First Posted: 2/26/2013
It was only a year ago, that Exeter Mayor Cassandra Coleman found herself in the hospital emergency room, after being stricken ill at home.
She awaken unable to breathe and sweating profusely.
At only 24 years old, Coleman was shocked when the doctor said she had multiple blood clots in her lungs, a potentially life-threatening condition.
But blood clots, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, are very common, says Dr David R, Mariner, FACS, RVT, director of the Department of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Geisigner Wyoming Valley Medical Center. March is Deep-Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 600,000 people are affected by DVT or pulmonary embolism (PE) in the United States each year.
A DVT is a blood clot that forms in one of the larger veins in the body, usually the legs. According to Dr Mariner, there are a number of risk factors that cause a hypercoagulable state that leads to a blood clot forming.
Sometimes, the condition is congenital but often it can be acquired, such as from trauma, immobility, a side effect of cancer or sitting for long periods while traveling.
A PE occurs when the blood clot breaks away and travels to the lungs.
One of Coleman’s lungs was 100 percent blocked and the other partially blocked by numerous clots lodged in her lungs. She was transported to the University of Pennsylvania, admitted to ICU and started on a TPA protocol to dissolve the clots.
Jim Coleman, her fiance, and her parents held vigil as doctors told them Coleman’s condition could be fatal. After 32 days in the hospital, she was sent home, but not without lingering effects.
She had short-term memory loss and faced future risk factors that would have long-term effects on her life.
””I am close to back to normal, but I will never be back to the way I was before,” says Coleman. Her health issues began with knee surgery. After her surgery, she continued to have pain in her leg and a second surgery was performed to alleviate the pain, but the pain persisted. “I knew there was something wrong with me,” she said.
Pain and swelling in the legs are symptoms of DVTs, says Dr Mariner.
Once a clot forms, anti-coagulant protocols are used to dissolve it, but sometimes the clot is too extensive for this protocol. In this case, vascular surgeons such as Dr Mariner insert a catheter and stent to dissolve the clot or insert a screen to prevent the clot from traveling to the patient’s lungs.
Coleman was fortunate that medications dissolved her blood clots, but she will be treated for the rest of her life with Coumadin therapy. Coumadin is the typical preventative treatment for patients with a history of blood clots. This therapy is not without risks, though.
Coleman will be at a high risk for complications if she becomes pregnant or undergoes surgery. Changing her lifestyle to include a healthier diet and more exercise, along with her anticoagulant medication has helped her stay clot free for almost a year.
Now, she wants to help bring awareness to this serious condition.
“This is very prevalent and can happen to anybody, at any age” she said.
At Coleman’s request, Representative Phyllis Mundy will introduce a resolution to the state house this week to acknowledge Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month and to heighten attention to the life-threatening effects of blood clots.
“In the drop of a dime, things can change,” Coleman said.
“If you think something is wrong, most of the time it is wrong. Seek help.”