Blood Clot Awareness Month Part 2 – Hannah Adams
Last week, Danny Cardwell did an excellent story on March being Blood Clot Awareness Month, where he underscored the fact that this medical emergency could happen to anyone. As evidence of that, meet Hannah Adams, a vivacious, active 17 year old junior at Highland High School, with an infectious laugh, who recounted her own recent experiences.
“Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots in your lungs – pulmonary meaning lungs, and embolism meaning blood clots that have moved. So normally it’s caused by blood clots in your leg that have moved up to your lungs.
“I have two – one in my right pulmonary artery and one in my left pulmonary artery.
“It started in January. In the middle of a basketball game, I ran out of the game because I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my chest was really tight. But, Sunday, I was just sitting on the couch, and I walked up the stairs, and I couldn’t breathe. And I got really short of breath, so they immediately took me to Bath, and they did a CT scan, and that’s where they found the giants clots.”
From Bath, she was rushed by ambulance to UVA Medical Center, where she was met with astonishment.
“They have only seen my scans, so they expected me to roll in pale and blue and on oxygen and really weak. But I was parked in the hallway, just sitting up, talking to everybody that came by. And most of the doctors came by, and were like “Oh my goodness, how are you still alive? I saw your scans.” And so, they put me in an ER room, and tons of different doctors came in, and they all couldn’t believe it, because they just see the chart, and then they walk in the room, and take a double take, and ask if I was Hannah Adams – Yes sir, yes ma’am, I am – and they were like “How are you still breathing?”
“When I first got there, they were debating on whether or not putting me in the adult ICU or the pediatric ICU, because I have an adult problem, but I’m not quite 18 yet. Then they debated on how to treat it. They said since I’m young and healthy, no surgery will be required. If they did surgery, it would be a catheter that would go in through my neck, all the way down to my lungs, and distribute medicine that would break up the clots. But they didn’t want to do that because then they thought I would have a lot of little clots floating around in my lungs.
“So, then they decided since I was young and healthy, and since these are so old – apparently, blood clots are really old, even if it’s a couple weeks – so they said to let my body’s own proteins eventually break them down. And they gave me blood thinner that is supposed to prevent new blood clots from forming, and make sure these blood clots that I already have don’t get bigger.”
“And how do you administer the blood thinner?”
“It’s a shot in my stomach, two times a day.”
“And you do it yourself?”
“I have to learn how to do it myself.”
“Who’s doing it now?”
“I cannot do anything basically. So, it’s hard, because they don’t want you to sit around all day, but then again, you’re not allowed to do a whole lot, to be active. I’m walking around, I’m doing normal things, but not as much, and the doctors were nervous that I wouldn’t be able to walk for six minutes straight, because the clots are so big, they thought it’s putting a lot of strain on my heart, because my heart can’t pump correctly, and they want to make sure I don’t over-exert myself to where I have a heart attack.
“So, yeah, it’s nerve racking. I can’t get overwhelmed with emotion or whatnot, because I’ve got to keep calm and keep breathing. I can’t lift heavy objects, and then they also don’t want me in dangerous situations – if I get hit, or a ball’s thrown at me, or I fall down and hit my head, I have to be immediately rushed to the hospital, because since I’m on blood thinners, I have to be careful for internal bleeding.”
Ms. Adams will be on blood thinners for at least six months, and will returning to school when she feels she can handle it, starting slowly and working up her endurance under close supervision. It’s not necessarily doom and gloom for her though.
“So, in essence, you’ve got, like, the Monopoly card to sit around and eat M&M’s and not do anything, right?”