else. I have muscle cramps regularly so I thought when my right leg was aching it was from a regular cramp. I was very short of breath. I sat in the ER for 9 hrs on November 17th, 2015 because I couldn’t breathe. The drew blood, took a chest x-ray.  When I saw the doctor and he said I had bronchitis but didn’t understand why my O2 sats kept going up and down. They gave me a breathing treatment, antibotics and steriods. This is the standard treatment when they don’t know what is wrong. All I could do was sit and pray.

On December 25th, 2015, I got my Christmas present. It was bilateral pulmonary embolisms. I drove myself to the ER because I couldnt breathe. The EMT at the desk looked at me and said come with me.   I didn’t go home until the next night. I eventually learned I have Factor V Leiden.  I was 65 years when I was told this.  I have 2 children and have had several surgeries without complications. My heart is ok but I plan on having it checked again. My O2 sats were 70 when I was at the ER. I am on oxygen and blood thinners for life.  I’m on oxygen because of the high altitude in Albuquerque.

My sister that passed away had blood clots in her heart so I think she had the gene.  My older sister was tested but doesn’t have it. Her daughters do.

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This leg has chronic clot behind knee. My leg never looked like this before.

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This is the leg that produced the PE. Yes,I scratch it all the time. I have to move or it swells bad.

I am 67 yrs old now and counting my blessings.

Survivor Spotlight with Ashley Marconi

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In early May of 2014, my husband and I were still growing into our home, shuffling things from room to room after the arrival of our daughter one year earlier. While carrying a heavy antique dresser down the stairs, the back end landed on my right foot at the bottom of the stairwell. It left quite the mark, but I continued to work through the pain and by the end of the day it felt back to normal, or so I thought.
 
Life carried on as normal the following weeks. Being a working mom I had a pretty solid routine down that I stayed focused on. One day in late May 2014, I started experiencing some pretty intense back pain. I was struggling to make it through the work day and asked to be excused early so I could make a trip to the chiropractor. When I arrived, I was limping from the car to the door, but still thought nothing more than maybe a pinched nerve or strained muscle. I got the usual crack and adjustment done which usually brought instant relief. Instead I left feeling worse than when I had arrived. I drove home and immediately called my physician upon arriving. I described my symptoms and was told to get to the ER immediately. A little frazzled by the urgency in his voice, I hobbled into my house, kissed my daughter and mother-in-law goodbye, grabbed my phone charger and drove myself to the hospital.  By the time I arrived, I was in so much pain I had to call the ER and ask them to bring out a wheelchair to get me, I could not walk.
 
The nurses came running out, a look of concern on both their faces they weren’t hiding very well. They ran me through the entrance and bypassed any introductions at the front desk to a fast pass to ER testing. Everything was happening so fast they didn’t even have me get in a hospital gown. I didn’t know what to think, my mind was racing a million miles a minute. My back went from hurting that morning to not being able to walk that afternoon. Was I going to be paralyzed? Did I have permanent nerve damage? What was going on ?
 
I remember laying on the table for the first set of tests – the ultra sound. The technician ran the wand up and down my leg and I saw her face drop.  I looked at her and said “what, what is it?! Please tell me no one has told me anything, please.”. She took a deep breath and said “I’m not supposed to say anything officially until the doctor reviews this but…you have a blood clot. A big one. Its running from your ankle all the way up through your groin.”  I remember it felt like time stopped in that moment. My heart skipped a beat. A blood clot?! At 28 years old?! How?! How is that possible?!  As if she was reading my mind she said “I know you’re young but it does happen. We will figure out why but for now let’s focus on fixing this. Now I’m going to put some pressure on your leg, it is going to hurt so just breath.”  Hurt, didn’t even begin to explain it. The pressure and pain felt like a vice clamping my leg with each press of the wand. I screamed out in pain and tears. She started crying and apologizing. It was all so surreal. I was so frightened.
 
