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My Life With Deep Vein Thrombosis: Sara’s Story
Sara Wyen shouldn’t have gotten deep vein thrombosis, but as she learned, it can happen to anyone.
By Jennifer Acosta Scott
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Sara Wyen isn’t your typical deep vein thrombosis patient. When her DVT struck in 2012, she was young — only 29 years old — and had no health problems. She was also an avid runner, completing half-marathons regularly. That’s why Wyen didn’t think anything of it when she felt pain in the back of her left knee after a group run one Saturday morning. But within 24 hours, her life changed.
“I had been struggling with a running injury in the same knee, so I figured I overdid it on the run — I pushed too hard that day,” Wyen says.
By the next day Wyen was struggling to breathe and talk in full sentences. She couldn’t lie flat on her back without pain. Still, she thought the symptoms would pass. That was until she described her situation to her primary care physician over the phone.
"He said: You need to go to the nearest ER, because I think you have a blood clot in your leg that’s gone to your lung, and that’s a really big problem,” Wyen recounts.
Wyen spent the next 10 days in the hospital, four of them in the intensive care unit, recovering from what was indeed a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in her lungs. Though she was treated and out of immediate danger, her road to recovery would be hard.
The Long Road to Recovery
After leaving the hospital, Wyen had to use oxygen and had trouble even going up and down stairs. “By the time a year came, I was starting to feel a little more like my old self,” Wyen says. “I started going on walks again, going outside again. Now, two years later, I feel even more like myself.”
Doctors weren’t able to pinpoint one single cause of Wyen’s DVT. Initially, they blamed her use of oral contraceptives, which increase the risk of blood clots. Later, they found that she had antiphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can increase the risk of blood clots. Because of this, Wyen takes the blood thinner warfarin and has regular appointments with her hematologist to manage her medication. She also wears compression socks after exercise or when she sits for long periods, to prevent leg swelling. She hasn’t yet returned to running, but takes bike rides as well as walks.
“Other than that, I’m just trying to get back to taking care of myself again,” Wyen says. “I’m eating right and hydrating.”
RELATED: What Women Need to Know About Deep Vein Thrombosis Risks
Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to prevent the blood clots of DVT from recurring, says Larry Santora, MD, medical director of The Center for Heart and Vascular Wellness and Prevention, The Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, and The Dick Butkus Center for Cardiac Screening at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. “You want to avoid prolonged sitting. If you’re on a plane or at work, get up and walk every two hours, and keep your body weight normal.”
Some people, like Wyen, will also need to remain on blood-thinning medications indefinitely, Dr. Santora adds. If all of these steps are followed, it’s unlikely that another clot will occur.
A Mission to Raise Awareness of DVT
Now that Wyen's life has stabilized, she devotes much of her time to educating the public about DVT and helping others who are going through a similar situation. A few months after her diagnosis, she started Blood Clot Recovery Network. The site provides links to medical resources and shares personal stories of people living with deep vein thrombosis.
“When it happened to me, I didn’t know the [DVT] symptoms. I didn’t know what to look out for,” Wyen says. “I want to spread the word that you can be young or old, you can be any body size, any body type. You can read the site and file the symptoms and signs away.
Video: THE MRI, COLLAPSED VEINS, WHERES GOD NOW??
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