This post is the first in the series My Life With Deep Vein Thrombosis, featuring stories of people’s unique experiences of DVT.
By Patrice Jones
I’ve experienced deep vein thrombosis (DVT) 14 times. I remember the first time as if it were yesterday.
It was in 2005 -- I was 5 months pregnant. I worked for a law firm and would often have strict project deadlines. That particular summer, we were swamped. I would sit in my office and close my door, working feverishly to finish up for the day. Eight-hour days sometimes turned into 12-hour days, usually only taking restroom breaks.
One day, I noticed a pain in the back of my right leg that only subsided when I elevated my leg. I decided to prop my leg up in another office chair and continue working. About 2 days after the first sign of discomfort, after working at my desk for hours, I tried to stand up. It was the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt in my entire life.
The back of my leg was hot to the touch. It felt like an elephant was standing on my leg. The pain from inside of my leg was so very unbearable. Deep vein thrombosis most certainly lives up to its name: The pain you feel deep inside is unimaginable.
My co-worker saw me limping for the second day in a row. He suggested I go to the hospital because it could be serious. I recall thinking to myself, “How in the world can leg pain be serious?” Thankfully, I worked only four blocks from a hospital. I took his advice and hobbled into the emergency room after work that day. By the time I arrived, my leg was almost completely numb, swollen, and hurting so badly. I even started having heart palpitations. It was so very painful. You’re probably wondering how a person can be in pain and numb simultaneously -- it’s the weirdest thing ever!
Lucky for me, being 5 months pregnant and complaining of leg pain will get you fast-tracked in an emergency room. (I’d find out later that pregnant women are up to five times more likely to develop DVT.)
After the ER doctors sent me back to get an ultrasound of my legs, I laid in my hospital bed thinking of all sorts of things. Is my baby OK? Did I pull a muscle in my leg? Did I sleep wrong? I started blaming myself. I convinced myself it was my fault for working too hard as a new mom and vowed to change my work schedule. Surely, the doctor was about to come to my bedside and tell me it’s just a bad sprain and I could go home. He didn’t.
I was diagnosed with my first DVT. There was a huge blood clot behind my knee. I blurted out exactly what I was thinking: “I thought old people got blood clots; I’m only 30 years old! How did this happen?”
Turns out, I have a gene that make me more susceptible to blood clots, called the prothrombin gene.
While I was happy to find out the cause, I knew this would be the beginning of a series of medical battles. Since my first DVT in 2005, I’ve had 14 instances of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms of the lung. I’ve been fighting this DVT battle for over 15 years. I am alive. I am winning. (And in case you’re wondering -- after that first scary experience, I delivered a healthy baby boy. He is 15 years old now and the joy of my life.)
Having a blood clot has changed the way I live. My view of life has shifted. I’ve had to adapt and develop new habits. And coming to the realization that the possibility of DVT would be a permanent part of my life has been challenging to process. However, we get to choose whether we win or lose by the posture we decide to take. I choose to flow with life like water, never going against the current. All will be well. Each day, I get to decide that. That is my posture.
Patrice has been a health and fitness professional since 2009. She lives with the prothrombin gene and is a multiple DVT and pulmonary embolism survivor. Her passion for helping others stay healthy and fit blossomed after she shed 75 pounds through a healthy diet and exercise. She is the mom of a 15-year-old college student and has been a full-time entrepreneur for 13 years. She has also been committed to fundraising for various organizations such as the Semper Fi organization and So Others Might Eat in Washington DC, and participates with organizations like the National Blood Clot Alliance to raise awareness of DVT.
Patrice has been a powerlifter, powerlifting coach, fitness trainer, and distance runner and does meal prep for her clients. She enjoys reading, nature, weightlifting, and cooking. Follow her story on Instagram.