After the ultrasound I was sent straight to an MRI and then to a CT scan. By the time I got back to a room in the ER, my family and husband were there waiting for me. While I was telling them about everything that had happened, I heard the doctor’s outside whispering. “It’s a blood clot, a large one. I don’t know….no I don’t know…. we have to take precautions to prevent this from traveling…..she is so young……yes, I see she has two herniated discs in her back we can’t worry about that right now. If we don’t get this blood clot under control, she won’t have a back to worry about.” They then put on their best faces and walked in together to “officially” inform me of the monster blood clot that had formed in my right leg. They were going to get me started on IV blood thinners and admit me. They were throwing around terms like heparin, dvt and pe, all things I had never heard of before now.  This is my new normal.
 
I spent two days in the hospital before they sent me home for the weekend on lovenox injections. I still couldn’t walk so I relied on my family to assist with my daughter and around the house. My husband gave me my shots as I was in too much pain to do it myself. I spent those days terrified of what was to come. All I could think about was that I had just been blessed with my beautiful daughter and I couldn’t leave her. I had flashbacks of losing my father at a young age and flashes of a future without me in my daughter’s life. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever felt and that gave me the strength to fight.
 
I was admitted back to the hospital after the weekend for a planned procedure. I was going to undergo a procedure called thrombolysis where a catheter is inserted into the back of my leg and it vibrates and dispenses potent blood thinning medication directly into the clot. The risk of catastrophic bleeding was high with the procedure so I was informed a several day stay at the ICU would be to follow.
 
I went into the procedure more scared than I have ever been in my life. They started with some “medicine to relax me” although I was very much awake and feeling everything that was being done. They placed the IVC filter down through my neck into my chest to prevent any clots from traveling up to my lungs. Immediately after I was flipped onto my stomach to have the catheter inserted. I was then brought back to the ICU for observation. I was not allowed to move. I spent that 24 hours in a daze. Being poked every 3 hours around the clock to check my INR. I was terrified. I was scared I wouldn’t make it through to see my husband, my daughter, my mother and my sister. I was depressed about all the memories and moments I would miss. I started thinking up my goodbyes. I tried to write them down but I just couldn’t muster up the energy.
 
My vascular surgeon was about one of the worst doctors I’ve ever encountered. He was uninformative, rude, rough and had terrible bedside manners. He came in after the first 24 hour round and took me back to the OR to check progress. He said my body wasn’t breaking down the clot and he wanted to try an angioplasty. I consented, just desperate to end this nightmare. I was given some pain medication and then he began. I remember him maneuvering the instrument through the vein and feeling like he was ramming bone. I almost fell off the table it was so painful. After several more attempts of this and scream and cries for him to stop, he stopped the procedure unsuccessful. He then stated we would do another 24 hour round of the thrombolysis and revisit the angioplasty if needed.
 
48 hour check – after 48 hours of not being able to move under threat of moving the catheter and more catastrophic bleeding. More bloodwork every three hours…..more nightmares….flashes of leaving my daughter without a mother. We checked the status and the clot still wasnt broken up. Too massive, the whole vein was blocked that carried blood back up to my heart. Second attempt at an angioplasty. More ramming and hitting nerves and bone to the point where I begged for them to stop and said I cannot handle the pain. Pain that made my 12 hour labor feel like a papercut in comparison. Every muscle in my body hurt and I was drenched and shaking in a cold sweat. I couldn’t do it.
 
I was wheeled into recovery prior to going back to ICU. I remember just breaking down sobbing. I felt defeated. The doctor came in shaking his head. I told him I couldn’t go through that again it was too painful. I asked through gasps and tears what would happen. He stated my right leg would always have swelling and wouldn’t go down. Blood flow would be poor. Pain would be worse long term than it would if he had been successful. I felt like I failed me family and myself.
 
I went through one more 24 hour thrombolysis, another day in the ICU. I later found out upon research how truly risky it was for me to go through 72 hours of this treatment. After the final round, I was anxious to get home to my daughter. My mother, sister and husband got me through my time there but I was ready to get out. The doctor yelled at me for not being able to put my right heel down when I walked and made that a requirement for me to meet prior to being discharged. My leg had not been used for over a week and was tightened up from the procedures. I pushed through pain I had only imagined, crying again to get through the task of walking to the end of the hallway with my heel down. My leg felt like it was being ripped apart but I did it so I could get out of that awful place and back home to my family.
 
