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Saturday, January 28, 2012

January Athlete of the Month

Once more that magic of the web put me in contact with an individual who is without a question a perfect candidate to be Janaury's Athlete of the Month.

Please allow me to introduce to DAVID PIETRANGELO who is clot survivor and a person with story that is worth reading because blood clotting episodes can happen to anyone at any time.

Read on David's story as he told it to me and get inspired because if there is a will there is a way to return to your normal life...

"I have always been extremely active and competitive. I was born into playing soccer, starting around the age of 4. That was my sports life until high school then came hockey. In college I discovered the gym and have been a gym rat ever since. A serious gym rat though not a weekend warrior or just going through a fad. Everyone knew me as the workout freak and the healthy eater etc. I have been that way since I was 18, health and physical fitness have always been a huge part of my life.

In August 2010 I went to Japan to meet some of my then girlfriend’s relatives and just to experience a great country and culture. While I was there I kept up my workouts with running etc. I noticed that my calves were really hurting me, I did not think much of it and just went about my time there site seeing and enjoying everything. I noticed that my calves would really hurt when I woke and first got out of bed but they would feel better once I started walking and even jogging. Being active all my life I just figured these were normal pains and muscle aches that would simply go away.

When I got back from Japan the calf pain persisted but I continued to go to the gym and play soccer. I noticed that my next few soccer games that I was out of breathe a lot quicker which was very unusual for me but just thought it was due to being on vacation for a couple of weeks. I then started to get short of breathe doing normal things like walking from the train to work. I also noticed a sharp pain in the middle of my back. I had similar pains in the past due to the gym and working out so still I did not seek think anything was wrong and did not seek any medical attention.

One day I just felt terrible, completely out of it so I went to the nurse at work. She got me a quick appointment at a Cardio Vascular center by my job. I went and they did several tests; breathing, heart and even a doplar scan of my legs. All the tests came back negative and the said that I had some type of adult asthma and gave a prescription for an inhaler. I thought this was pretty strange to get asthma at 30 years old but I took their advice and went home. I dropped my prescriptions off and when to my girlfriend’s house to wait for them. At this point I am having real trouble breathing and the pain in my back was very sharp and consistent. When I got back to the house I asked my girlfriend to pick up the prescription because I could barely move. While she was out the pain just got to be too much and I walked to the emergency room which was luckily right across the street. It took me about 10 minutes to go half a block to the hospital. I had to wait the usual 30 or 40 minutes to be admitted, then I told the doctor how the whole day had went. They did all the normal tests, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. The basically said there is nothing they could find and that I should go home. I flat out told the doctors I CANT BREATHE I cannot go home! The doctors said since I was having trouble breathing there was one more test they could do, a CT Scan. I needed a painkilling injection just to lay down for the test.
There it was... a bi-lateral Pulmonary Embolism. I was baffled I had heard of them but did not really know what they were. They said that it was very rare for someone my age (30) to get a PE but they have seen it before. I was admitted that night and stayed in the hospital about a week. The next day they did another doplar and found a DVT behind my left knee. I was scared, my family and loved ones were scared. In the hospital I heard every cause from cancer to the long flight to Japan.
When I got out of the hospital and started to see a specialist I got the low down on what had happened to me and what the treatment was. I ended up on Arixtra injectable blood thinner. I was supposed to be on this for 6 months initially and then everything would be back to normal. Long story short I saw about 4 different doctors who gave me 4 different opinions. I had everything from I would be on blood thinners for the rest of my life to I could stop immediately. I ended up staying with a doctor I saw about 10 months into treatment who said I should just finish out a year of treatment but with the last 2 months at a reduced dose. All the genetic test were negative, no family history no risk they say the reason was the 15 hour flight to Japan.

I have been off blood thinners for about 3 months now. While I was taking the injections all the contact sports I loved (soccer, hockey, flag football etc) were out of the question. This got me more into running and swimming. This eventually led to swimming, running, and biking... so TRIATHLON! I did my first few races while on blood thinners and my last couple while off them. I also became very interested in obstacle races like Spartan race. After being sick I really re-dedicated myself to fitness and my health. I really just want to take advantage of everything I can. When I was sick I thought I might never do the things I loved again. While I was in treatment I was always thinking that something bad was going to happen like internal bleeding. In the end I just had to decide that my risk factors were very low and that physical activity was huge part of my life.

I want people to know that if you experience DVT or PE that you can get back to the things you love. Get several opinions from doctors and don’t take only one persons opinion. You need to do your research and you need to make educated decisions about your future. Do not get down on yourself and do not give up."

What do you think?

How lucky am I and all of us to have David sharing his story with us?

Without a question we need to be proactive and defend our position with doctors just like David did. If he did not persist they would still be wondering about his "adult asthma". Be aware and be proactive those are the lessons I am taking away from David story.

I hope to get the chance to race with him in a triathlon some day. I better start training because otherwise he will be waiting for me at the finish line for far too long.

David - Thank you for sharing your experience!

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster


Anonymous said...

So encouraged by your blog and interviews! I am a recent survivor of a "few" pulmonary emboli and am glad to be alive. I am a mother of nine, novice runner, former aerobic instructor and military officer. Of all the changes in my life, this one has been the greatest! Thanks for your time and service to the world. I will run that 10k in October instead of April, but I am alive to run!

Chris K said...

Nice post David! Wow, that was a lot more serious than I realized. Now stop goofing off and get ready for the next Spartan race...

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!