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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

May Athlete of the Month

As the months continue go by and I am lucky enough to share with you these blog posts about Blood Clot Survivors I am beginning to wonder if all of the States in the United States have been represented with the post...

I know that I've had a number of international Blood Clot Survivors featured but it would be interesting to see how many States have been actually represented...? 

One thing is for sure there is a big country (and world) out there with a lot to see and experience.  One of the states that I have not had the chance to visit yet is IOWA.  Perhaps some day I will find my way there and get the opportunity to ride around in our CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots with this month's CLOT BUSTER Athlete of the Month - TODD ROBERTSON.

Again the magic of the internet and social media has been able to connect me with Todd so that this month we can share his story that is sure to make you reflect and inspire you to overcome the challenges of blood clots.

Please read on and enjoy...    

What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
Normally, I would say that paddling and spending time on rivers whitewater canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding is my greatest passion activity and it’s also my job as an instructor. That said, cycling is my main passion right now because that is the vehicle I use for spreading blood clot awareness!

How did you get started in that sport?
I discovered rivers 20 years ago when I was given a used canoe. Once I hit the river, I was hooked for life. It later turned my new passion into a job as Rivers Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and I also became a certified Level 3 instructor. Teaching people how to paddle efficiently and safely is an important job to me, especially teaching children. As for cycling, I bought my first road bike 2 years ago and ride as much as I can. I think riding RAGBRAI, the oldest and largest group ride in the world will be a great way to spread awareness as I wear and rotate the “polka dot” jersey and my own custom made Pulmonary Embolism Survivor jersey. I’d like to see some of the Team Stop the Clot on RAGBRAI 2018!! Let’s have our own little group of clot-busters riding together for a week.

What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
My most recent milestone reached was getting my certification to teach stand up paddle boarding. It was no easy task. At 53 years old, Lake Superior really put me through the meat grinder as the limits of my physical power was truly tested!  The waves and swells were huge! But, I made it. Other potential instructors in the brutal week long course were in their early 20’s or younger! I was the old man in the group!

 Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
Easter, a time of resurrection, was my 90 days out.  My 3 month PE clotiversary.  I made it to 50 years of age before having a clot and finding out I have Factor 5 Leiden, the homozygous variety. Both of my parents had the mutated gene and BOTH passed it on to me. How fun!  My first traumatic “bloodletting” injury came when I fell off of a canoe trailer, suspended in midair by a big hook in my leg. I now know what it feels like to be a hooked fish. After ER surgery, I developed a blood clot in my leg at the site of the injury. They attributed it to the injury itself. Then a few months later, another clot, this time a DVT. They then did a blood test and gave me the F5L news. Anticoagulants for life. They say homozygotes have an 80% increased chance of clotting abnormally over the non F5L person. Not sure why they bother with that 20%. I mean if the weather forecast calls for an 80% chance of rain, are you really thinking about that 20% chance you will stay dry? No, you’re too busy trying to find the umbrella because you know you’re going to get wet! I’m now on Xeralto, 20mg daily. So this year, my former “not so bright” doctor took me off Xeralto 4 full days prior to my colonoscopy. That was a mistake on his part. That long off Xerlato is not the way to bridge. For 3 full days I had no anticoagulant medication in my system.  But he wasn’t the only one at fault. I had a bad habit of missing doses here and there and taking X in the morning on an empty stomach. That entire combination gave me a Pulmonary Embolism on January 17th, 2017. It was the size of pregnant earthworm (makes you envision it, right?) and it slithered to the bottom of my right lung.  I went to work the next day. I was weak, and was told I looked like walking death, but I was very lucky. Now, 90+ days later, my lung has healed 80% and I am back to normal.  But being a F5L homozygite, I am constantly, in the back of my mind, on clot watch.  I do look at all of this as a blessing. Maybe best thing to ever happen to me. It has turned me into an “awareness raiser”.  A recent newspaper article and interview went nationwide and I heard from over 600 survivors. I have started an Iowa based support group and campaign with the support group being backed by two local hospitals, Mercy and Methodist.

When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time? 
I was able to start running and exercising within a month. I just did my first 20 mile bike ride last week to test my lung out. It felt awesome, although at the end of a 28mph sprint, that spot where the clot had come to rest, showed signs of soreness, reminding me that I still have some healing to do or could be damaged permanently. I plan on riding all 400+ miles of RAGBRAI this July. I will also be back to instructing in just a few weeks.

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...)
My favorite gear is my “no brainer” item: my rescue lifejacket when on water. I also have my Scott Speedster road bike, my Boardworks touring and racing SUP and I love my clot-busting running shirt, bike jersey and tri jersey! I wear the dots every chance I get and when I rotate out on the bike, I wear my PE Survivor jersey! I need a polka-dot clot-busting lifejacket!

How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Every day you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
I stay active. I paddle about 1000 miles a year and will bike as much as possible, including commuting to work on many days. I also have signed up for quite a few 5 and 10ks. Next up: The Drake Relays Road Races!

What is your favorite food?  Either generally or after a workout.  For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito...
I am addicted to multi meat pizza and chocolate milk. Also love my ribeye’s on the grill. I’m an Iowa native…and that means I’m a homegrown corn, meat and potatoes boy.

If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
Our many National Parks. I love the NPS. I want to go to Yosemite and Yellowstone and bike and paddle in both locations!

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.
The NUMBER ONE thing to remember is: You need to be your own advocate. Not all doctors finished at the top of their class and not all have a grasp on blood clots. Find a good team if possible, especially if you have suffered a PE. The team should include at least one visit with a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a hematologist.  Having a good GP/MD for regular visits is a plus. Remember, you can “fire” any doctor you wish if you are not getting your questions answered or if you feel you are being “blown off”. We all suffer post traumatic shock and we need emotional support. Also, give yourself time to heal. We as people are like snowflakes….no two people are the same. Recovery time can range from weeks to years and everyone is going through something different. It does not have to be a death sentence and clots and clotting conditions can be managed.  Make raising awareness a goal. Blood clots are NOT talked about like they should be. We need to spread the word. By doing this, we can help ourselves and help others. We got this!

And if you have not been tested for a genetic clotting disorder and have suffered clots previously, do so, especially if there is no reason known of why you clotted abnormally.  Again, be your own advocate, get educated and spread the word!

Also while you are reading this check out this video Todd had the opportunity to participate to discuss the dangers of blood clots and the awareness needed to be alert in combating this potentially silent killer...

Sounds like Todd and I could hang out for sure!

For many years now I've been wondering about riding RAGBRAI as one of the most epic and famous state crossing routes in the United States.  I am not sure I can keep up with Todd during this challenge but for sure I think that getting a team of people in CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots would be FANTASTIC!!! Perhaps in 2018 we will have to make this happen.

Also, I will need to get some pointers from Todd to improve my Kayaking skills... not to mention how I would love to get into doing more Stand Up Paddling... For sure sounds like Iowa will be on my short list of states to visit next... Specially now that I know I have tour guide in #StopTheClot polka-dots.

THANK YOU TODD for your willingness to share your story.  YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

1 comment:

A and W with babies make 4 said...

Thanks for sharing Todd! I had a DVT in my leg this past Easter and found out I am F5L homozygous as well. Had no clue it ran in the family until now! I'm on thinners for life now as apparently I've had traces of blood clots in my leg previously over the years and thankfully it never turned deadly. Love cycling, jogging, and playing around on the SUP as well. So thankful for the stories on this blog as it seems like blood clots and Factor V isn't talked about enough. Hoping to become an advocate here in Spokane, WA and would love to hear more & gather ideas on how to make that happen in my own community

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!