The years to follow brought with it additional tests, procedures, etc..  to show that there is extensive permanent damage to my leg. The vein is all scar tissue with only calateral veins to assist with menial blood flow.  It was found that I have Factor V Leiden as well as MTHFR677t gene mutations, resulting in the need for life long anticoagulation therapy (I had smoked on birth control at the time of the clot, quit cold turkey the first day at the ER). I tried warfarin for the first year post dvt only to switch to eliquis after struggling to keep my INR in range. My right leg is still 3 inches larger than my left. I have constant pain, swelling, cramping, and spasm. The simple act of walking a flight of stairs causes burning and severe pain in my leg. I was diagnosed last year with post thrombotic syndrome and severe anxiety after the experience. I worry constantly about a recurrence.  Three years later and I am still learning,  recuperating, and trying to find my new normal. I returned to work full time a month after I returned home and I continue to work as an HR professional for a home care agency.
Some days are worse than others, some are better but all my days I am grateful to be here and to be given a second chance to be the best I can at this beautiful life I love. I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter. Equally as important, I am a Survivor.

Survivor Spotlight with Stephanie Ward

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My life changed forever on July 2, 1998. This day will forever be etched in my soul.  Looking back, most of that day and the days that followed were a complete blur. I lost my sister that day. She was previously healthy with her entire life ahead of her. Looking back now, Jenny saved my life and the life of many others in my family. Once Jenny passed away, doctors decided to run some tests on our family. Almost all of us tested positive for Protein S Deficiency. Some of them with a history of blood clots and some, like me, without.
In June of 2004 I gave birth to my first child, a son. Two months after having my son I felt like I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder. I went to the doctor and he thought it was from carrying my son, in his infant seat around with that arm. That day I went to work. I worked at a pharmacy when half way through my shift I bent down to get a drug and felt the most excruciating pain in my chest. I couldn’t take a deep breath, the pain would not stop. A trip to the ER proved that I had a blood clot in my lung. I was on Coumadin when I clotted. I spent days in the ICU not able to see my newborn son. I had an 8×10 picture of him on my bedside table. He is the one that kept me going. I HAD to be here to be his mother! Needless to say, I’m still here and able to advocate for those suffering from blood clotting disorders.
Since I had “failed” Coumadin, my only realistic option was Lovenox. I stayed on that for 4 years, twice daily….hoping and praying that I didn’t “fail” Lovenox as well. After being told my entire life that I would never be able to get pregnant, we were elated to find out that we were pregnant with our second child. What a true blessing! To be told I would NEVER have children to being pregnant with a second child was a miracle. My pregnancy was uneventful although I was high-risk and my husband was deployed to Iraq. Yes, he would miss the birth of his daughter and not meet her until she was 5 months old.
4 years ago my Hematologist recommended that I try Xarelto. After considering all of the information, I decided to take the leap. Things were great for a long time, then it hit me again. That feeling of pain, not being able to catch my breath. We drove to the emergency room. This time I had 14 blood clots in my left lung and 9 in my right lung. I had severely failed Xarelto or for lack of better words, Xarelto definitely failed me. It failed me in so many ways because I thought Xarelto was my “lifeline” to not have to inject twice daily for the rest of my life. Hello Lovenox, we meet again.
After 4 Hematologists, my most recent one really wanted me to give Pradaxa a try, so I am. I am currently still on Pradaxa, being careful not to miss a dose or be late with taking it. I have a beautiful son and daughter who are my life. I want to be around for them.
Knowing that Protein S Deficiency is hereditary, many people in my family have been tested and to date, we’ve lost count as to how many people have it. Previously, I had counted 32. Now, 33  My daughter, who is 8 was recently diagnosed with it and I find myself having to make the decision to start her on Lovenox at only 8 years old. Sometimes education is not always enough and despite the fact that I know she has it, my gut tells me that she needs to be on something because of other medical issues.
My story continues and will continue for the remainder of my life. Protein S Deficiency writes part of your story and you write the rest. The reason why my story does not end here is because I’ve seen too many people lost, limbs lost and lives changed. I refuse to let it rule the life of my 8 year old daughter. I lost a sister (when she was only 21) to it and I won’t lose anyone else. I quite often find myself questioning why God would have taken Jenny away from us. Now, I see it. Even in death, Jenny has saved the lives of so many of our family members just by handing the doctors and our family the information we all needed to be SURVIVORS!

