March Is Blood Clot Awareness Month

March is Blood Clot Awareness Month. Blood clots or (pulmonary embolism) are the result of blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or other parts of the body. These are known as deep vein thrombosis.


Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Prompt medical treatment significantly reduces the risk of death. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism can vary depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have an underlying lung or heart disease issue.


Common signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain: you may feel like you’re having a heart attack, and a cough that produces bloody phlegm and saliva. Other signs and symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include leg pain or swelling: usually in the calf, clammy or discolored skin, fever, excessive sweating, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and lightheadedness or dizziness.


Anyone can develop blood clots and subsequent pulmonary embolism, but certain factors increase your risk.


Medical history: If you or anyone in your family has had blood clots or pulmonary embolism in the past, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and heart failure makes clot formation more likely. Certain cancers especially pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers can increase levels of substances that help blood clot, chemotherapy further increases the risk.


Surgery: is one of the leading causes of blood clots. For this reason, medication to prevent clots may be given before and after major surgeries. Blood clots are more likely to form during periods of inactivity such as bed rest or long trips.


I wanted to learn more about pulmonary embolism, so I sat down with Sarah Williams,  a survivor, to ask her about her symptoms and how she has dealt with the illness.


Sarah Williams:


Well, it started with a hamstring that I thought was strained or excessively tight. I had a pain in my leg; it was a constant burn. I didn’t have the regular symptoms most people who suffer from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). My leg wasn’t red or warm to the touch. It just felt like it was on fire constantly. That went on for about 5 weeks: which is longer than symptoms normally last.


It was around Christmas time, back in 2015, (when) I noticed I was getting short of breath. I assumed I had bronchitis or pneumonia. The shorter the distance I traveled, the harder it was to breathe. I was like something’s really wrong.


The day after Christmas, my sister and I were moving a chair outside. I felt like I was going to pass out. The outside was just spinning and my ears began to ring; it sounded more like a freight train. My sister thought I was having a stroke. She kept telling me to say my name. I said my name. She said I wasn’t having a stroke, but we couldn’t gauge what it was. I felt like everything was going haywire. When I got back into the house my sister made me go to the hospital.


When the doctor came in to examine me he felt my left leg and said it was swollen. I couldn’t really tell: I’m a plus size woman. The doctor decided to do a CT scan with contrast, and run some tests. The test discovered I had three blood clots in my lung. I’m very fortunate. My blood clots dissolved within a matter of days. Most the time it doesn’t happen that way. Had I waited any longer to seek medical attention, I wouldn’t be alive.


There’s a level of anxiety you’re stuck with after dealing with blood clots. It never really goes away. A common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, or any illness you’ve lived with before becomes a high priority. You’re always going to think ‘oh my gosh’ do I have another blood clot? That’s a very scary thing, but you can live with this, and still have a fulfilling life. I still workout; actually, exercise has helped me stay healthy.


Information for this article was compiled from data published by the Mayo Clinic, StopTheClot.Org, and a radio interview with Ms. Sarah Williams.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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