Survivor Spotlight: Traci Patton

My story actually starts many years ago. I’ve had issues with my period, since I first started at age 13. I’ll spare you all the gory details, so the men reading won’t be grossed out, but I’m sure a few of the women here know what I’m talking about. So I’ve tried everything you can think of to fix this issue. Mostly, it’s been “Let’s try this birth control, let’s try that one”. I got pregnant at the age of 18, and since my period would skip three or four months at a time (even on the pill), I had no clue what I was going through wasn’t just the norm. So I kept taking the pills. It ended in a miscarriage. I was shattered. I found out I was pregnant again about a year later, and around three months after I left my abusive fiance, I carried him to term, and on April 14th, 1995, I gave birth to my only child, my pride and joy, Dillon.

     Fast forward 18 years. I had still been having issues with my period, and went to my GYN, requesting a hysterectomy. I had been bleeding almost non-stop for three months. I was anemic, exhausted, and so very tired of bleeding. I literally begged my doctor to give me a hysterectomy. He told me, at the age of 38 and with an almost 18 year old kid, that I was still too young to have the surgery. It was too permanent. He talked me into a birth control patch that worked well for women with my “issues”. So in February of 2013, I started the Ortho Evera patch.

     I work as a Police/Fire/EMS Dispatcher in my town, and on 4/10/13, I was heading in to work for an 11 pm to 7 am shift. My left hip was aching, and I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried sitting, walking, propping my leg up, keeping it flat. Nothing helped. It was just achy and sore. I sat there all night, trying to figure out why it hurt. I was having trouble breathing, also, but thought that was due to my asthma. But I got thinking of a friend I have on Facebook, who just went through blood clots, and was starting to wonder. I remember reading her story, and worrying. I went into the bathroom, and realized that my leg was swollen pretty badly, and very hot to the touch. So I did what everyone does. I consulted the Internet. I typed in my issues, and the very first thing that popped up was “You have a blood clot, get to the hospital now!”. Of course, I ignored it. Instead, I finished my shift, and called my Mom on my drive home. I tried to get her to talk me out of my panic. She finally convinced me to call the ER, and tell them my symptoms. They told me to get to the ER, NOW, and they were sending an ambulance to get me. I told them no way. All I could think about was I didn’t want the people I work with to think I was panicking, and I didn’t want them to see me like that. So I took an extra ten minutes and shaved my legs, and at 7:30 am on 4/11/13, I drove myself to the hospital. Thank God nothing bad happened on the way there!!!

     At the ER, they immediately put me into a room, and started doing tests. My D-Dimer was through the roof, according to the ER Attending, and my leg was swollen to three times the normal size. So into the Ultrasound room I went. I knew the tech well, as he was engaged to a friend of mine, and I had seen him many times to check on my “inner workings”. He stuck the wand into the groin area, right where my inner thigh and groin meet. He saw the clot right away. His exact words were “Oh, honey. I don’t wanna say you’re a statistic, but you are now”. The clot in my leg went from the top of my leg almost to my ankle. It was 24 inches long. And then he sent me off to the CT. There, they found 5 clots in my lungs. Three in my left lung, and two in my right. I was told multiple times I was lucky to be alive. My doctor told me that I had a huge DVT in the back of my left leg, which is the side I wore the Ortho Evera patch on. She said it had broken off the 5 bits, which traveled through my heart and into my lungs. Somehow, I survived all 5 times!! Then the DVT broke free. If it hadn’t have lodged in my groin, and caused the clot in my leg, it would have stopped my heart when it tried to pass through. She also told me I was being admitted to the hospital, and would be started on Lovenox shots and oral Coumadin. I was expected to be able to inject myself. I am not a fan of needles, so this was torture!

     I was in the hospital for 6 days. This included my son’s 18th Birthday. But the wing of the hospital I was in had been the Maternity wing when I had my son. So the room we had cake and ice cream in was the room he was born in. And then he came to the hospital on 4/17/13, and took me home, exactly 18 years to the day that I had brought him home. The only other difference was that it wasn’t snowing when he took me home, and it was when I took him home. Lol

     I was on Coumadin for 7 months. After it cleared my system, I had the full blood panel done. I actually insisted on it, since my GYN was so certain it couldn’t have been the patch that caused the clots. My tests came back 100% normal. No clotting factors at all. But come to find out, the Ortho Evera patch had a list of warnings. “Don’t take this medication if”. There were 6 major warnings, and I matched 4 of them. Don’t take this if you are over the age of 35, over a certain weight, have a sedentary job, and if you take Carbamazapine (or Tegretol, an anti seizure medication I take for Trigeminal Neuralgia, a nerve disorder in my face). I *NEVER* should have been put on that patch. But I don’t read the warnings, because I have a tendency to read “While taking this you may experience…” and I get that symptom. It’s a subliminal thing. lol