Survivor Spotlight with Mercy Soto

received_10155160175104022             I have had issues with my knees since I was very young and finally I had to have a total left knee replacement on November 3, 2014. Thankfully, I recovered from the knee replacement very well.

On July 10, 2016 I was home, getting ready for bed, in my pajamas, taking off my contact lenses, hanging out with my fur-kids then………….. COMPLETE BLACK OUT!!

It was very hard to be home, not understand what has just happened, open your eyes, and not be able to move. When I looked around, I was on the floor and the same leg of my knee replacement was facing behind my body. I tried to get up and couldn’t do it. 

My older son had recently moved back home with me and I was able to call out for him. He came and tried to get me up. The pain was unbearable. I asked him to call 911 and I blanked out again. 

When I opened my eyes once more, I had a team of rescue workers immobilizing my leg. I was in a daze and only remember dozing in and out of consciousness. I remember saying that I wanted to go to Baptist Hospital in my daze. 

The next time I was conscience, I was in a hospital bed with a doctor at my side. I had a severe femur fracture from my hip to my knee. 

I thank God for my sons, my mother, my family, my friends, my neighbors, Rescue paramedics, ambulance personnel, BAPTIST HOSPITAL, 😘 the Trauma Orthopedic doctors and staff, etc.  There are so many things that had to fall so perfectly in place that I know only GOD is capable of.

I had major reconstructive surgery to the Femur (plates and bolts) of the same leg I had my knee replacement done to. The knee replacement was salvaged. I had 2 Blood Transfusions and was placed on a possible 3rd Blood Transfusion “watch”. 

It wasn’t until a day after my surgery that I realized that I did not fall…. that I had fainted. 

I told my doctors at that point and they began an investigation on why I had fainted. All this time, everyone thought I had fallen.

Well, after all of the tests came back “positive”, they discovered that I had a bi-lateral acute Pulmonary Embolism. My PE was unprovoked so that made it even ‘scarier”.

The left side of my heart was enlarged. I was in intensive care on oxygen, and it was very tough. 

I had been diagnosed with Asthma a week before and I continued to have cough and not feel well. Never thinking what was really happening.

Needless to say that my life changed right then and there….. it hasn’t been easy and I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life.

Survivor Spotlight with Leslie Ponciano

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Like most young ladies, I was just spending my life working and trying to figure out my life. I was battling pain in my hips, lower back and knees.

Now. Just to give a little background , I was born with a congenital dislocation of my hip. So pain isn’t a new thing for me. When it started to get worse on my left hip and thigh I didn’t think anything of it. I was seeing an orthopedic doctor for this issue and he had this idea that I sshould see an arthritis doctor. Maybe seeing this doctor would pinpoint all of my issues and get a handle on it. During this time , I was having issues with my coworker due to being in pain. I know most of you will understand me when I say unless you have pain on a daily basis you don’t know what it’s like. The woman I worked with had no idea and so this pushed me to quit my job. I couldn’t take care of myself and deal with all of my pain and stress. I depended on my insurance from my job but thank goodness I have a great support system.

