I knew things weren't OK when I couldn't walk.
I woke up feeling as if my leg was asleep, and when I got out of bed, I could hardly lift it. I had recently been working out and I figured I had pulled a muscle in my leg, so my solution was to walk it off and stretch. At the time, I had no idea how far from the truth I was.
The next two weeks were filled with hospital visits, CT scans, constant blood work, and a stay in the ICU. Oh, and also two Pulmonary Embolisms and a Deep Vein Thrombosis. Every doctor was shocked that a teenage girl had developed blood clots. A large clot in my thigh had broken off, and those smaller pieces had traveled to both of my lungs.
The culprit? My birth control.
I had started hormonal birth control, not even a month before. The signs of a blood clot had been there, but I was so certain that this rare side effect could never happen to me that I convinced myself I was experiencing something else.
First I had noticed a sharp pain in my glute, of all places. It hurt to the touch, as well as when I moved, so I thought it was only a bruise. When that went away, the shortness of breath came, followed by my leg going totally numb. Both of these, I assumed, was due to my physical activity. When I saw my thigh turning shades of pink and purple, I decided to go to the emergency room for an ultrasound. Discovering that I had a life-threatening condition was hard to process.
I had no choice but to begin blood thinners, as well as have the clots removed — which was anything but painless. I will be the first to admit that for most of my stay I was heavily medicated, but this did not make things any less frightening. During this time I learned that I had a genetic mutation called Factor V Leiden, which made me extra susceptible to blood clots. When I was finally able to return home I was in a lot of pain, but I was thankful to be alive.
A lot of things changed after I had blood clots. I was getting routine shots in my stomach and I was having blood work done at least three times a week, all while having a phobia of needles. I was taking blood thinners and missed the opportunity to play soccer, get my license, or get a job. I developed health anxiety.
I am not writing this for pity. I am writing this for the women who start birth control without being informed of the risk.
Get yourself tested before beginning any medicines that could cause blood clots. Often times conditions such as mine are not realized until they are triggered. Whether you are susceptible or not, know the warning signs of a blood clot. And if you do find yourself unable to take hormonal birth control, know that there are other options for you out there.