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Monday, February 03, 2020

February Athlete of the Month

When the going gets tough you have to dig deep and find some inspiration.

We experience that every day.  Some people more than others for a variety of circumstances.

When doing sport the need to overcome the pain in whatever form it comes is part of the deal of participating and making it to the finish.  

This situation was for sure present when I was attempting my #100 triathlon in Muncie, IN... While grinding out the 56 Miles of the bike I got the chance to hear a shout from a fellow racer calling me out because of the #STOPTHECLOT polka-dots I was wearing.  Getting to hear that recognition got me in gear to keep hammering on the bike when I was feeling at my limit.  But then during the run, once again, that voice came over me to give me the jolt I need to put another foot in front of the other when I was really hurting during the half-marathon.  This voice shouting at me was the voice of a Blood Clot Survivor who was throwing down on that race just like I was.  If a blood clot survivor can do it after all of the challenges their face then I can also get it together to deliver on a finish.

Thanks to the polka-dots this survivor looked me up in the internet and thanks to the magic of the web I have been following this outstanding individual.  We are very lucky that MICHAEL has been willing to share his story of survival with us so that you too out there could be inspired just like I was during that race in Muncie.

Read on and get inspired!

What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
I am a runner. I enjoy the freedom of being outdoors. Many of my closest friends are runners. We met through running. I enjoy talking to random runners out on the trail or even during races. It helps the time fly. I also have no problem running solo. This is a great way to clear your mind. Most of all, I love the health benefits. Running does the body good. I want to live as long as I can. Exercise and proper diet is the plan to achieve that.

How did you get started in that sport?
I was on my elementary school football team. The coaches always had us running laps around the field to warm up or for discipline. Everyone hated doing laps. A few of us decided to run off season so we can improve our running. We continued this practice all through high school. I even raced our high school cross country team as a football player. I placed 3rd in the mile.  As I grew older, I incorporated running as the cardio portion of my routine in the health club. Some of the regulars on the treadmill invited a group of us to run outside for some miles. Then the group started meeting on a running trail. One year, one of the runners told me I should run the marathon. I said yes I should do it. Mind you I never ran race, even a 5K. I then began training for marathons.

What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
By the end of 2019, I have completed 31 marathons of 26.2 miles or greater.  The last marathon was a challenge race. Half marathon, then 8K. The following day was the full marathon. This was about 44 miles for the weekend. I have completed 2 Ironman 70.3 triathlon events. The last one is where I had seen the Clot Buster in action!! Yep passed me on the bike!! I plan to complete an Ironman 140.3 in the very near future.

Tells about your clotting episode. Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
October 1, 2018 I was admitted into the hospital for bilateral pulmonary embolisms. Just 1 week prior, after completing a half marathon race I had a pain behind the knee. I thought this was a strained muscle. I took the week off from running as the Chicago Marathon was quickly approaching. Sunday early morning, I was awakened by a stabbing pain in my chest. I have never felt anything this painful in this area. Not sure what to do, I took some ibuprofen to take the pain away. Sunday I rested on the couch all day. I noticed being out of breathe with basic activities. Climbing the stairs took all my energy and had to rest at the top. Through this ordeal I was explaining how I was feeling to my wife. My pain level was not as severe but still painful when I inhaled. Monday morning, I decided to stay home from work with the thought of going to see the doctor. My wife had already told my brother, an Emergency Room Registered Nurse. He gave me a call that morning. He convinced me to not see my primary care but to go to an urgent care center or ER as they may run more tests. I went to the urgent care. The doctor took X-rays and D-Dimer blood test. X-Rays came back with possible fluid in the lung. He sent me for some medication while waiting on the blood test results. A few hours later I had received a phone call from the doctor. He ordered me to the emergency room right away as the test came back positive for blood clots. He gave me all the information that I need to tell them. The doctor made sure I understood I had to go immediately. The ER ran all the same test plus the CT scan with iodine dye. When they brought me back to the ER room after the CT scan, the doctor said he was going to look at the results now. If he does come back right away, it might not be that serious. He came running back. The ER doctor had a shocked look on his face. He said with the huge bilateral PE’s, how was I just sitting there so calm and relaxed with the restricted oxygen levels. Most people would have an oxygen mask on at this point. He concluded it was my endurance training that allowed me efficiently utilize the oxygen I was receiving. He said my running has saved my life. I was immediately put on a Heparin blood thinner drip. A few days later I was prescribed Eliquis 5mg taken twice a day.

All this occurred the week leading to the marathon, the cardiologist had determined my heart was not being stressed from the ultrasound. He said strong runner’s heart. He actually wanted me to start running again in 2 weeks but definitely I would have to sit of this weekend’s marathon. This marathon would have been my 13th consecutive Chicago Marathon. Missing this would have broken the streak. I was bummed but glad to be alive. My wife actually grounded me from running for 5 weeks till my first follow up doctor appointment.

