Nearly five years ago, I almost died. I was six days away from running a half marathon when doctors spotted two abnormalities in my lungs. They said I shouldn’t have been breathing, let alone training for a 13-mile race. Listening to my body saved my life.
2013 was a healthy year for me. I wasn’t drinking dairy or eating pork, I gave up alcohol for the whole year, and I was preparing to run a personal best in the Philly Marathon. There was no reason I should have been experiencing health problems. Yet, for three days I had an unexplainable pain in my right shoulder blade and one night while sleeping, I woke up unable to breathe. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment a few days later.
My vitals were astounding. My breathing was better than average, my oxygen levels were high, and the doctor, like myself, had no reason to suspect anything was wrong. She was in disbelief at the pain I was experiencing but offered to have an xray done saying, “It probably won’t show anything.” I insisted, took the xray and went home.
A few hours later, I received a call stating, “You need to head to the emergency room right now. There are two dark spots on the x-ray in each of your lungs.” Thank God we did the x-ray.
I called my parents, packed a bag and we headed to the hospital together. After an MRI, the ER doctor delivered the results (with my parents in the room). “You have two pulmonary embolisms- blood clots- one in each lung. It looks like the one in your right lung killed a part of your lung which explains the sensation you were feeling in your shoulder. Are you on birth control?”
Pause. Sex is not a topic open for discussion between my parents and their unmarried daughter, so this question caught me all the way off guard. I started using Nuva Ring three weeks prior, so the answer to his question was yes. The news to follow (along with the shock of my parents) was even more brutal.
“You will be on blood thinners for the next six months to shrink the clots. Until the blood thinners take effect, you will give yourself a shot [a needle injection] every day for the next week to start the thinning process. You will be on a modified diet because the food affects the effectiveness of the drug, and there should be no drinking for the next six months for that same reason.”
Talk about blind-sided. I walked in to the doctor’s office as healthy as can be and hours later found myself being admitted to the hospital where I’d spend the next week followed by six months of medication. This was 26. I wasn’t ready.
In honor of blood clot awareness month, I wanted people to learn from my story. Here are my takeaways:
~Listen to your body
The night I woke up unable to breathe, I wanted to go to the hospital. My boyfriend at the time thought I was exaggerating, but fortunately I made the decision for myself days later, BEFORE running a race that could have cost me my life.
~Seek professional help
It’s okay to admit when you can’t handle something. Whether it be mental or physical health, we could all benefit from a little guidance, assistance, and expertise.
~Talk medical history
My family is very secretive. I found out, after the fact, that other members of my family also had their own issues with blood clots. This knowledge would have been useful prior to starting a new medication. Have the conversations with your elders about medical issues that run in your family.
~Throw away “should”
If the doctor and I held on to what healthy should look like, we never would have addressed what was actually happening. Pushing for the x-ray saved my life. Focus on what is happening, not what should be happening.
~You are still here for a reason
All of this happened two years prior to me publishing my chapbook and starting my career as a writer and community organizer. When we live to tell our stories, we have a purpose to fulfill and an obligation to share our testimonies.
What's your story?
For more information on how to stop the clot, go to www.stoptheclot.org.