National Thrombosis Week | 1st – 6th May 2017| Prevention & Protection from Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

Alyson Reay

I have recently had an operation and my preparation for this reminded me how lucky I am.

Nearly 8 years ago after a fabulous holiday touring western Canada I went to my GP with a pain in my left leg. 'Nothing to worry about' he said and off I went for 3 weeks, still fretting a little about this painful and slightly swollen leg, and eventually asking for another appointment, which I was told was not possible. I relayed my concerns to the Practice Manager who told me that the GP confirmed there was nothing wrong and so time could not be spared for me.

My late Mother had suffered 3 pulmonary embolisms (where a blood clot moves to the lung) before she died of a related condition. This was playing on my mind, and I suspected I was carrying a blood clot in my leg – a post-flight DVT. A quick call to my employer’s company doctor resulted in a visit to a private hospital within the hour and a Deep Vein Thrombosis was diagnosed through an ultra-sound scan. I was put in a wheelchair and admitted to the ward for blood thinning injections and total immobility for 5 days until I was stabilised. Rest at home followed, with daily visits to the hospital, for several weeks, and blood thinning drugs for months.
But the reason I am so lucky is that my condition is now known, my blood clot was diagnosed before it moved to my lung, heart or brain, even though it had reached 5cm in length.

So after this recent and unrelated pelvic surgery, my blood was thinned for 3 days, I wore surgical stockings for 2 weeks, and my Thrombophilia was managed by hospital staff because of their awareness of my condition. However despite all this, I again began to recognise the symptoms 5 weeks after surgery and, with the knowledge I have gained from Lifeblood: The Thrombosis Charity I went to my GP promptly and was sent for a diagnostic ultrasound scan within hours. I am once again using daily anti-coagulant injections, and taking Warfarin tablets.

Similarly, I have continued to travel abroad in the last 8 years and I inject myself to thin my blood before each flight.
For me it is all about screening, awareness and the opportunity to take preventative action. But there is still a lot of work to do to help prevent others developing potentially life threatening blood clots, and to better enable health professionals to recognise and diagnose deep vein thrombosis. Far too many lives have been lost unnecessarily.