After 9 months, my hematologist said I can come off the Eliquis. My anxiety level was very high just  thinking about coming off the drug keeping my blood from clotting, keeping me alive. The doctor then put me on a maintenance dose of Eliquis 2.5mg.

Another 9 months passed, doctor convinced me to run a test to see how my body is handling clotting. After being off the blood thinner for 1 week, another D-Dimer blood test was completed. The test came back favorable. My body was doing what it is supposed to do. I started this year off of the blood thinner Eliquis.

When were you able to get back into your activity? How did it feel that first time?
I returned to running 5 weeks later. I kept the runs very easy and very local to the house. I gradually increased my distance over the next few weeks. Even though I was dealing with the discomfort of the after effects of the PE, I cautiously began marathon training again.

What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? 
For the last few years, my race day attire has been my flags. Shirt and headband was the US flag. I had the Polish and Filipino flags. This represented who I was. US born with my father family from Poland and mother from the Philippines. Maybe I will be sporting the Polka-Dots in the near future.

How much are you getting out doing your sport?
When I am in marathon training mode, my week consists of running outside at least 4 times, lap swimming 2x, and weight training 2x.

When I am in triathlon training mode, my week consists of running 4x, biking 3x, open water swim 1x , laps swim 2x, and weights 1-2x. This work load was completed with morning and evening sessions.

😎What is your favorite food? Either generally or after a workout. 
 I love to eat. I love trying dishes from all cultures. The fall of 2019, I  made a decision to change my diet to plant based. I did not feel good on the inside and I considered myself to be a healthy eater. I wanted to give this a try. Will the plant based diet help in my healing process. I am going into my 5 month on this way of eating. I feel great. I have a new type of energy. My last marathon and training was fueled by plants. I do not miss meat. I will eat meat again but very seldom planned meal.

I also enjoy a good craft beer. All my doctors gave me the ok to drink a seldom beer.  Sometimes after a long run and definitley after a race I will enjoy 2 good local craft brew.

If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
My long term goal is to complete a marathon distance in all 50 states. I am not rushing this as all the traveling is expensive. I would be happy to add 2 states a year. I have a group of friends that also enjoy this so I am not alone traveling. Friend runcation!

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.
In the beginning of this new journey, many people reached out to comfort me. Many of these people were on social media that I did not know. Some of them are blood clot or pulmonary embolism survivors. Some of them were runners who survived this.  They really helped me to find comfort and stay strong. I had many bad days and would often crawl into my personal cave to deal with it. With their help, I was able to keep my anxiety down.

I have had angels help me along my journey training for marathons. I had friends run with me on my longer runs. One of my BF runners, flew into town for a medical conference and ran my first distance over 10 miles. She was a Physician’s Assistant in Cardiology. We went on my feel and completed 14 miles. As the distances grew longer, I found it difficult to find people to run with me. On a few of my runs, somehow I paired up with other runners for a good portion of my miles. Guess what, some of these runner where in the medical field. I really had someone looking out for me. For my first marathon that January in Miami, I had a large group which consisted of 2 doctors, 1 physician assistant, and 1 nurse. I was in good hands. The best angel that surprised me was during that Miami Marathon. It was warm and humid. This was not good running conditions and creating extra stress on my body. The half marathon turned off the course at mile 13. I need to make a decision to turn in  and settle for a 13.1 mile finish or continue on and complete the 26.2s miles.  I said a prayer and asked God to look after me for the second half of the race. Just before the 14th mile, I hear music coming from behind me and growing louder. I hear the song, “One call Away”. I love this song and begin to sing it. The music was coming from a wheelchair runner team, Michael and Jenn from Team Hoyt. We ran side by side for the remainder of the race. They really helped me accomplish my first marathon as PE survivor! Angels come in many forms, knowing when spot them is the challenge. Make that call, and Angel may come your way.

I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away
Call me, baby, if you need a friend
I just wanna give you love
Come on, come on, come on
Reaching out to you, so take a chance
No matter where you go
You know you're not alone
I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away
Come along with me and don't be scared
I just wanna set you free
Come on, come on, come one
You and me can make it anywhere
For now, we can stay here for a while, ay
'Cause you know, I just wanna see you smile
No matter where you go
You know you're not alone
I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away
And when you're weak I'll be strong
I'm gonna keep holding on
Now don't you worry, it won't be long, Darling
And when you feel like hope is gone
Just run into my arms
I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one, I'm only one call away
I'll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I'm only one call away
I'm only one call away

What else can I say...

