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Saturday, March 01, 2014

March Athlete of the Month

Do you know the relevance of March for those of us sporting the polka-dots?

Certainly March is a very important month because it is BLOOD CLOT AWARENESS MONTH.  For that reason during this month I am locked and loaded about spreading the word about blood clots and blood clotting disorders.  CLOT BUSTER STOP THE CLOT polka-dots will be in full display anywhere possible so that they can be noticed and in the very least get people thinking about this topic that could eventually save your life.

One life was saved just over a year ago as this month's Athlete of the Month went through his very own blood clotting incident.

Please allow me to introduce to you CHRIS SOMMER who is a clot survivor and the individual I would like to feature on this month's post.  After you read what Chris so kindly has shared with us you will understand, without a question, the importance of knowing the signs of symptoms of blood clots because they can in fact save your life on a moment in which you may not have a great deal of time to react.

Read on Chris' story and get inspired to learn what you can and want about blood clots and blood clotting disorders but also get inspired to get out and never ever give up!



1)  What is your sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
My activity of choice is running. I do race a little, but I mostly run because I enjoy it. It has always been my “me time” and has helped me in so many aspects of my life. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I always seem to find the answers to my hard questions during a run.

2)  How did you get started in that sport?
I began running in January of 2008. I had just started a new job, and decided that I really needed to make a healthy change in my life. I started eating better, started lifting weights and doing mostly elliptical and cycling for my cardio. Then one day I decided to try running on the treadmill and I really enjoyed it. Running has been a big part of my life ever since.

3)  What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
I ran my first race in March of that 2008; a 5 mile event on St. Paddy’s Day which was an absolute blast. I have participated in a number of 5k’s, 10k’s, 2 half marathons, and ran the marathon relay twice. I was hoping to run my first full marathon in the fall of 2013, but those plans were put on hold because of my PE. I’m hoping to train for my first marathon this fall.

4)  Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
Rewind back to January 20th, 2013. I was still recovering from an extended flu-like illness, I was dehydrated that day, we had just celebrated my DD’s 6th birthday that day, and I was exhausted. After the birthday party I decided to take a nap, and fell asleep in an awkward position with my left leg draped over the arm of our love seat. When I woke up, I felt a knot directly behind my left knee. I didn’t really think much of it at the time and life went on. Over the next 10 days I missed more than 1 warning sign that something was seriously wrong. I noticed that I was becoming very winded on my runs, and at some points I actually had to stop to catch my breath. I was experiencing some mild pain in my right lower rib cage area. I had coughed up blood on 2 consecutive days which was when I decided to visit my doctor. He thought the these were just lingering symptoms from my extended illness earlier in the month and sent me on my way with nothing more than a recommendation for some tylenol.

On February 1st, 2013, I was awakened at 4:00 AM by a more significant pain under my right ribcage and in my right shoulder areas. At first I thought I had slept on it wrong and tried to stretch it out, but it didn’t get any better. As a matter of fact it was getting worse and I was feeling a bit more pain when I would breathe. I can’t really explain how I knew, but I knew something was wrong. I woke my wife up, explained to her what I was feeling, and that I thought I needed to go to the emergency room ASAP.

The ER doctors ran a bunch of blood work, chest x-ray, ekg, and everything came back normal. They were about to release me with the generic diagnosis of “pleural lung pain”, when the ER doctor decided he wanted to run one last test on me. That final test was a spiral CT. When they rolled me back to the ER after the CT scan the doctor met me personally and told me, “you have blood clots in your lungs”. They also scanned my legs where they found an active clot in my left leg, just below the knee and extending into my calf. I had just been diagnosed with a sub-massive bilateral pulmonary embolism along with a left leg DVT.

I was immediately started on blood thinners and spent the next 3 days in the hospital. The rest is as they say, history. I met with numerous doctors, all very interested in how a young, healthy, active person ended up there. They ran blood work for all known genetic disorders and they all came back negative. The official cause of my clotting episode is still a mystery (or unprovoked). Statistically speaking, the chance of recurrence is pretty high for unprovoked clots in men over 40. Because of this, I have chosen to remain on blood thinners, most likely for the rest of my life.

5)  When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?  
Early on in my recovery I did a lot of walking. The doctors said, “walk as much as you like”, so I did. I started while I was in the hospital and would wander the halls quite a bit. At first I felt a little short of breath just from walking, but it got better with time. By 3-4 weeks I felt like I could probably run again, but the doctors did not want me running until the clot in my leg was gone. My legs were rescanned at the 5 week mark and at this point the clot has totally resolved. I was given the all clear to run and I didn’t waste much time. That same day I took a 1 mile spin around the block. It was my favorite run of 2013!

 


6)  What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? (Bike brand, running shoes, perhaps a running singlet or the Clot Buster's Running Polka-Dot Technical Shirt...)
I’m pretty minimalistic in my running. For the most part I run in Target C9 brand running gear. I don’t own a GPS and don’t run with music either. So I guess my favorite piece of running gear would have to be my shoes. All of them. I always have 2 or 3 pairs in rotation. I have tried a number of different manufacturers, but I’ve been mostly loyal to the Asics Gel Nimbus. They seem to work best for me.

7)  How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
I am currently running about 25 miles per week (4-5 days) and my speed is slowly coming back. I missed my St. Paddy’s Day race last year because of my clotting episode and am looking forward to running it this year! I am also planning a spring half marathon at the end of April, and if I can get my mileage up a bit and stay healthy, maybe I’ll take on my first full marathon this fall.

 8)   What is your favorite food?  Either generally or after a workout.  For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito…
I like a lot of different food, and am actually a pretty good cook. I cook a mean chicken french (if chicken french can be mean).

9)  If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
I went to Germany when I was in high school for 3 weeks and had an amazing time. I’d love to go back and complete a tour of Europe some day.

 

Chris' Favorite running spot - Can you guess where this is?

10)  What would like to say to someone who is going through a clotting episode, perhaps very similar to yours?  How can people return to do what they enjoy? Tells about your concerns and what you look out after as you got back.
Everything about suffering a blood clot is very overwhelming, especially early on. So much information; what to eat, what not to eat, anticoagulants, genetic factors, blood tests, compression socks, travel, etc, etc, etc. Don’t worry about learning it all at once. Get a good doctor that you feel comfortable with. I loved my hematologist because he helped me navigate all of the questions I had.

Be patient with yourself. You will get back to doing the activities that you love. There are a lot of factors that go into your recovery and we are all an experiment of one. Some people return to their activities in weeks, some months, and some years. Some get all of their fitness back and more. Stick with it. Your body has been through a lot, allow it to heal and don’t be afraid to take those extra rest days when your body is asking for them.

Be patient with your family and friends. They might not totally understand what you are going through, but the mental stress is just as hard on your loved ones as it is on you.

One final message to someone who is early on in recovery. Never give up! One message from all of the doctors that I met that still rings in my mind is that running probably saved my life. Running gave my body the edge it needed to lessen the impact of a very traumatic event. That was all I needed to hear to know that I had to lace up and keep on running.

CHRIS - THANK YOU a million times over for your willingness to share your story!

Without a question you are a perfect candidate to kickoff the month of March for the blood clot awareness movement.  I look for the day where I will see you racing in Clot Buster polka-dots and if I get lucky enough maybe even race along side you. 

Let us know how your racing goes in 2014. 

Based on your determination that Marathon in the fall will become a reality and we will be cheering you every step of the day even if it is only virtually.

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

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My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!
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