Now, let’s talk about the arthritis doctor. I noticed my legs were starting to swell a lot when I walked which never really happened before. I didn’t worry about it because I had an appointment with my arthritis doctor coming up soon.
I went to see him on November 18th, 2014. He ran all kinds of blood tests. He took my history which was long.(Reading the clinical notes from his visit… I can see why he didn’t catch what was happening in my body. He thought I was only in it for pain meds.) I got a call from his office the next day, they told me I had inflammatory arthritis and to set another appointment. The next day , I woke up in terrible pain. Mainly in my left thigh and hip. Since it was my “troubled” hip, I didn’t think too much of it. I took some Advil and laid back down with a heating pad.
Later on I got my “lazy” behind up and decided to take a shower. While in the shower I started to feel dizzy. I thought maybe the water was too hot so I cooled it down hurried up and got out. I went to lay down again. When I started to feel better I got myself a little something to eat. As soon as I did, I got really nauseous and barely made it to the bathroom. When I was done, I noticed it was getting harder to breathe. I looked down at my leg and my thigh was swollen and purple. Like really swollen. I needed help and fast. I called my best friend and had her drive me to the ER. They asked me if I was on birth control. I said I was and then they asked to see my leg. They pulled a vile of blood and had me show them my leg. As soon as they saw my leg they rushed me back. Before I knew it I was having a CT scan of my chest with dye then a Doppler of my thigh. That was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and I’ve had a hip replacement! Within minutes my mom arrived and then the doctor told us the news. As soon I got nauseous a part of the clot had broken off and headed straight for my right lung(That’s why I had trouble breathing). I had a pulmonary embolus which started from a blood clot in my left groin. All the pain I had been experiencing for months and swelling was caused by this blood clot. They told me it was caused by my birth control. I then asked them if this could have been caught with bloodwork. I had had all kinds of blood work done 2 days before. They said “yes”. I was floored. This could have been caught before a PE. Unbelievable! I was started on Warfarin in the ER and then moved upstairs. I was admitted to the hospital. Plans I had with my stepdad to see Mockingjay Part 1 were cancelled. While in the hospital they tried to pump some potassium into my body through IV. It felt like my body was pumping acid through my bloodstream. I wasn’t reacting to the medicine like I should have been. So this was a challenge. They tried other meds on me. Finally, they tried me on Xarelto and just gave me other things through IV. I had all kinds of genetic tests to make sure I didn’t have anything that could cause this again. Thank goodness I don’t. I was one of the few this happens to. I took Xarelto for a year then transitioned to Eliquis for 6 more months. Then my hematologist thought I would be ok. So I’ve been on a baby aspirin a day since. I haven’t taken birth control since or Advil/ibuprofen. I still have some shortness of breath but I’ve been told sometimes it just sticks. I have no long term damages and have been released from all of my blood clot team of doctors. It will be 3 years on November 20, 2017. I’m so happy I’m still here and lucky to be able to spread awareness.

Survivor Spotlight with Vicki Scoggins

My name is Vicki, I’m married & I have 3 children (21, 15, & 4). In 1994, my senior year of high school, I got my 1st blood clot & I was told it was due to my birth control. Doctors would no longer allow me to take birth control, but I then got subsequent DVT’s in the same spot on my left ankle in 2007, 2009, & then Feb 2012.

In Feb 2012, I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child & I started giving myself Lovenox shots (throughout the years I have taken Heparin, Coumadin, Lovenox, & Xarelto). However, I was experiencing shortness of breath & spitting up blood. I had countless ER visits & doctors appointments until finally I learned in June 2012 that my clot from my ankle traveled to my groin & was breaking off going to my lungs.

I was rushed to Baylor in Dallas where a vascular surgeon inserted an IVC filter to prevent further clots from going to my lungs. During my hospitalization, I had a hematologist tell me I had prothrombin gene mutation, a hereditary blood clotting condition. (The women in my dad’s family also have had clotting issues)

I was placed on bed rest & spent the next 4 months in & out of the hospital due to complications with being pregnant, requiring an oxygen tank, severe nausea, & migraines. I delivered my baby boy September 28, 2012. He was rushed to the NICU for pneumothorax, but we finally went home a week later.

I had another blood clot in August 2015 in the same spot as always, while on Xarelto. After that clot I started having trouble walking on my left leg. It is so painful & I experience numbness, tingling, & swelling. I was diagnosed with Venous Insufficiency & Post-Thrombotic Syndrome in March 2016 due to the trauma these clots have caused my body. I also have trouble breathing at times, heaviness in my chest, palpitations, anxiety, & depression.