     I’m now almost 4 years out from my Clot experience. I still worry every day. When my asthma acts up, when I get pain or swelling in my leg, or my heart beats faster. My lungs have never been the same, and never will be, according to my Pulmonologist. He has started me on two new inhalers that have helped tremendously! It’s like night and day. But if I exert myself, it shows. I wheeze, pant, and sound like a freight train going uphill. I still have issues with my period, and am about to consult with someone who will hopefully let me get the hysterectomy I’ve wanted forever. I let my former GYN talk me into a uterine ablation, which worked for about 2 years. And now I’m back to square one.

     Thanks for reading my story. I don’t show up as much on the Survivor page, but I’m always there, ready to give support or encouragement. You can always ask me anything. I’m an open book. Love, hugs, and prayers to you all! 🙂


Survivor Spotlight: Sarah Wecker



My name is Sarah Wecker and I live in Marysville, Kansas. I am married to my best friend Rick, and have two children. Sean is 20 years old, in college at Black Hills State University. Hannah is 15, a busy freshman in High School.

My story started back in the Spring of 2009. I started having knee issues and of course went to my Doctor, who sent me to Physical Therapy. By the Fall of that year nothing was working and so they sent me to the Specialist who decided a scope should be done. My surgery was on Friday the 13th…. I should have known better. Once the Doctor got in there they realized they needed to do another procedure which required me to stay off that knee for 30 days. Surgery went fine and I went back to work on Monday. I work an office position, so staying off my knee was not a problem. By the middle of that week I was getting very tired, but chalked it up to going back to work too soon. On Saturday my husband thought it would be good to get out of the house and took me shopping, which in all reality was walking on my crutches from one bench to the other. That night I woke about 3am as I had a terrible pain in my side. I tried to just go back to sleep but then I couldn’t breathe….. at all. Finally, I laid down in the hallway on the floor and I was able to catch my breath. Hubby took me to the hospital, where they had to call in the on-call Doctor. He made it pretty obvious he was not happy to be there. He told me that you must have pulled a muscle with your crutches and that is what caused your pain and lack of breath. Sent me home with muscle relaxers. I returned to work on Monday, but I kept having these pains which caused me to have to breathe very shallow. This was the week of Thanksgiving. I had a Physical Therapy appointment after work on Wednesday. I got on the table and felt terribly faint. I remember them saying that if she isn’t up in ten minutes we are going to call the ambulance. I didn’t want that so I did everything I could to get up and get to my car. I drove home and headed towards the couch. My husband wanted to take me back to the hospital but after the reception we had that Saturday evening I didn’t want to go through that again. By the end of Thanksgiving Day I would have to stop to catch my breath on the way to the bathroom. Rick said I’m taking you to the clinic tomorrow, like it or not! I remember that night when he was telling me goodnight I asked him to check on me during the night to make sure I was breathing. I don’t know why I told him that, but he said I did. The next morning when I was getting ready to go to the clinic I looked at myself in the mirror and my skin was grey colored, and I had huge black rings under my eyes. I just so happened to have the same Doctor that greeted me so kindly the Saturday night before. I know when he looked at me he knew exactly what was wrong, and the nurse looked at him and said her pulse is faint. Immediately went to get a CT scan and back to the office where that same Doctor looked at me now with oxygen on and said, you have blood clots on both lungs. This could be fatal, we need to get you to a larger hospital. He asked me which hospital I wanted to go to, Topeka or Lincoln, NE. I looked at him, mad as I could be at that point and said “if this is my last ride take me to Lincoln, Nebraska that is home”. He told me they did not have time to take me by ambulance so I got a helicopter ride out of the deal as well. Arriving at the hospital I soon had a little good news, they said they thought this could be treated with blood thinners and no surgery would be needed. I was there for five days and sent home with lots of instructions and a new life. The one thing I will always remember from my first evening at the hospital. A new nurse who had just come on duty was looking through my records on the computer. She said to me “Sarah God isn’t done with you yet, because you shouldn’t even be here”. I took that as a sign that there are things for me to accomplish or change in my life. I must say, that while post clot I continue to have issues with breathing, it is always a reminder to me of what could have happened. 

