Survivor Spotlight : Kathy Smith  (Assistant Admin to SASK/ Weight Warriors Groups)

What do I want people to know about me?  As I thought about this, I struggled.  I am just an ordinary person. I am 52, single, working full time as an accountant for a management company.  

​Upon further contemplation, I realized I was no longer ​”​ordinary​”.​​​​  November 18, 2014 changed that.  This was the day I learned I had a blood clot in my leg and clots in my lung.  ​This was the day I officially became a survivor.​ ​I survived the “Silent Killer.”

​I was ​transferred to a larger hospital for further treatment. 

While most of that time is a blur, the only thing I remember vividly is thinking — it is just a clot — something small — nothing to really worry about. 

Talk about being naive and uneducated.

My “small”clot was actually an extensive right lower extremity DVT  and a massive saddle pulmonary embolism extending into the pulmonary arteries bilaterally.  My DVT was idiopathic, meaning no cause could be determined.  

My life will be forever changed.  I never realized the mental side effects of a clot.  I am not sure the underlying anxiety of having a recurrence will ever go away, although it has lessened over time.   I will be a lifer on coumadin.  

Finding this group, Surviving a Silent Killer, has been a godsend.  It has enriched my life and empowered my recovery.

Survivor Spotlight: “Auntie” Sue Bucina

What would you like for us to know about you?

My name is Sue Bucina.  I’m a retired Registered Nurse of 43 years.  About half my career was ICU/CCU, the ED and Supervision. Then I did home health, hospice, psych, addictions and forensic nursing. (I worked in a prison).  I graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree.

NONE of that prepared me for the questions on Surviving a Silent Killer: PE and DVTs.  I’ve learned more than I’ve been able to teach here.  I think that’s AMAZING.  I think you’re ALL AMAZING!  And when I say that, please BELIEVE IT!  Because It’s SO very TRUE.

I came to the page because I AM the Aunt of one of our members, Angi Amerson. She had for several months, tried to get me to write on her blog about how a Family Member of a Survivor “feels”.  When we honestly “GET IT”, we feel pretty much as you do.  We’re anxious and fearful,  Happy and hopeful.  We WANT everything to be OK… and we KNOW that’s a hope and a prayer, not a “given”. Each day becomes a possibility! We can make new memories or be scared of the OLD ones.  I CHOSE NEW.

I’m a Christian with a very strong belief in prayer.  When I say I’m praying for you… You’re ON THE LIST… til I’m told otherwise.  Every day, usually twice daily, I go through the List.  I thank God for each day and for every Survivor.  The problems we “share” are continued faith and pains. Faith grows with exercising prayer. Pains just are.

I’m 67 and have earned my pain, through improper use of my body and poor diet!  If I could grant a wish for each of you, I’d give you 10 days without pain and the financial backing to fulfill any dream on your Bucket List.  In very small print it would say. “There! Thank You.” You see, when You’re happy, I’m happy too.  When you’re sad or having a rough time, I worry and pray the more.  Of course, I’d rather you were happy.  So, basically, you can call me Sue or Auntie Sue!  I’ve grown to think of you as my “own”.  I’m also very pleased that we have many nurses now who are still ACTIVE in the field.  WE must teach THEM!  Our knowledge base of clotting and clotting disorders has grown so recently and so quickly, the More we TEACH, the Better the Outcome for Everyone.

I also love to HUG!  When I use the little icons at the end of my “hello”, it means You are Loved and You are Hugged and you are Prayed For.   God bless you all. 😀   No icons on my computer!  Think Hearts and Roses and Hugs, Please.

Survivor Showcase: Sameera Kafaar 

​What I would like everyone to know about me? This is a very tricky question. There are times when I feel that I don’t even know myself. Sometimes I can’t even point out my strong and weak points. 

Here goes:

 I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 17 years and I’m a proud mother of 4 children aged 15, 12, 10 and 6. I work full-time and my goal is to become a proud stay at home mom in the future.  The one thing I want everyone to know is, that I’m a Survivor. Ever since that dreadful day ,August 2013 , with my Pulmonary Embolism, I’ve learned that I’m no longer a victim of circumstances, but a Survivor.  During my illness, I’ve also linked up with various blood clot groups, and came across “Surviving a Silent Killer” by Lisa Wells. I’ve learned so much here and I never knew that there were so many people suffering from the same illness as I. In South Africa they don’t make a big fuss about blood clots, that’s why I’m so grateful for this group. My PE has been very difficult for me, it changed my whole life. I never tbougt that I would end up in ICU at the age of 36 with such a deadly illness. What made it more difficult is, is that I suffer from depression and anxiety. I am lucky enough to have a good medical team behind me. I firmly believe that behind every Survivor, stands a loving, supportive family. I’m very fortunate to have a very understanding husband. Believe me, not every day was a smooth ride, but somehow we’ve managed to overcome all the obstacles. My husband and 4 children stand by me through thick and thin.  I’ve learned that never mind what life throws at you, with the help of the Almighty, you can overcome anything. Faith, patience and acceptance are the three key factors that helps me to cope everyday. Last year 25 October (on my youngest son’s birthday) I lost my father-in-law due to renal cell cancer, on 2 January 2017 our best friend drowned and on 27 August I’ve lost my beloved mother due to Alzheimers.  I’m still trying to cope with all of this, especially my mom’s death, but I have no choice but to be strong for my sake, my father’s and my children’s. There are times that I want to give up, but somehow I manage to stand up every time.  All that is left for me to do now, is to learn to become stronger. There are so many good and bad things lying ahead in my life, so many challenges…. But the important thing is…am I going to let it get me down or am I going to stand up and stay a Survivor!!!

