My New Lease on Life After a Potentially Catastrophic Blood Clot

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Until 2014, I was fortunate to have not had any significant health problems. Not knowing my genetic background, as I was adopted, I lived blissfully ignorant of any medical conditions to which I might be predisposed for 47 years. I had a thyroid cancer scare in 2008, but a biopsy ruled it out. I also developed adenomyosis around 2009. Although excruciating and sometimes debilitating, it didn’t worry me.

My gynecologist had recommended a hysterectomy after an IUD failed to improve my adenomyosis symptoms, but I was disinclined. In December 2013, I started seeing an endocrinologist for hypothyroidism. When I mentioned my adenomyosis, he suggested trying “the pill.” As my gynecologist was supportive, I started taking low-dose estrogen. It worked wonders, freeing me of pain for the first time in years. Unfortunately, my relief would be short-lived.

In April 2014, I awoke one morning with pain behind my knee. As I had been doing some yoga at the time, I chalked it up to a strain. After six days, I saw an orthopedist who thought I had a cyst. To rule out a blood clot and ease my mind, he sent me for an ultrasound the next day.

During the scan, which was on a Friday, I was relaxed and daydreaming about the weekend. After going up and down my leg several times, the technician began focusing on a spot behind my knee; I thought she had simply found the cyst. After a few minutes, however, she said, “You do have a blood clot.” I froze at the news, fearing the slightest movement would cause the clot to dislodge. All I could hear was the sound of my heart pounding. The technician’s voice grew faint, like a distant utterance in a dream. “Ms. Hoffman? … Ms. Hoffman? … Ms. Hoffman, are you okay?”

As soon as I collected myself, I drove to my primary-care doctor, who started me on an oral anticoagulant. After arriving home, I began noticing back pain. Assuming that it was stress-induced, I took some Tylenol and ignored it. I ignored it all weekend, in fact. On Monday morning, however, I called my doctor. “Run — don’t walk — to the ER,” he said. I had never been more frightened!

A CT scan showed several embolisms in both lungs — the clot literally moved on the same day it was detected. I was admitted to the hospital and treated with intravenous heparin. After my discharge, I began researching blood clots. That’s when I learned that sudden death is the first symptom in 25 percent of people who have pulmonary embolisms. I also learned about clotting disorders, so I made an appointment with a hematologist in May.

Seeing a specialist was an excellent decision. In addition to discovering that I have a genetic clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden, and antibodies in my blood that make it “sticky,” I was given strategies to reduce my future clot risk, such as aerobic exercise.

In June, I received an email from the ASPCA about doing a half marathon to help animals. Because I’m a huge animal advocate, I believed this was “a sign,” and immediately signed up. Four months later, I successfully completed the race, and had raised nearly $4,000 dollars. I also made many like-minded friends, and decided that I wanted to work in animal protection. I also had a hysterectomy shortly after.

Today, I still run for animals and am a consultant to an association of animal grant-makers. I’ve never been happier or healthier. If I can transform myself after a health scare, you can too!

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Jill Hoffman

Jill Hoffman is an award-winning communications professional from Los Angeles, California. Her main client is An... See Full Bio

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