Stellenbosch, South Africa
For two weeks in 2012, 19-year-old Ananja Beck of Stellenbosch, South Africa, suffered through what she thought was a nagging stomachache.
Beck suffers from hemochromatosis, a condition where the body produces too much iron and can damage internal organs, so she wasn’t initially concerned about the discomfort. But when she started having trouble getting up without extreme pain, her boyfriend urged her to go to the doctor, a decision that likely saved her life.
After receiving an ultrasound, doctors discovered Ananja had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a large blood clot, in the upper section of her right leg. She was then immediately sent to another doctor who initially dismissed her because she didn’t display classic signs associated with a DVT, as her leg wasn’t swollen. After she presented him with the ultrasound results, the doctor’s demeanor shifted and immediately admitted her for observation.
“I didn’t even think to ask if it was a blood clot or anything like that,” she recalls.
Ananja was placed on anticoagulants to break up her clot and monitored in the hospital until it had dissipated.
Doctors were not certain what caused her blood clot, but they indicated that her use of oral contraceptives may have played a role in addition to a family history of blood clots.
Now 23-years-old, Ananja wants to help others be aware of the risk factors. “Do a little bit a research on the contraceptive you are on, and make sure that it is healthy for your body. Ask your doctor what precautions you need to take,” she shared.
Most importantly, Ananja wants others to remember one important piece of advice: “The first thing I would tell myself is: if you are feeling bad, go to the doctor!” she said.
Since her diagnosis, Ananja has adjusted her normally active lifestyle. Before her blood clot, Ananja participated in all kinds of sports and recreational activities, but now she has to be more careful. At first she was resentful, but now Ananja sees her experience as an opportunity to share her story.
“Hopefully I can help someone else along the way with my story and guide someone else,” said Ananja. “All of my friends now know everything about deep vein thrombosis. I work to spread the word as much as possible.”