Ohio, United States
“I realized this was a big deal, even after all my doctors had brushed it off.”
That’s how 32-year-old Adriel Helms remembers her thrombosis journey. A once vibrant, healthy young woman, Adriel Helms eventually found herself hospitalized more than three times over a span of seven years.
It began in 2005 when Adriel was 21-years-old and in labor with her daughter. When her epidural was administered, Adriel’s sciatic nerve was accidentally pinched in her left leg. A few days later, after she and her newborn daughter had returned home from the hospital, Adriel remembers that something didn’t feel quite right.
“It felt like I had a pain in my leg that wasn’t going away,” she said. “I couldn’t feel the outside of my leg at all.”
As the pain grew worse, Adriel told her home check nurse when she came for a check-in, who then advised her to seek medical attention immediately after checking her leg. Her nurse said it was probably a blood clot. Adriel says that, at the time, she didn’t even know what a blood clot was or how serious it could be.
Her doctor found two blood clots in her calf, called deep vein thrombosis, and she remained in the hospital four days. Her healthcare team told her the blood clot likely developed during her labor when her sciatic nerve was pinched. She was prescribed a blood thinner for six months and made a seemingly healthy recovery.
It wasn’t until six years later when Adriel awoke one morning with large bruises on her thighs and one shin. After running a full blood panel, her doctor diagnosed her with Factor V Leiden, an inherited blood-clotting disorder.
The following year, in 2012, Adriel experienced pain in her right leg. But something about this was different – she had never experienced pain in that spot of her leg before. It was also recurring but not as urgently painful as her previous experiences.
She remembers it well because it was the night of her daughter’s birthday, who had just turned seven. When she arrived at the hospital, her doctor thought it was only a pulled muscle so Adriel went home.
But Adriel knew something had to be wrong when she was awakened the next night with “stabbing pains” on the right side of her chest. She recalls having severe difficulty breathing.
Adriel’s blood clot had traveled from her leg to her lungs, leading to a very serious pulmonary embolism (PE). Her doctor found clots speckled all over her right lung.
While she’s now on medication for life, Adriel considers herself lucky to be alive. She’s a busy mother of two, working as a professional photographer and in elementary education. She’s also an advocate for clotting disorder testing in pregnant women.
She has since made several important adjustments to her lifestyle to help prevent her risk of future blood clots. She now uses compression socks for long duration trips, takes breaks to move around while working, and no longer smokes.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re active or if you sit in an office chair all the time,” Adriel explains. “Blood clots can hit absolutely anybody. Be your own advocate.”