An undiagnosed genetic mutation combined with birth control pills created the perfect storm for a limb-threatening deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Three years ago while I was at work, I was hit suddenly by a blinding pain exploding in my groin. One minute I was on an afternoon conference call in my cubicle, and the next I shot up from my desk, hung up the phone mid-sentence, grabbed my purse, and hobbled out to my car. The pain was now shooting down my left leg. In fear and disbelief, I wondered how on earth I’d managed to injure myself while sitting at my desk.
During the excruciating drive home, I convinced myself that I just needed to lie down on the couch and rest. But by the time I pulled into my garage, the pain was too severe to put any weight on my leg. So, I crawled into my house and telephoned my neighbor, begging her to drive me to the ER.
When I finally got in, the staff ran tests along with a CT scan of my lower back (the staff assumed that was the source of my pain). When they couldn’t find anything, they pumped me full of morphine and recommended I get an MRI the next day. It was midnight at this point and I called a cab to take me home. Despite the morphine, I spent the rest of the evening suffering. Although some sources of leg pain only require rest, you shouldn’t ignore the pain.
The next morning, I went to see my primary care physician. After a cursory exam, the staff made an appointment for me to have an MRI of my lower back. I felt like the morphine was making me nauseated, so I had stopped taking it; the pain was excruciating.
The MRI results suggested a bulging disc in my lower spine, which seemed strange, as I’d had no previous problems with my back. Feeling as though there was no solution in sight, I booked an appointment with a physical therapy center for the next day to see if there were any stretches that could help.
When I woke up, I realized my left leg was incredibly swollen, felt hot, and the skin had a purplish-red hue. I needed crutches to get around, but I made my way into the PT center. The therapist took one look at my leg and said: “You have a blood clot! You need to go to the hospital immediately!
So I called my primary care physician again, and he told me to come right into the office. The next thing I knew, the ultrasound tech and my physician were barking orders at nurses and telling me to stay calm. It turned out that I had a massive deep vein thrombosis (DVT, or blood clot) and they were calling the hospital to book a room and admit me.
At the hospital, I was taken to a private room, where a doctor explained that a specialist would be by to assess me in the morning. I laid in the hospital bed all night, Googling my diagnosis, and wondering why there wasn’t more of a sense of urgency surrounding my situation.
Thursday to Saturday
Around 9 a.m., hospital staff performed their own ultrasound on me. There was a noticeable shift in mood in the room, and suddenly more doctors and nurses were coming in. Somebody explained to me that the blood clot was enormous—stretching from my groin to my calf and that I’d be going into surgery immediately. I heard doctors murmuring the words “limb-threatening” and I really began panicking. Could I lose my leg over this? Yes, a doctor told me, but at this moment they were more focused on saving my life!
Thankfully, the procedure was successful. I had to spend the next three days in the ICU and underwent two more procedures: One to place a device to stop blood clots from traveling to my lungs; the second was an angioplasty to further open the vein.