Survivor Spotlight: Julie Oswald


It was my 57th Birthday on January 14, 2015. My husband had knee replacement surgery and I went to the mailbox for his paper before work. I didn’t see the patch of ice and fell on my hip and elbow. The bruise went from my knee to my hip and it gave me a hip pointer. I could barely get up off the ice, but finally made it into the house and stayed home from work for a few hours. I went back to work where I went back to my duties as the Director of Assisted Living and Senior Living for a large nursing home. I didn’t see the physician because he would just say we will keep an eye on it.

The true emergency came on Friday the 13th of March 2015. I had flu B and was instructed to stay home from work. I thought I was recovering from that when all of a sudden I went pale and couldn’t breathe. I went to Urgent Care thinking I had pneumonia or pleurisy. An x-ray was done and the PA said it looks like you have a lung infarction. I drove home and drove to the ER 40 minutes away. I sat in the ER for 2 hours even with a DVD of my infarction. If it hadn’t been for my best friend working at this hospital,  I wouldn’t be here. She took charge. I had a CT scan and told I had saddle embolus. The ER Dr. became irritated with me and said I could have died. I asked him why did I sit in your ER for 2 hours with your staff knowing I had an infarction?? He was not going to answer that question I could see. The next several days are a blur. I was in the Cardiac Care Unit. The bruise I had took two months for the clots to travel and came from my hip. I also have had Crohn’s Disease for 31 years, Factor V leiden clotting disorder, so finding where the clots came from was a toss up. 
I complained for over a year that my pubic bone was hurting terribly. By the time I had a CT scan and an MRI it was a year later and was told I had Osteitis Condensans Pubis  (weakening of the pubic bone structure). The first Rheumatologist knew nothing about it and I asked to be referred to another Rheumatologist. He told me I fractured my pubic bone.  Then my knees and elbow began to swell and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. So I am on Xarelto for life  and medicine for the Fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. 
Life has truly changed for me almost 2 years ago. I lost my mom in October along with so many medical issues. I am no longer able to work. God has blessed me with a second chance at life and I have come to terms as to this is where he wants me to be. I have a precious husband, daughter,  son, their spouses and now an amazing 10 month old granddaughter. I live for God, family and friends. I love this amazing support group as we all have a story to tell on the journey we have endured.                        

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Survivor Spotlight: Karin Helmeke

I am truly blessed to be here sharing my story with all of you.

My journey started on December 15, 2016 in Minneapolis, MN as we were down there to see my step-children. Before we even left the hotel, I knew something was wrong, as it took me much longer to get ready in the morning than it should have. I was moving at a slow pace all morning and my walk down to our vehicle was brutal. I brushed it off to the cold weather hitting my lungs and that was the reason I was not being able to get much air into my lungs. My husband ran an errand before we left the Twin Cities and I was feeling fine. I was sitting in the vehicle with our 3 month old daughter (at the time) waiting for him. We started our travel back home. My husband asked me a few times if I wanted to stop and go shopping before we left. I told him, “no, let’s just go home”. Once we crossed the border back into North Dakota, my husband said that we needed to get some fuel, so we stopped. I stated to my husband that I would go to the bathroom. He dropped me off at the door. The cold air hit my lungs again and this time it was so painful. I could barely make it into the travel plaza, yet alone to the bathroom. I sent my husband a text saying that I couldn’t make it to the bathroom, as it hurt too much to walk and breathe. He came in and I told him that he needs to call an ambulance, as I told him I was having a hard time breathing. He told me “no, I will drive you”. He escorted me out to the vehicle. During my escort, he had a hold of me and I was also leaning on the cases of pop, just hoping I wouldn’t drop to the floor. The cold air hit my lungs again and that is when the pain was the most extreme. I gave my husband directions to the hospital and he got me there fast. I remember going into the ER ambulance bay and a nurse with a wheelchair met us and asked what was wrong. I told her that I couldn’t breathe. She wheeled me into the ER and put me in a room, where another nurse put oxygen on me and told me to slow my breathing. I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t slow this down”. I was hyperventilating and it hurt to breathe, so I took any air I could get. I also told the nurse that I couldn’t slow down my breathing. She asked me my name and I told her. My husband came in quick and was holding my hand. A doctor came in and said something to me, but then I must have passed out, but I was still breathing at that time.

I don’t remember much after that. I remember slightly cognitive waking up in ICU and everyone telling me it was Christmas (even though I didn’t believe it) how could I miss 9 days and not remember them?? I woke up more on Christmas Day and made a phone call to my parents to wish them a Merry Christmas and they said “This is the best Christmas present we could ever receive”. My husband was right by my side the whole time. The nurses kept coming in and asking their questions of: What’s your name? What day is it? Do you know the year? Do you know why you are here? I didn’t know why I was there. They told me that I had 2 pulmonary embolisms that they got and that is why it was hard for me to breath. 

