I’d like to introduce my sister-in-law Donna Lamer. She’s my husband’s sister and I can safely say she is my favorite sister-in-law on that side of the family because she is my only one. I’d say it anyway! (That’s her husband Russ in the picture.)
Nine years ago, Donna developed a blood clot in a deep vein in her right leg and ended up in the hospital for a week. The condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Pieces of the clot or thrombus, as it’s also called, had broken off and traveled up to her lung. Potentially a life-threatening situation.
She had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma and was undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatments, which put her at high risk of developing blood clots. She didn’t know that though, so when she noticed her calf was swollen she wasn’t too worried. She had no other symptoms, something that is not unusual.
- Skin that is warm to the touch
Donna’s oncologist ordered an ultrasound of her leg, which confirmed she had a blood clot. A CT scan showed that pieces of the clot were sprinkled throughout her lungs. In the hospital, she had to keep her leg elevated at all times. She also received medication to prevent the clot from growing and breaking off anymore and to prevent new ones from forming. After she left, she had to take a blood thinner for six months and wear compression stockings.
Although someone with cancer is at high risk for DVT, it can happen to almost anyone.
DVT risk factors
- Congestive heart or respiratory failure
- Restricted mobility
- Age over 40 years
- Recent surgery
- Prior or family history of venous thromboembolism
Deep vein thrombosis can occur in veins throughout the body but is most common in the legs. The veins carry blood back up to the heart where it gets pumped into the lungs to pick up oxygen and other nutrients. If you have a clot, the major concerns are that that it will break off and make its way to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism or to the brain and cause a stroke.
If you have a clot, the major concerns are that that it will break off and make its way to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism or to the brain and cause a stroke.
Fortunately, even though she had clots in her lungs, Donna didn’t have an embolism. But, because she’s had one DVT she’s now at even greater risk of developing another. She’s very careful to do what she can to prevent that from happening.
DVT prevention tips
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid long periods of staying still
- Get up and move around at least every hour if you are traveling on a plane, train, or bus
- Stop at least every two hours when driving, and get out and move around
- Point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet if you can’t move around
- Drink a lot of water and wear loose-fitting clothing while traveling
- Discuss your risks with your doctor
- Keep heart failure, diabetes, and other health issues as stable as possible
Although we have been discussing her blood clots, I also want to let you know that Donna got through her all of her chemo treatments and, as you can see from her smiling face at the top of the post, is doing well. We are all grateful.
Advantage Home Care
If you or your loved one is at risk of developing blood clots and have been advised to follow some of the prevention tips we mentioned, our caregivers can provide assistance. For instance, we can prepare nutritious meals, assist in walking and moving around, help with an exercise program, make sure the individual drinks plenty of water and provide transportation to medical appointments.
Our Aging in Place blog is written by Diane Atwood, who also writes the blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood. If you have any topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comment box below. Thank you!