Truly a wonderful personal account that for sure will get you off your feet and get you going.

Michael was my angel during that race in Muncie last year... he was there when I needed it.  

Here is hoping that we can see him racing in some polka-dots very soon.  If OH still missing from his list of marathons per state then I am going to have to run a marathon again because I will be running along side him.

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Monday, January 13, 2020

January Athlete of the Month

Here we go 2020! 

For all of you who come across to read this blog HERE IS WISHING YOU ALL OF THE GOOD HEALTH, HAPPINESS, and GOOD FORTUNE YOU CAN HANDLE.

Blood Clot Survivors CAN DO ANYTHING and again this year will see it demonstrated on the incredible accomplishments that I hope to be able to share with you on this space.  No question that we will ALL BE INSPIRED to push on and NEVER GIVE UP just like blood clot survivors do every day!

There is an abundance of stories of what Blood Clot Survivors can do.  To get our year of stories going for 2020 I would like to draw your attention to a story that has been posted on and it sure is compelling enough to kick start the new year.   

Always need to be aware of the signs of symptoms of blood clots since it can save your life.

When I doubt... Get checked out!

I am very much looking forward to continue meeting survivors and get the opportunity to have them share their stories of survival.  Recovery and anxiety from blood clots vary from individual to individual.  But the power of knowing that others are going through the same situation that you are presently experiencing can be very beneficial.

Here is hoping that 2020 turns out to be the best year possible for all us

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Saturday, November 30, 2019

December Athlete of the Month

Although we have reached December I am still THANKFUL for an incredible year in 2019.

Without a question I am incredibly lucky to have had the chance to meet many individuals who happen to be blood clot survivors. Every single one of their stories are incredible and very much inspiring.  There is so much to learn from every story that can make a positive impact on our daily lives.

The more I learn about the journey that each survivor has gone through the more I believe that BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS CAN DO ANYTHING.  Every accomplishment is meaningful and should be celebrated.

As we close out the year we have the opportunity to read about a blood clot survivor with a story that you don't want to miss.

I am very Thankful that THOMAS has been willing to share his story with all of us.

The story Thomas shares here will leave you thinking about one of my favorite phrases "Anything is possible to those who believe."

Read on and Get Inspired!

  1. What is your sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
My sport of choice is mostly running, although I enjoy heavy weight lifting as part of my running training. I love running because I’ve been around it all my life. With a track and cross country coach as a father I basically grew up at cross country/track practice. It’s always been my sport, I coach it, I ran all through high school, 2 years in college, and after a brief phase of being a bit burned out on running, I came back to it as a recreational runner. It has been my life as long as I can remember. As much as I love running there are definitely days where it’s more of a love/hate relationship but that happens with things you’re passionate about. Also, I’ve had attention problems all my life so it has always been good to have some alone time with my thoughts.

  1. How did you get started in that sport? 
Besides growing up around it as mentioned above, the first time I realized I enjoyed running was during the mile run in 3rd grade PE. I got 3rd that day and while I enjoyed numerous sports through middle school, running was always king. I actually started focusing on running because I got annoyed with all the other sports I played using it as a punishment.

  1. What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve? (Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did) 
I ran the NYC Marathon under a fundraising bib for the National Blood Clot Alliance. It was actually a pretty rough day for me, I just didn’t feel right out of the gate and was about 50 minutes off the time I felt I was capable of during my training. However, I was super proud of my training leading up to the marathon and had some awesome workouts leading up to it. I was really proud of my final workouts where I covered ~18 miles at a pretty strong pace. I’m probably going to focus on some half marathons and the 10k for a bit. I enjoy marathon training a lot but I’m just not a fan of a race as long as the marathon where so much can go wrong. My best event was always the 800m so the marathon is obviously quite far away from that.