Survivor Spotlight: Debra Turner Bryant

 As an Assistant Admin and fellow DVT Survivor, I’d like to tell you a little bit about May Thurner Syndrome, which contributed to my extensive DVT and my ongoing chronic pain. May Thurner Syndrome is a physical anomaly, where the right common iliac artery compresses the left common iliac vein. It usually causes enough of an interruption of blood flow, that it triggers a blood clot to start forming. When I was diagnosed with DVT, I was 11 weeks pregnant and was working full time in an office setting. I’d been having lower back and left hip pain periodically for a few months and thought it was partially due to an uncomfortable chair at work, and the fact that I was 37 years old and early in my pregnancy. Little did I know that those two symptoms are very common among women who have May Thurner Syndrome. DVT can present itself in many different ways, depending on the individual person, the extent and location of their clot, and any other health issues they may have. My DVT presented as my left leg swollen more than double its size, painfully heavy, ice cold to the touch, and was blue. I had severe and constant pain, especially in my hip and groin. I kept trying to research blood clots to gain a better understanding of how my body, and baby, were being affected by this frightening thing invading my body. Upon googling my pain symptoms and that I have a clot in the left leg, information about May Thurner Syndrome was at the top of my search results. I started sifting through the information looking for the most reputable sources for a clearer explanation. Everything was adding up. Upon learning how much my symptoms pointed to May Thurner Syndrome being a culprit for my DVT, I set out to question my doctors on how to treat this so that I could start my recovery and go back to my life. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. None of my doctors completely understood what, or how common, May Thurner Syndrome is. Luckily, I was being referred to an Interventional Radiologist at Medical University of South Carolina to remove my IVC filter. I had a phone conversation with this knowledgeable Interventional Radiologist about the plan to remove my filter, but took the liberty to ask him what he knew about May Thurner and the possibility that it could have contributed to my DVT. That’s when everything took a drastic turn for the better. He looked at my most recent ultrasound and noticed an interruption in blood flow as well as a compression of the iliac vein. At that moment, a plan was put into motion. The Interventional Radiologist brought me in for a Venogram, in order to get a better look at my veins and so he could treat whatever issues he came across at that time. I ended up having thrombolysis with tPA and a mechanical thrombectomy with an Angiojet. After the clotting was cleared, a balloon was used to open up the veins that were narrowed, and then two stents were placed in my iliac vein to help alleviate that physical compression of my left common iliac vein, which is also known as May Thurner Syndrome. I know this story is quite long, but this is what happens when you have to advocate for yourself to get answers and treatment for what health situations you are dealing with. May Thurner Syndrome isn’t a well known condition, but it’s also not rare. If you have an extensive DVT, especially your left leg, this could be a potential factor that contributed to it. It won’t hurt to rule it out.

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Survivor Spotlight: Holly Michelle Shoemaker  (Sask Assistant Admin.)

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What would I want people to know about me?

As your Admin, I want you to know why I accepted the Admin position two years ago.

I strongly desire for each member to have a solid understanding and educational foundation . Not only do I want each member to be empowered with understanding why they developed a clot(s), I am passionate about members understanding the composition and function of blood. With basic information and education of how blood functions within the body and what each property does, members will be able to help themselves in many situations.  From understanding the severity of a PE to having a meaningful discussion with your physician. A solid educational foundation will allow each member to be a proactive patient rather than a reactive patient.

This passion for empowering each member with education is what I desire for you to know about me the most. I had my first clotting event, in 1994, at the age of 23. I had three clots in my brain, and as a result, suffered a stroke. At that time, there was not much information on Factor V Leiden. I am adopted, and did not know I had Factor V until I was in the ICU. It’s been a hard and long journey. I have had other clotting events, and a third brain injury. I was often filled with anxiety, until a physician at the Michigan State Clotting  Center, sat me down and taught me. I learned that I was in control of my own body. Dr. Hausonna taught me the basics of blood and blood clotting. Like many members here, I have read about Factor V and clotting. I thought that I understood everything, but there was so much more to it than I ever imagined. I left that appointment feeling more empowered and I began to understand the beauty of having a solid foundation of understanding. I learned further about risk factors for clotting. For example, I never knew that sinus infections were two clotting risk factors, because of inflammation and infection. I did not understand that it was the combination of risk factors that can cause a clotting event.

I hope I have encouraged you in your journey today. You are not alone. We have resources available in our files. If you have any question about anything I shared, please feel free to ask. We are slowly  seeing that more and more members have had a brain injury.  If you would like to talk about that, please feel free to.

I have included some photos to share a little more about my survivor journey.

I had surgery on 11/6/15, to repair and lengthen my Gastrocnemius muscle and to repair the achielles tendon. In 2003, I developed a large DVT in my Gastrocnemius after an injury. The clot did damage to the muscle that was repaired, which has made my recovery difficult. I’m still working very hard through Physical Therapy, but especially swimming. Swimming is my favorite exercise, as I love doing laps in the pool. I’m hoping to regain the ability to swim the butterfly. Animals are another love of mine. I work hard to help animals in need, as often as I can, because it’s also therapeutic for me.

There’s a great deal more to my journey than many of you may know. If you’d ever like to speak with me to learn more, don’t hesitate to ask.