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Deep Vein Thrombosis and Factor V Leiden - Jessica Leary's Story

Deep Vein Thrombosis & Factor V Leiden
Jessica Leary's Story

Jessica Leary
August, 2013

I was inspired to share my story after seeing Melanie Bloom on the Today Show. I had a DVT related to a hereditary blood condition that I was entirely ignorant about. I would like others to know about this possibility because it was a dangerous situation and I don't want others to go uneducated about this medical issue.

I am 36 years old and have what I consider to be a unique, yet probably common DVT story. I am a healthy, active, athletic adult. I participate in running events, up to twenty per year, as well as enjoying hikes, weight training and yoga practice regularly.

I had just driven from a work-related training in California back to Arizona where I was participating in a relay race when I first began having symptoms. The relay race also involved car travel - and running - and when the pain began I thought that I had a stress fracture. It never occurred to me that I may have a blood clot. The first of several doctors I consulted did not consider DVT either. My injury occurred on a Friday. I could not finish the race. A nurse on my team examined me and gave me some basic advice consistent with a bone or soft tissue injury. By Saturday I was at home and still in severe pain, with my foot elevated (which would have been a treatment consistent with a bone or ligament injury). By Sunday I insisted that my boyfriend take me to the ER. I was in very unbearable pain, particularly when I put weight on my foot / tried walking around, and had obvious swelling.

At the ER I explained what had happened and had many blood tests done, was put in a splint after examination, given opiate-based pain killers and crutches. I returned home and worked the next day before going to an appointment with an orthopedic specialist that the hospital ER doctor had referred me to see. So by now I had been living with a clot for about four days, all the while thinking it was a bone or ligament issue. The orthopedic specialist was the first one that hypothesized it was a clot. He referred me to the hospital for a sonogram.

I should point out that the only medication I was taking at the time of my injury was an oral contraceptive (birth control pill). Of course I had read about the risks involved with my prescription and blood clots, but in my mind that was related to smokers. I have never been a smoker, and took that as an indication (as well as my doctor's prescription) that I did not fall into the risk category for blood clots even while taking the pill.

The sonogram showed that I had two large DVTs in my lower right leg. I finally had my answers! I was given Lovenox and instructed to give myself injections for the next week at home. I was also given my first prescription for warfarin (brand name Coumadin) and told to stop taking my birth control pills immediately. In the next few days I researched the condition a bit more and found out from my doctor by phone that the blood test results indicated that I have a genetic blood disorder called, Factor V Leiden. I had never before heard of this condition, nor had anyone else in my family.

So far as we can determine, based upon the Factor V Leiden (blood coagulant disorder), the hormones in the oral contraceptives I was taking, and my long car trip all combined to result in the blood clots. I am now taking warfarin daily - and will for the rest of my life. I no longer take "the pill" or any other hormone-based medications. I have had to make a few adjustments in my life but continue to be healthy. I had my DVTs in 2010. This year I have completed two marathons and have another scheduled for my 37th birthday.

Due to my age, general health and lack of typical risk factors associated with blood clots, it took several professionals to determine that it was even a possibility. I am grateful to the orthopedic specialist that sent me to get a sonogram. He likely saved my life. How many other healthy young women are taking birth control and have genetic predisposition such as Factor V Leiden? Please help bring awareness to this potentially deadly combination.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024