  1. Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission? 
My clotting episode started on Sunday 10/21/2018 which was the week of the Cross-Country Regional Championships. I woke up feeling a cramping feeling in my rib cage and upper back. I had done an upper body circuit on that Friday and a hard workout with my team that Saturday. After hard workouts I would often get a lot of soreness in my upper back because my posture is not the greatest, but the ribcage soreness was new. I chalked it up to delayed onset muscle soreness from the upper body circuit and spent the morning with my foam roller rolling the upper back because that’s the attachment point for your many of the muscles in the rib cage. That Monday the pain went from cramping to stabbing. My fried had popped my back the day before and I thought he had done so in a way that had broken a rib or damaged the cartilage in my ribs or something similar. I felt pretty terrible but I thought it was just soreness from an injury. I missed my day job that day because I was feeling rough, but I actually went to cross country practice and ran a set of sprints with my team that day… That Tuesday I woke up and it had gotten worse. I told myself that if it didn’t get better by the next day I would go to the hospital. My coworkers, my wife and the nurses she works with all tried to tell me to go but I wouldn’t listen because I was more concerned about my insurance deductible. I went to practice that Tuesday but didn’t run because I was feeling too rough. We had a team dinner after practice and it was on the drive there that I realized I was in serious shape. Just driving my car was the most intense pain I have ever experienced in my life. The dinner was at my parent’s house and when I got there I told my mom that something was really wrong and I needed her to drive me to urgent care. She drove me to urgent care; I explained my symptoms and they said I needed to go to the ER. I was admitted faster than I had ever gotten into the ER, but after that it felt like I was met with skepticism. Maybe they thought I wanted opioids but it felt like they doubted how much pain I was in. It didn’t hurt more when they pressed on my ribs, my chest x-ray was clear. If it wasn’t for my blood test I think I would have been sent home with anti-inflammatories. They said my D-Dimer was high and that could indicate a blood clot so they ordered a CT scan. They ran the CT scan and it came back that I had a pulmonary embolism. It was just recently that I had read about athletes like Chris Bosh and Serena Williams having clotting episodes. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. They told me I would be put on Eliquis and sent home which caught me off guard because I thought I would have to be admitted to the hospital.  The NP explained that blood clot treatment has come a long way and that since I didn’t have a fever and my pulse oxygen and heart rate were good I didn’t have to be admitted. I was sent home that night but I couldn’t lie down without pain and had to sleep in quite possibly the most uncomfortable position on my couch for the next few weeks. It was uncomfortable but any other position felt like I was being simultaneously stabbed and smothered. I was also told no running for the near future which was extremely depressing considering I was in REALLY good shape at the time. All I wanted to do was go on a run and sleep in the same bed as my wife but I was basically stuck on the couch. It’s wild to me how serious my situation was at the time but how long I waited to go to the hospital. I consider myself extremely fortunate that my clot was not more serious or I might not be alive right now. However, with so many of my symptoms mirroring sports injuries/soreness it makes me fear that this could happen to many athletes. My clot was considered unprovoked meaning it did not start as a DVT but based on what I have read about DVT symptoms there’s a very real possibility I would have just tried using my foam roller thinking it was a sore muscle. Since my PE was unprovoked, I’m on Eliquis indefinitely. I started on 5mg twice a day for 6 months, now I’m on a maintience dose of 2.5mg twice a day. My wife was a rock star through this whole episode. She’s been my rock and I don’t think I would still be here without her.

  1. When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?
I was cleared to run again 2 weeks after my PE. I was told that I could basically do as much as my body would allow. The first run back was humbling. It felt like running a 5k even though I was basically jogging and my lungs hurt the whole time. As I got more and more back into it, my body and legs felt like they could do more but like there was a road block in my lungs keeping me from going faster. My muscles felt like they were out for a jog while my breathing felt like I was sprinting. It was very frustrating.

  1. 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 piece of gear is my Clot Busters hat. I’ve always been a hat person and would run in a different hat every day. Ever since my PE I haven’t worn another hat for a run and it’s really the only hat I wear.

  1. How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week) 
I’ve been getting out running about 4-6 days a week. Some days I was running 15 miles a day split between two runs during my marathon build up.

  1. What is your favorite food?  Either generally or after a workout.  For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito...
Favorite food would definitely have to be cereal. I could probably eat cereal 3 meals a day (and probably did in college).

  1. If you could go someplace to visit and explore, where would like to go? 
My wife and I have a bucket list with a couple of places we would like to visit. Ireland and Italy are the big ones I’ve never been to and I would like to go back to Australia again at some point in my life. I went there in high school and really want to go back again now that I’m an adult. Ireland is definitely a big one though since that’s where my family came from. With a last name like McDonough I really want to make it there at some point.

  1. 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.
Number one thing I learned was to be kind to yourself and look at your fitness and recovery as a blank slate. It felt like my PE wiped a lifetime of fitness away and if I had tried to judge myself based on what I was able to do before I would have given up. Remember that there are good days and bad days. Even things like the weather affect me in ways I didn’t have to think about before. I ran a race in the humidity and it wrecked me, I almost dropped out, but I refused to give up while wearing the polka dots. I found the Clot Busters the night I was diagnosed with my PE and being a part of a team has pushed me in my recovery. I try not to stress about my situation too much but it does freak me out a bit when I get the slightest pain in my chest.

So glad that Thomas did end up going to the ER when the symptoms of his clotting incident got too evident and painful.

I got the chance to meet Tom right before the NYC Marathon and I hope that our paths can come cross soon enough so that we can run together.  No chance that I can match his pace but hopefully we will be running in the polka-dots so that I can spot him from the distance.


Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!