Khelse de Prado is a healthy young woman with no history of smoking, no detectable genetic mutations, and no family history of blood clots. Yet she is a six-time thrombosis survivor.
Khelse was diagnosed with her first blood clot in January 2018, just two weeks after starting a hormonal oral contraceptive — her only known risk factor.
She woke up on January 1, 2018 with severe pain in her upper abdomen. As it was New Year’s Day, Khelse and her friends were taking it easy at home and discussing the New Year’s Eve party they had just attended. A friend offered her a glass of champagne, but she struggled to take even a few sips, thinking she had the “world’s worst hangover.”
The next day she went to work—luckily, at a college of medicine and children’s hospital—where she asked one of the doctors if her symptoms were normal. The doctor sent her straight to the adult emergency center.
After seven hours in triage, she was diagnosed with the rare condition ‘portal vein thrombosis’ (PVT). Portal veins bring blood to the liver from the intestines; Khelse’s left portal vein and all of its branches were completely blocked, while the right portal vein and its branches were mostly blocked.
After spending about a week in the hospital, she was discharged, given a therapeutic dose of anticoagulants, and went back to work. She regularly checked in with her team of doctors, including a hematologist/oncologist, a hepatologist, a gastroenterologist, and her primary care physician. After many months with no sign of another clot, her doctors gave her permission to discontinue the medication.
Almost a year later, on Christmas Eve 2018, Khelse was awoken by what felt like the worst panic attack of her life. Hardly able to breathe and with a rapid heartbeat, she roused her mother for help. They believed that Khelse was just having a night terror so she soothed herself back to sleep. But on Christmas Day, Khelse felt a sharp pain shoot from her back through her chest, and she said to her mother: “I think I am having another blood clot.”
At the emergency center, the doctors diagnosed her with a pulmonary embolism (PE). Khelse spent two weeks at Texas Medical Center recovering from the PE—only to be diagnosed with two more deep vein thromboses (DVT), one in each leg, plus a superficial clot in one leg.
Khelse was shocked—she had had no symptoms of DVT or superficial clots, had gone off oral contraceptives and taken other steps to reduce her risk of clotting again. Her doctors had told her the chance of recurrence was only 10 percent.
After being diagnosed with the PVT, PE, DVT and superficial clots, her doctors advised her to stay on anticoagulants for the remainder of her life and advised her on the risks associated with pregnancy, long-haul travel and sitting for long periods.
Yet, not even six months later, on May 31, 2019, another DVT had formed in Khelse’s left arm, despite her being on anticoagulant medication. Khelse was heartbroken—she had never missed a dose of her medication and had done everything possible to avoid another clot.
Today, Khelse knows that the chances of the clot traveling from her arm to a vital organ are low, but she continues to keep active and take anticoagulants to avoid any bad consequences.
Khelse eventually found World Thrombosis Day and wanted to share her story to emphasize that even people who are young, active and otherwise healthy can be diagnosed with thrombosis.