BALLARD: Using blood clot to raise awareness of DVT

March 9, 2014 

Without realizing it, I was holding my breath. I watched the nurse as she carefully and methodically ran the ultrasound wand up and down my legs, watching the computer screen in front of her like a hawk.

Her eyes darted back and forth with precision as she stopped often to freeze the image on the screen and hit a few keys on the keyboard.

I wanted to talk (as I always do) but tried to hold back. Finally, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “What’s happening?” I blurted out. “Are the blood clots gone?”

Anyone who knows me, or who reads my blog or Facebook entries, knows by now that last July I was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, in both of my legs.

Receiving that news was very shocking to me since I would have never thought of myself as a candidate for blood clots. I’m a cyclist and exercise regularly and, if I had to pick the strongest part of my body, I would definitely say it is my legs!

Here’s how it all started. I had a kidney stone during the latter part of June that landed me in the hospital having surgery to remove it. Any one who has ever endured a kidney stone knows what an ordeal it is.

I went from being very active to suddenly being bed-ridden for several days. I noticed that my right calf was becoming extremely tender and sore and my left one was headed in the same direction.

I immediately assumed it was because my muscles were stiff and sore due to my recent lack of exercise. In fact, I thought I should just get back on my bike and work all the kinks out. My friends at the gym suggested I get a deep tissue sports massage to help with the pain so I could get back to my normal exercise regimen.

I had planned to schedule a massage but the Fourth of July was quickly approaching and I put it off until after the holiday. My calf pain and stiffness worsened with each day until finally on the morning of July 4 I could barely walk.

As most of us do, I went to Google to diagnose what was wrong with me. One of the things that kept popping up was blood clots but, because of my strong legs, I knew that couldn’t possibly be the issue.

I got in touch with my vein doctor, Ken Harper, who graciously met me at his office on a holiday. It was then that he confirmed I had blood clots not just in one leg, but both. I couldn’t understand why.

He immediately put me on blood thinners and cautioned me about the danger of blood clots. I was not familiar with them at all, but that was soon to change.

Things that we don’t understand often times scare us. I was healthy and in my early 50s and had blood clots. How could that be? I knew nothing about DVT. I had never even heard the words before.

I made it my goal to read everything I could about DVT so I would better understand what was going on deep within the muscles of my calves. The first thing I read alarmed me. Deep vein thrombosis has the potential of being life threatening.

Having blood clots is nothing to play around with. If a blood clot becomes dislodged and travels through your veins to your lungs, heart or brain, it can take your life.

A series of doctors performed test after test on my blood trying to ascertain why I had blood clots. In the process, they discovered that I have a rare mutant gene called Factor V Leiden that I inherited and that predisposes me to having blood clot issues.

For six months I tried just about every kind of blood thinner on the market so that my clots would dissolve.

Because I was taking blood thinners, I had to be extremely careful with sharp knives, falls and accidents that would cause me to bleed. I was not allowed to ride my bike for fear I would fall, injure myself and bleed out. Thank God I was able to continue my spin classes and other workouts at the gym.

I also had to start wearing compression hose and be concerned about sitting for long periods of time without standing or walking around. These are all lifestyle changes I have to make to get rid of the clots I already had and hopefully prevent new ones from forming.

My recent ultrasound results were good -- all but one of my clots are gone. The one that remains now has blood flowing through it and will hopefully continue to regenerate itself.

I’ve been off of blood thinners since mid-December and now take a daily aspirin to help keep my blood thin. I will have to be carefully monitored since I have Factor V Leiden and if I should get another clot will have to take blood thinners for the rest of my life.

I’m devoting my column this week to my journey with blood clots because March is DVT Awareness Month. I feel it is extremely important for me to share what I experienced to educate my readers on the signs and dangers of blood clots.

Space will not allow me to get into all the details here, but I urge you to take a few minutes and read more about blood clots.

The Internet is full of important information that will help you understand them better. If you are experiencing an unexplained pain or tenderness in your legs, I urge you to call your doctor and have it checked.

Whether I’m dealing with arts, crafts, cooking or simply telling stories about life, I take my role of reaching others with information I’m familiar with very seriously. If, by writing this column, I can help save one person’s life, then it will be well worth it. Here’s to your good health!

More with Mark

• Join Mark at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Monroe County Club House in Forsyth for a Spring Brunch to benefit the American Cancer Society. Enjoy a delicious meal and be entertained by Mark as he focuses on celebrating spring. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved by calling Dorothy at 478-995-5832 or 478-951-8595.

• Mark is again coordinating and emceeing the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Brunch and Fashion Show on March 27. Tickets are going fast. Get more information at www.cherryblossom.com or call 478-751-7429.

• Visit www.markballard.com for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff including Mark’s tees, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates.

• Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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