So there is quite literally a block in the road for my health and fitness posts. Well not in the road as such but in my veins; just this past Friday I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
I wouldn’t usually bother posting all my health issues on here or every little problem that I might run into but I think this might be worth doing to help people with awareness of this and that it can strike when least expected. Also it’s nice to have an excuse when my monthly fitness posts look really, really bad 😉
Most of us have probably heard of a DVT. It’s that thing you’re supposed to be careful of if you’re on a long haul flight and is the reason to walk up and down the aisle of the aeroplane every so often or do leg exercises or wear those super sexy compression stockings. It can however be caused by many other things such as being overweight, taking the contraceptive pill, being pregnant and simply aging amongst many other things. The reason I wanted to post this and chronicle my journey is because although I’ve heard of it and know it can lead to fatal complications it’s not something I ever suspected would affect me and I bet most of you out there are the same. So how did this all start?
It actually all started at the Discworld Convention this past bank holiday. Well it probably started before that but that’s when I noticed the symptoms. On the Sunday I felt my left leg stiffen up in the calf muscle but just assumed it was due to spending a lot of time sitting down with only very short walks between each convention room. It wasn’t overly painful and had actually happened a couple of weeks before for just a day or two then disappeared. A fact I’ve only just remembered writing this and is now scaring me a little that actually I could have had this clot for up to 2 months already, maybe even longer. At the time I thought nothing of it, it seemed to ease up when I wandered around and was just mildly uncomfortable.
This continued until the Wednesday when I was back at work. My normal working days consist of me walking both to and from work which is almost 3 miles and I also tend to walk on my lunch for around 1.5 miles. This seemed to help ease the aches and over the course of the next week the pain almost disappeared. 2 weeks after the convention, on the Monday I had virtually no pain at all and even attempted to do 30 minutes of yoga that evening (albeit avoiding leg exercises for the most part) just to help stretch it out. The pain had disappeared to such an extent on Tuesday that I was actually going to go to Clubbercise for the first time in around 2 months. Luckily it decided to start up a torrential thunderstorm at the time I would’ve been walking there so I stayed home.
The next morning I walked into work as normal but my leg was feeling a bit tight again. The walk eased it off and I even went walking at lunchtime though I was back to limping and not walking as fast as usual. My friend was on the same shift as me however so I got a lift home with her and by that evening I was glad I had. My calf muscle had seized up entirely and I was shuffling between rooms like my grandma when her arthritis had been really bad. I only live in a 2 bedroom flat and it was taking me 2 minutes to make it to the bathroom, a trip of about 15 metres. It woke me up at 3am that morning with huge pain; the kind you get when your leg is about to cramp but it never did cramp. I couldn’t get back to sleep and as my friend had already told me I wasn’t to walk into work that day I sent her a message asking if she’d do me a favour and take me to the walk in centre instead of work.
Now usually when I’m ill I avoid googling anything. I know what happens. You google “how to treat a papercut” and before you know it you have 3 types of cancer, lung disease, kidney failure and your big toe is probably about to drop off. However I had googled about how to treat muscle pain and during my searches had seen that DVT was a possibility. I also didn’t think it would be any such thing but the fact the pain had all but disappeared then come back with a vengeance made me think I should get checked. I thought it would be something less severe and so did the nurses I saw. The one at the walk in centre had a poke around my leg and said there was a small swelling behind my knee so she thought it was a Baker’s cyst; a relatively harmless but painful gathering of fluid. However they have to rule out DVT in these cases so she sent me off to get checked out later that day at a local DVT clinic.
Off I go that afternoon to the clinic, confident it’s going to be one of these cysts and I’ll be fine. If it was that then they’d told me to just make a normal GP appointment and they would take it from there. The clinic took a blood sample and popped it in a machine (I was very proud of myself, I’m not good with needles and usually feel quite faint afterwards but I was perfectly fine!) for about 15 minutes. I waited in the room and we had a good chat. They were confident it was a Baker’s cyst as well. My blood pressure was slightly raised but that’s probably due to not liking needles, they said. Everything else seemed fine, they went through a huge checklist of causes for DVT to which I answered no for everything. Then the results came back. Positive for markers that show you have or have had a clot in the blood. And it was high as well. Their reactions were shocked, they genuinely hadn’t expected it and neither had I.
They immediately rang an ultrasound clinic to send me for a confirmation. There was nothing available until Monday (luckily they got a cancellation and I actually ended up going on Friday). Until they were sure that it wasn’t a DVT they said I would have to have some daily injections of Clexane, a blood thinner like Warfarin but faster acting, just to ensure I was safe. They warned me if I got chest pains or shortness of breath to ring 999 immediately; clots can have small bits break off and if they get in your heart, lungs or brain they can be fatal. Those were the actual words said to me and although it was something I already knew it is a shock to hear such a thing directed at yourself. I got home and thankfully my boyfriend was home early from work because the instant that door closed the shock of it all got to me and I just broke down.
Friday rolled around and I went for my ultrasound. This was an easy one, no needles involved just lots of cold gel all up my leg. The sonographer was very calm and reassuring but he had a poker face so I couldn’t tell what he was thinking when he was looking at the images. He did however spend a long time in one particular spot behind my knee. I’d just that morning noticed that spot was red and warm to the touch, a sign I’d read that can indicate the position of a clot. He confirmed it. A small blood clot behind my knee.
So I am now having daily Clexane injections at the DVT clinic until the GP is open on Monday. I think they will then call me in and sort me out with Warfarin (which luckily is a tablet). My lovely nurse at the DVT clinic, Alison, gave me some things to read ahead of time which are quite scary. Warfarin treatments can last from 3 months to 6 months to a lifetime! If I get prescribed compression stockings you have to use them for 2 years. I can’t take Ibuprofen whilst on Warfarin; not something I take often anyway but do occasionally to manage pain from arthritis.
I will find out more on Monday I hope when the GP sees me. I do have lots of questions such as what do they think caused it, is it likely to recur and a million other things which I’m sure I’ll forget when I’m actually there. Whilst I won’t spam it, I will definitely be chronicling it on this blog. If just one person can find this and it helps them to realise they have a clot that will be a good thing; they can be such a serious thing and many people are probably like me and think they’re not at risk of it. I also think it’s a nicer thing to read through if you’re going through such a thing when it’s someone else’s personal story rather than just a factual, bland article on a medical site. Those are of course useful but it just doesn’t give the same insight.
If anyone out there has a DVT or has experienced a friend/loved one with a DVT please do comment and give me your stories. I’d love to hear from people, be it reassurance, tips or, well, anything!