Alyce Clark lives for horseback riding. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” she says.
At 26-years-old, Alyce Clark has loved horses since childhood. She has even been a competitive horse rider in her community. Horses are her true passion.
But on a cool evening in 2010, Alyce’s life changed forever. She was just 19-years-old and anticipating a quiet evening ahead with her parents and brother.
As she began to walk down the stairs, she felt faint as if she were going to pass out. And then she describes how the world went blank. She woke up at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by blood and carpet burns all over her body.
“My heart was racing,” she recalls. “My mom told me to calm down but I told her I couldn’t.”
While her family waited for an ambulance to reach her rural home, Alyce’s body was slowly shutting down. She couldn’t move and found herself repeatedly vomiting. When the paramedics arrived, she was put on oxygen and taken to the hospital due to high blood sugar and a rapid heart rate. On her way to the hospital, Alyce remembers feeling “agonizing pain” in her chest, stomach and back.
As she later found out, Alyce had suffered a massive bilateral pulmonary embolism (PE) and went into cardiac arrest. During the time period from being picked up by the ambulance to her admission to the hospital, Alyce suffered a total of seven cardiac arrests, one stroke, and lost five units of blood.
Her doctors feared the worst and told her parents that she could have permanent damage due to the lack of oxygen from the stroke and cardiac arrests she experienced. Her healthcare team braced her family to be ready for a “different Alyce” when she woke up.
But, miraculously, Alyce did not suffer any brain damage and began a healthy recovery. She spent a total of two weeks in the hospital and was sedated for the first half.
As she recovered, Alyce’s doctor told her she had a blood disorder. She began to take an anticoagulant upon discharge from the hospital. She also learned she had a hole in her heart chamber, which was surgically closed a few years later.
Alyce now sees a specialist in London annually and is on steady treatment to prevent future clotting.
“Whenever I go see my consultant, I am always the youngest person in the room,” Alyce said. “At first I thought it was so depressing.”
After her experience, Alyce wasn’t allowed to ride horses and was afraid to be alone or out with friends. She worried she may have another PE. She describes those first couple years as a difficult time as she worked to come to an understanding about her experience and the medical considerations she’ll have for the rest of her life.
Today, more than six years after that terrifying evening, Alyce lives her life with a new perspective. Whenever she takes a new pill or medication, she says she always checks the side effects and risk factors. She considers herself her own best healthcare advocate.
She also credits her positive perspective to her new horse, Dita, who she rides almost daily and even competes with locally.
“My horse Dita has been my absolute rock. When it’s been really bad, she always makes everything better,” she said. “They say horses are healers and I totally agree.”