Survivor Spotlight: Timika Va’linda Williams

Working in the school system, I was happy to see the school year end. Summertime, finally!! A weekend away with my best friend was a great start. We drove 3 and half hours; visited with her family, did a little shopping in the midst of me wobbling around on my left leg which was swollen. Man, I must have pulled a muscle in my leg packing up for the end of the school year. I pushed through the weekend, icing my leg every night and taking Aspirin or Tylenol to get rid of the pain.

Finally back home, Sunday night I rested and told my best friend I would go to a walk in clinic Monday morning if it didn’t get any better. Hey! I had more plans of traveling and I didn’t want a muscle strain to hold me back. On Monday, June 5, 2017, the pain and swelling was still there. I decided to go to the walk in clinic. The walk in clinic doctor saw me and the questions began. Finally some news, “I can treat you for a muscle strain, but it may not be that. I believe it may be blood clots. We don’t have the equipment here to test for that, but I urge you to go to the ER.” At that moment I said ok, not believing at all I had blood clots. This was something I didn’t know anything about and didn’t believe I would be dealing with.
My best friend drove me to the new ER that had recently been built. The walk in clinic doctor mentioned they probably would get me in quick with no wait. Immediately, I was taken back and my world changed. “You have a DVT in your left leg.” Ok, so what do we do? “I need to contact the attending doctor at the main branch, you may need to stay over night.” As my best friend contacted my family, I lay there not really conceptualizing what was going on with me.
That evening I was transferred to the main hospital by ambulance and I spent the night in observation. My family immediately showed up concerned. My sister-in-law (a nurse practitioner) offered suggestions of what medicines were best for less of a lifestyle change; Xarelto or Eliquis. Before going home the next day I was prescribed Xarelto, I spent the next two weeks healing, resting and limping around before walking would get better. I worked on canceling my Cancun, Mexico trip and enjoying a staycation in my home town for my summer break. I took my medicine diligently, ordered my medical bracelet, attended my follow up appointments and finally came up on the three month mark.
I was finished with my medicine, I waited a few weeks and had an appointment at my pulmonologist. He ordered various blood clotting tests, a D-dimer and an ultrasound of my legs. All blood clotting test came back negative, the D-dimer was in range and the ultrasound showed the DVT was gone. Yes! I’m free! I’m blood clot free!
Time passed and life went on! January 2018 began and I was excited about a New Year. I had recently convinced my pulmonologist to allow me to try to ween off of my inhaler I use for chronic bronchitis; I desired to live a drug free life; I’m young I thought. Tuesday, January 2, 2018 night came and I started to feel a little short winded, my heart would race when I moved around, I was dizzy and almost passed out twice. Wednesday, January 3, 2018 I had a pulmonologist check up appointment. I felt like maybe it’s my chronic bronchitis (I guess I shouldn’t have stopped the inhaler) and I need to go in for a breathing treatment since my nebulizer is broken.
As I woke that morning, I could barely move without feeling exhausted, my heart was racing and I was dizzy. I knew I needed to get in as soon as I could! Thankful, I called and they agreed; though the doctor wouldn’t be in yet so I could see the nurse practitioner. When I first went in I believed I was having an asthmatic attack due to my chronic bronchitis; I just wanted a breathing treatment.The nurse practitioner came in to see me after the nurse had set me up with a breathing treatment and given a shot to open up my lungs. She listened, to my past (Previous DVT, chronic bronchitis) and what my current symptoms were… requested I take a CT Scan and calmly had the medical assistant call the hospital outpatient center across the street to get me in the same day.
With my trusty best friend by my side, my mom and brother (they were on alert since I had been feeling sick that morning) near by, I went to get the CT Scan. I didn’t know that scan would be an admittance to the ER and a five day hospital stay. Upon hearing the news from the ER doctor, I broke down in tears. I wasn’t crying because I was scared. I cried out of confusion and frustration because I wanted to know why, I wanted to know why this was happening and what was causing it. Now my life was going to be altered because of the return of clots. I was diagnosed with a extensive upper, lower and central pulmonary embolism and right heart strain. That night I also had a leg ultrasound and we would find another DVT. My doctors, sister-in-law (nurse practitioner) and myself, after discussing all treatment plans agreed on the insertion of an IVC filter in my vena cava. The doctors stressed my heart and my lungs could not take any more clots; it would be more unneeded stress on them.
Now I live with all my doctors in agreement; blood thinners for life. As my hematologist says; “We may never find out what caused them, even if we do, it’s the same treatment. You will be on blood thinners for life.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the blood thinners (Eliquis this time around) to correct the wrong in my body. Though I still want to know why. When I was first diagnosed in June 2017, I was on birth control. Though I was on birth control for over 18 years! I spent over 18 years of my life with not getting blood clots. Why now? So, I pushed for some tests, and my hematologist agreed, though states the blood work doesn’t suggest intensive testing for cancers or disorders. I also had been tested for cancer in the hospital and that came back negative. My life right now is about finding me the best team of doctors I can. The first time around I believed it was a fluke. I had my primary and pulmonologist who would would run the test we deemed necessary. I now have a primary doctor, pulmonologist,hematologist,
cardiologist and a periodontist (my gums have been swollen since the stop of the first blood thinners).
I push for answers, though I live my life thankful. Thankful I know God. I am also Thankful that I have family and friends right by my side to support me every step of the way. Thankful I could take off two weeks of work after my hospital stay, go back working half days when needed, or a day off and not be afraid my job is in jeopardy. Thankful I can say I survived, though even more thankful to say I live! I live to feel every ache and every pain. I live through every joy and every laugh! Tears may come at times and that is okay, I push through, I move on, thankful to be here to experience every emotion of living. These blood clots are not me, they are a detail about me. They will not consume me.


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