Blood Clots: It's Time We Discuss!
This month's feature is a little different for me; it's actually a matter of life and death and extremely close to my heart for many reasons.
Last May I got one of the scariest calls of all time. My bestie, Rondette (a.k.a. Deezy) was in the hospital. She was admitted for Pulmonary Embolism (PE) - a blood clot that had traveled to her lungs. Through research, we found out that blood clots take the lives of 275 Americans every day, and can happen to anyone. By the grace of God, my bestie lived to share her story.
Unfortunately, the second time PE entered my life, it was a fatal story. Earlier this year, at age 31, we lost a family member due to heart attack - caused by a clot. She was perfectly healthy.
We were broken.
It then dawned on me and Deezy that we don't speak about blood clots enough. Education is needed. Blood clots, when found and properly diagnosed, are extremely curable. But often those that lose their lives to it are unaware of the symptoms, resulting in tragedy. So when Deezy came to me suggesting we collab on sharing her story, I immediately agreed. I'm so honored to use this platform to raise awareness on this topic - and maybe even save a life one day.
Read on to learn more about Deezy, her experience with blood clots (the causes and symptoms), her treatment, and her advice on how we can avoid it in the future.
Please share with friends and family in order to spread the word!
Hi! I’m Rondette, better known as Deezy or Dette J. I’m a serial expat based in London, but a Brooklyn, New York native with Jamaican roots. I love travel, art, writing and sparkling wine. My 4 years overseas started with an assignment in Hong Kong where I met and became instant besties with TameikaG! For over a decade, I’ve built my career in the field of human resources and I’m currently a senior talent advisor for a global investment bank. Being an expat enabled my passion for people and travel to intertwine. My parents exposed us to constant travel across the Caribbean when I was younger, so I’ve always had the bug, but the intensity accelerated when I moved to Asia and realized that the entire continent was within my reach. My never-ending struggle looks something like this --- balancing my love for ice cream with my penchant for broccoli and as well as balancing my constant desire to walk everywhere to explore my new city with my never-ending inclination to relax on my comfy couch. Living abroad and constantly on the go has taught me the importance of prioritization – in relationships, regarding passions and purpose and most relevant to this post – my health!
HER BLOOD CLOT EXPERIENCE
Last May, a friend and I embarked on a whirlwind 4 day jaunt to Amsterdam and Brussels all the way from Hong Kong. Seems like an aggressive itinerary in a short period of time – right? Correct! I was exhausted on the way to the airport and immediately crashed as soon as I hit my seat. I woke up 12 hours later (hadn’t eaten, used the toilet or even moved!). Disorientation and dizziness washed over me and I was immediately aware of a sharp, jabbing pain in my left calf. I chucked the dizziness up to dehydration and assumed the calf pain was simply a muscle cramp. Once I got to my flat I did some stretching, took a hot shower and got ready for work. I told myself that if the pain persisted, I’d hit the treadmill or go for a foot massage – after all, it wasn’t that bad. After about 3 hours in the office, the pain intensified and the only thing I can equate it to is the sensation of having a knife thrust into my flesh and rotated. My leg became warm to the touch and I started feeling dizzy again. I jetted off to the hospital.
As soon as I shared my symptoms with the nurses and doctors, they admitted me and sent me for a sonogram of my legs and hips. I was a bit confused as I still thought I was suffering from a terrible cramp or worse case – I’d contracted some type of bug abroad. The results came back and to my surprise I learned that I’d had a blood clot in my leg and there were signs that it had broken apart and was traveling through my bloodstream. This.Can.Be.Deadly. The next step was to see where it had traveled to and hope, wish and pray that it hadn’t gotten into my lungs or heart. Hours later, doctors confirmed that I had several clots in both lungs and expressed that I was lucky to even be alive. Turns out the cause of my clots were a problematic combination of the birth control pill I’d switched to the year prior – Yaz – and remaining sedentary on a long-haul flight. I was in the hospital for a week on a course of anti-coagulation shots until I was well enough to switch to tablets. To say this was one of the scariest experiences of my life would be an understatement. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to share this story.
