Finally, I was moved out of ICU and returned to a regular room. I was given a walker, surgical-grade compression socks to wear every waking moment of my life for the next two years—in an attempt to prevent pain, discomfort, and swelling. I was told to fill my prescription for blood thinners immediately. My head was spinning: Why did this happen to me?
A week later
I met with a hematologist, and he explained that my blood work revealed a blood clotting condition called factor V Leiden—an inherited mutation of one of the clotting factors in the blood, which can increase the chance of developing abnormal blood clots, most commonly in the legs or lungs.
Women who carry the factor V Leiden mutation may develop blood clots during pregnancy. I’ve never had children, but taking the hormone estrogen also raises risk—and I had been on estrogen-containing birth control pills for nearly 20 years. I’d unknowingly created the perfect storm.
Between 3 and 8 percent of Caucasians in the United States and Europe carry a copy of the factor V Leiden mutation. People who have inherited factor V Leiden from only one parent have a 5 percent chance of developing an abnormal blood clot by age 65.
In my case, it was my mom who had unknowingly passed this gene down to me; to this day, thankfully, she has never had a complication.
The factor V Leiden mutation does not itself cause any symptoms—the first indication that you have the disorder may be the development of an abnormal blood clot. If you experience pain, swelling, redness or warmth, most commonly in your legs, you may have a DVT and should seek immediate medical attention.
In the three years since my blood clot, I’ve had to find alternative birth control and deal with the reality that I will be on daily blood thinners for the rest of my life. My left leg no longer matches my right—it’s still swollen from my thigh down to my ankle (a result of permanent vascular damage) and slightly discolored. But other than aesthetics and having to say goodbye to my entire shoe collection (my left foot is now half a size bigger and I can’t wrap any strappy styles around my cankle), I’m grateful that my leg is functional and still attached to my body.
6 Things You Can Do to Prevent DVT, A Deadly Blood Clot In Your Leg
Here’s what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of DVT—a potentially life-threatening clot.