This is what I have been told after I woke up and was cognitive to understand what was really going on. I was informed that on 12-15-16 I had coded 3 times. The last time I coded I was gone for a little over 10 minutes. No one knew my outcome and how it would affect my brain. I also bled out and received all new blood. My mom told me that they saw at least 3 ½ trays of blood being brought to me and then given to me. I was told that the heparin wasn’t dissolving my clots and that’s why I coded the first time. I ended up with emergency open heart surgery to get to the blood clots. I ended up in ICU and was hooked up to 5 IV trees with every branch full of antibiotics, fluids, etc..flowing through my body.  I made it out of surgery fine. I went to the ICU and I was recovering. There was a respiratory therapist that came in checking up on my breathing and I was doing ok. Not even 10 minutes later a nurse came in to check on me and I was coding again (the last of the 3 times) and they were doing everything they could to save me. One of the doctors went to my husband and asked him what he wanted done (surgery or not). The doctor told him if he chose not to have me go through another surgery, I would be gone in about 2 hours. My husband had been crying the  whole day along with my family and his family that came to be with him. He looked at my mom and she told him that this was his decision, she couldn’t make it anymore. He told the doctor to do anything and everything to save me. So back up to emergency open heart surgery to get more clots dissolved. I went back to ICU for the next 13 days and then moved to another room down the hall out of ICU. I spent 16 days total in the hospital.

It was a pretty scary experience to say the least. Not only for me, but my husband and my entire family. My daughter came one to two times, but I wasn’t coherent enough to hold her, talk to her or even touch her. I still have memory issues and I repeat myself from time to time, because there are times I have forgotten that I had already told my husband 4 times already. Every day I don’t know if I am going to have a good day or not with my breathing or even the pain of my incision, but I go into each day with the thought that my lungs are getting stronger with every breath I take. I’ve come to the realization that I just need to take things slower now and that this slow movement is ok. I don’t have to have everything done right now. I’m no longer in a hurry. I’m enjoying my life so much more and have turned more towards my faith. When my daughter asks me why I have all these scars on my chest, I’m going to tell her what happened. I know she won’t understand at first, but I know she’ll continue to ask until she understands. 

I am here today and I don’t take anything for granted. I embrace and love my life to my fullest ability. I have a beautiful 7& month old daughter who I get to watch grow up and explore the world around her, to mold her into the woman she will become through determination, hard work, faith and love; my husband who is the love of my life, my best friend and soul mate who looks at me with amazement every day and loves me unconditionally; and a loving immediate family/ extended family that I love with everything I have. 

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with all of you.


Survivor Spotlight: Sheldon E Jackson

  My Story

I will be 56 years old next month. I grew up in Washington, DC. I am an Environmental Services Director at a local Nursing Center. I have been divorced for 17 years now. My daughter is 30 and son 24. I noticed problems with my legs when I was 12 years old. Swelling, stiffness and pain all the time. I thought it was normal and everyone felt this pain. Constant unbearable pain and swelling. I suffered with this pain until I was 45 years old in the year of 2006, when everything changed. I use to walk or jog for 3 miles daily. One day at work I was moving furniture and I thought I bruised my thigh. I checked out the bruise daily and began to think to myself, is this bruise moving and getting bigger and hotter? The pain got so bad that I began to crawl at home. I continued to work and one day I decided to show it to someone at work. She told me to go to the ER, I worked at a Hospital at the time and they referred me to an oncologist specialist. They told me they thought I had cancer and would have to do more test. All the the while having me go to a cancer clinic. I was so scared and confused and did not know how to tell my family. They keep asking me what was wrong with me? and blaming my smoking cigarettes for the problem. I never felt so alone in my life. I kept getting hospitalized for thing like loosing my balance walking, resulting in me hitting my head on the wall twice and bleeding both times. One day I went to see my doctor because I was crawling again and it took me 34 minutes to get to the office, when usually it took 7 minutes. They did a Doppler and the nurse went upstairs to see my doctor and it took her so long to come back that I went home. When I got home my doctor called and told me to go straight to the emergency room. He said I had 9 blood clots and had a PE. I fell into a deep depression and would not tell anyone I was in the hospital. My doctor told me later that they found out what the problem was. I was born with not one but two genes that cause my blood to clot. I was put on antidepressants and they inserted an IVC filter and I had to take very painful injections of Lovenox in the stomach and put me on Coumadin for life. While on Coumadin, I still developed many blood clots and had 2 PE’s. Was hospitalized constantly. Since then I switched to Xarelto and have not had any problems.