Q: thanks so much for sharing your story, Deezy. Your experience is both shocking and scary. Prior to this situation, had you experienced issues with blood clots before? Did you know much about the topic?
I had never personally experience blood clots or DVT (deep vein thrombosis) before my situation, thankfully. Praying this is my first and last time! When I was in my teens, a family friend passed away from an undetected blood clot. She had been in the hospital for a minor procedure. By the time they detected the clot, it was too late. As I was hospitalised, this memory immediately came to the forefront and I became acutely aware of how fortunate I was to have survived.
Q: After your week in the hospital, what did you have to do remain healthy and free from the blood clots?
To be honest, I was terrified to leave the hospital! I had been on blood thinning injections for several days straight and had just begun learning how to inject myself. I was also being carefully monitored around the clock and going on slow, steady walks with the nurses to ensure I was getting enough movement and blood flow throughout the body. Would I be able to do this all alone at home? The most important thing after being released was taking blood thinners - on time, all the time - as prescribed by the doctor. Missing a dose could have been detrimental. Secondly, I wore compression socks (very unsexy, but a necessity) for about 2 weeks after my release - to sleep, to walk, to do practically everything. The only time they came off was to shower. They ensure that blood wouldn't have the chance to gather in my calves again. Finally, lots of rest and lots of water. I try to drink about 3 liters of water daily. There's really no greater elixir! More generally, I've always been an avid walker, but now I walk about 1 hour daily and try to do cardio and strength training 2-3x weekly --- I'm so grateful for these legs of mine. They saved my life, so I'm determined to care for them
Q: How would you say your overall lifestyle had changed since this happened?
I've certainly become more conscious of two things - what medications I'm ingesting and their impact on my body AND how to do air travel sensibly. I'm an advocate for women doing what's best for their bodies and their sexual health, but share as much as I possibly can with others the impact that birth control pills, particularly the one I was on - Yaz. Additionally, so many of us board planes, drink cocktails aboard or take a sleeping pill to battle jetlag and doze right off. This is a no-no! My new air travel routine for long-haul flights (anything over 5 hours) is taking a blood thinking injection or tablet at least 24 hours before take off, getting plenty rest in the days prior, drinking 2 liters of water for optimal hydration, donning compression socks and getting up to walk at least once per hour to stretch and walk around
Another big factor for me is pregnancy. I don't have children, but I hope to have a mini tribe one day :). Pregnancy (especially for someone like me) can be very dangerous because your blood is more likely to clot. Should I became pregnant, I'll need to be on a daily blood thinner regimen to reduce the risk of clots forming as much as possible.
"If you are currently on any form of birth control, talk to your doctor about the one you're on and determine which is the best and safest for you."
Q: Blood clots are so prevalent, yet seldom discussed. Why do you think that is?
According to StopTheClot.org, on average, 275 people die every single day. Can you imagine? That many people and the topic is discussed so infrequently. Blood clots don't discriminate - they can affect anyone - regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or general health. Its likely seldom discussed because so few people are aware of their signs and symptoms. Also, there are so many risk factors for blood clots - immobility, medical history, hormone therapy (including birth control pills), high blood pressure, smoking and even pregnancy.
Q: What advice would you give to our readers and what preventative measures can the every day person put into place to avoid this happening to them?
The best advice I can give is to know your body - very, very well. I immediately knew something was wrong when I disembarked that plane last year. I listened to my body and the moment I felt something was way wrong, I sought help. If you are currently on any form of birth control, talk to your doctor about the one you're on and determine which is the best and safest for you. Another key to reiterate is to please, please, please wear compression socks for any long journeys - long haul flights or road trips. I annoy my close friends with this constantly, but I can't stress it enough. Finally, relax and enjoy life! Though blood clots and deep vein thrombosis are common and can happen to anyone, don't let that stop you from getting out there and exploring. Stay safe & be well!