Katie Bahn - DVT and Me
Katie works for the American Heart Association and is the Community Manager of the Support Network. She shares her story in honor of DVT Awareness Month in March.
Many of you may know me as the Community Manager here on the Support Network. Since 2014, I have spent countless hours encouraging members to share their survivor stories, be patient advocates for themselves or someone else, and to concentrate on recovery. Today, I am going to share my story and honestly, I am finding it hard to write. Usually, I am an open book - that is part of what I love about my job, sharing and being sympathetic is easy and comes naturally - but today, sharing is hard. Hard because I must be honest with myself about the seriousness of my situation, hard because I must be honest that I was not a strong patient advocate for myself, and honest that I did and do suffer from anxiety that something else will happen-even though I KNOW I am well on the road to recovery, all of my doctors have told me so.
On November 8, 2017, I joined the Support Network league of survivors by living through a life-threating incident of DVT or deep vein thrombosis. I was away from the American Heart Association recovering from spinal fusion surgery when it happened. The back surgery was on October 18, 2017, and from the time I woke up from the anesthetic, my left thigh and hip hurt. I mentioned it several times in the hospital and then later when I was released and returned for my follow up appointments. The surgeon’s office assured me all was fine, that it probably had to do with a change in how I was walking due to the fusion. I am an extremely active person – up at 6 am, cleaning the house, walking the dog and ready to go all day.
This carried over into my recovery and for weeks, I was up and about so much that no one connected the leg pain to anything serious UNTIL November 8, when my left leg was so painful I could not walk and it swelled to twice its normal size. Thankfully, my teenage daughters were both home at this crucial point. With my oldest daughter driving, off we went to the local outpatient ER affiliated with the neurosurgeon and hospital where my back surgery was performed.
Within minutes of arriving, I was given a CT scan, provided heparin, Dilaudid and prepped for the first ambulance ride of my life to the larger hospital to begin urgent treatment for multiple blood clots. Later, I learned the catalyst for the clots was the back surgery but the cause was a rare congenital defect no one knew I had - May-Thurner Syndrome or Iliac Vein Compression Syndrome.
This started the most painful 48 hours I have ever experienced - worse than two C-sections, cancer surgery and the original spinal fusion. I underwent two procedures on my leg - one to place a TPA drip and later a stent, spent more than 24 hours in ICU, and a total five days in the hospital. I am sharing this because so many times during the experience, I thought, “WOW! I KNEW there was a problem and I did not push the professionals responsible for my health and safety to track down the cause of the leg pain.” I felt so guilty and such embarrassment at not being a stronger advocate for myself. I work for the American Heart Association, for heaven’s sake- I KNOW the signs and did not recognize what was happening.
Now, four months later, I am doing well. I am happy to on the Support Network with each of you, back in graduate school, exercising in moderation, and spending time with my daughters and pets. However, sometimes, amid these activities, I wonder, “what if?” Not what if I had died, but what if I had recognized the signs of DVT and been more assertive that something was very wrong.
So now, I urge each of you, if something does not feel right speak up. Do not be afraid. The worst that can happen is NOT that you’re wrong, or that your doctors think you complain to much- it’s that you’re dead.