As if that wasn’t enough, I found out a few months ago that the IVC filter that’s suppose to protect me from clots going to my lungs has tilted & eroded through my vena cava wall. My Bard Meridian filter was recalled in 2014, but I was never notified. I was hospitalized last week with my 6th blood clot. It was found on top of my IVC filter so I had an emergency surgery at UTSW in Dallas to remove the clot & the filter. Despite anticoagulants & an IVC filter I continue to clot.

Nobody prepared me in 1994 for the crazy blood clot roller coaster that became my life. I’ve learned so much about my condition by educating myself through research & participating in support groups. It’s scary when most doctors don’t have answers for what you’re going through & medical technology is advancing faster than doctors are being educated.

I hope to help others by sharing my story. The best advice I can give is to seek out the best specialists available & advocate for yourself. Also make sure you have a good support system & someone to attend appointments with you if possible. There are many times doctors & family members have made me feel crazy because they can’t quite understand why I haven’t gotten better & why treatments have failed. Not all clotters are the same!! Only you know your body & being a Blood Clot Lifer can get lonely. Best Wishes to All Clotters!!

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Survivor Spotlight with Joni Rae Clayton Kalcow

I had foot surgery in the fall of 2013. I broke my foot again which meant a second surgery and complete immobility. With the OK of my doctor we took a 3 1/2 hour car trip to see my brother for Christmas. The day after we arrived I began having shortness of breath, lightheadedness and fatigue. Never suspecting how serious things were we continued with our visit for five days while my condition grew steadily worse. Then we began our return trek across the desert back home. After traveling 5 hours, I was feeling quite ill. Upon arriving home I collapsed into bed. The next morning I could only walk five feet. The afternoon of December 30th, once in the ER I was diagnosed with blood clots in my lungs and was admitted. The next afternoon I awoke from a nap feeling like I was suffocating. I called for help and 15 people were immediately there. They weren’t able to find a blood pressure for an hour. An EKG was done and blood clots were found in my heart. I was very close to death. A procedure called TPA was done. Lots of risks, but nothing to lose at that point. The procedure blasted the clots out of my heart within hours. After 11 days in the hospital I was able to go home … the most wonderful thing ever. It was a slow process, but I grew stronger each day. I am forever changed and I see things through new eyes. I am so grateful to God that I am alive, knowing things could have been so much different.

Six month update in June, 2014 … I’m turning 61 today. This past January I was fighting for my life with a 10% chance of survival. Many of my family and friends lifted me up in prayer and God heard and answered their prayers and healed my body. Today I am strong, healthy, grateful and loving life. I am feeling overwhelmed as I count my blessings ~ 1) my dear husband who meant it when he said “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” 42 years ago. He took care of me so well during my recuperation. What an amazing man he is. 2) my sweet children, Kris, Dani and Glo, who love me unconditionally and support me no matter what. I am blessed to be here to share in their lives. 3) and my precious grandbabies ~ God heard my request to remain here to love them, teach them and leave a legacy for them. Klayton has such a sweet, kind heart and I am so in love with him. Hazel is brand new, but has already captured my heart. I’m so grateful that God sent them to our family. 4) to all of my dear family and friends who cared for me and love me everyday ~ I thank God for you. You are each a treasure to me. I have been given so much and I have no doubt who the Giver is. I praise His name for His generosity and gift of grace and renewed health.

Three and a half year update in June, 2017 …It’s a wonderful life! I am now living in Arizona close to my son Kris, daughter Danielle, daughter-in-love Glo, grandson Klayton, granddaughter Hazel and yet another sweet grandson, Emerson, born in 2015! This extra time God has given to me is such a gift. I am enjoying every day. The joy that He blesses me with is unbelievable. NEVER GIVE UP!!!! Fight hard! Trust God! He knows best. He created you … He can certainly heal you. He can change your heart. He can change your mind. He can change your thoughts. He can change your life!There is life after blood clots! He has so much more for you to enjoy and do!

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