Amelia Best – Age 22

photo Amelia 

 My name is Amelia Best I am a 22 year-old Colorado native and my story began October of 2013.   One day I woke up but couldn’t get out of bed. I felt so sick and nothing in my body to get me moving.

Being a Junior at Colorado Mesa University at the time it took more than a runny nose to keep me from going to class, this should have been the first sign. A month went by and I was still in my bed not wanting to do anything but sleep. My fiancé, who was my boyfriend at the time, would come visit me each night after getting off work to try to get me moving or to eat anything!

Finally, after so long of not feeling well I managed to make it into the CMU student health clinic for a checkup. I was complaining of sore throat, tiredness, vomiting, and overall just not feeling well. The doctors threw me on a ton of IV fluids and gave me some antibiotics for what they thought was a case of strep attacking my body. A week passed and I felt my sore throat go away but I still felt horrible and wanted to just sleep. I couldn’t stand or sit up long enough to shower or brush my teeth. My fiancé had to help me stand in the shower, help me make it to the bathroom to throw up, brush my teeth, and force me to try any food or liquids. This time I ended up in the Grand Junction Community Hospital with little to no answers.

After telling the doctors about what had been going on and some inconclusive blood work they suspected a case of mono. They told me to go home and I would be feeling pretty bad for a while but

there was nothing I could do but sleep it off. A few days passed then I started to feel weird pains in my chest and a strange feeling down my arm. I could not slow my breathing and my fiancé said he could see my chest moving up and down way too rapidly. I thought this was all due to dehydration so I tried water and electrolyte drinks but couldn’t keep them down along with any food. My fiancé for a few days tried to help me practice diaphragmatic breathing and slow deep breaths which not only seemed impossible but very painful as well.

After a very long month of sleep, pain, and no school I woke up one day and felt like I could get up take a quick rinse off shower an actually get dressed all on my own. I was still having chest pain and it was difficult to walk three steps without being completely out of breath but after the day had passed I had managed to get up for the first time in over a month on my own. I had a feeling that this was the end of being sick and I was on the track to having whatever was attacking my body to be gone. That night my fiancé took me to his apartment where he made me a fancy dinner to celebrate me feeling better and a road to being healthy again. I still had to take things very slow and had troubles breathing but the night seemed to be going well. This was the night that my life as a 211year1old woman would turn upside down.

After eating, my fiancé and I were just hanging out, I began laughing after we both tumbled to the ground trying to reenact the lift from the end scene in Patrick Swazy’s Dirty Dancing movie. This was the last thing I truly remember that night. My fiancé and his brother had just witnessed what we would later find out to be an enormous blood clot blocking my heart and stopping my breathing. They told me I tried to get up and that I went completely grey and cold to the touch. They tried to help me sit down but I collapsed completely on their kitchen floor. Panicked they threw me in the car and rushed me St. Mary’s Hospital only a few minutes away. My fiancée’s brother ran inside to get help as my fiancé held me in his arms where I was scared and screaming that I couldn’t breathe and for someone to please help me.

I was taken back into a room to be assessed. Panicking when the staff tried to help me, it was a bit difficult for everyone. The one thing I do remember from the ER was fighting an oxygen mask heavily because the air being pushed through it felt like it was making it even harder to breathe. I was taken off to have pictures taken of my chest and with my return to the room a doctor came to my side and explained what had happened to me and my fiancé. I began to cry out of fear, I had a feeling this was the end of the road. The doctor explained that I had had an incredibly large blood clot pass through my heart, causing bruising, and gone to my lungs. The hospital staff instructed that my family be contacted because it was not likely I was going to live through the night.

Once I was stabilized I was moved to the Cardiac Care in the ICU for further care. Half the night had passed and I finally woke up to my mum holding my hand looking scared. It was a miracle but I had made it through the night but that wasn’t quite the end. I was being treated with a Heparin drip and other fluids as I still didn’t feel good. I had to have a catheter placed because under no circumstances was I to get out of bed. I was hooked up to all kinds of machines to help monitor everything going on in my body. I stayed in the ICU for several days accompanied by my mother, fiancée, and a few additional friends. I did a lot of sleeping but I was starting to recover. I was moved out of the ICU cautiously to a general floor for more care.

By this time I wasn’t able to move my arms due to painful IVs, my hands and body were so swollen to the point I couldn’t do tasks as simple as to hold a toothbrush or even touch a phone screen. I was in hell! For days I couldn’t shower without assistance, I couldn’t roll over in my bed, I was unable to feed myself, or really get out of bed still. My arms and wrists had huge purple bruises; I was still very tired, and I was trying to wrap my mind around everything that was happening to me. It was emphasized on a daily basis in the hospital that it was very important that I didn’t stress out or cause any additional strain to my body because it was going to take a very long time to recover from such a major thing happening to my body. I didn’t feel like a 21-year-old college student but more like an old man.

After days of pain and frustration I was finally allowed to return home. The only factor to cause such a massive Pulmonary Embolism in a young woman my age was that I was on the birth control NuvaRing. From now until I die I cannot have anything with estrogen put into my body. This not only caused problems with my hormonal balance but provided me limited options for birth control. Almost a year later I have made the personal decision to not be on any kind of contraceptive. On a weekly basis I am still visiting my doctor to have my INR, the blood clotting factor, checked to be sure my blood does not get too thick. I am on varying amounts of the blood thinner Warfarin, generic for Coumadin, daily to keep my INR above or at a minimum or 2 and no higher than about 3. This is a daily battle trying to make sure I always have my Warfarin with my and making sure I take it at 4pm each day no matter if I am in the middle of a shift waiting tables at work or back in class at the University. It might not seem like a hard task but it becomes annoying and frustrating to know I am consistently at the doctor and taking medication to prevent future clotting and to minimize the enormous clot I already have resting in my body.

I still suffer with numerous things on a daily basis due to my Pulmonary Embolism. I get extremely bad sweats at random times of day and at night to the point where I am so hot that I am sweating even with a fan or air conditioning on. It is not fun at all. Another major thing I am dealing with as a result of my Pulmonary Embolism is lack of adequate oxygen through my body for exercise. Going from an active person and lifestyle to now struggling with a single flight of stairs or carrying a handful of groceries is not only physically frustrating but it takes its emotional toll on me as well. Not being able to be physically active on a level where my body can benefit has caused me to gain weight and not get rid of the weight I gained while in early stages of recovery.

Almost a year later and I am still having my heart tested along with other tests to try to determine if I need some kind of cardiac help or if I just need to stay at a very low intensity level and small duration of physically active workouts so I don’t strain my body or cause additional problems. It is hard to be so young and not be able to push my body and do what others my age can do. I have been instructed to also give up some of my favorite activities such as ATV riding and horseback riding because they cause a danger to my health if I fell while doing either. Bleeding from an injury that could potentially occur from a fall could be very dangerous and even life threatening. Another problem my Pulmonary Embolism has caused is issues with my menstrual cycle. With my INR levels being difficult to control for a variety of reasons causes me to bleed A LOT. I have been on my period for 3 months at a time with very heavy blood loss. This does not contribute to my health in a beneficial way but only causes more stress on my body and numerous additional problems with excessive bleeding such as anemia and hormonal imbalances. Due to the size of my clots I will be on blood thinners from what started at a minimum of 6 months to now a minimum of 2 more years. Not only will these existing issues continue over the next 2 years and potentially even more years on my blood thinners but adds strain and heart ache to another area of my life.

I am getting married in September of 2015 and my fiancé and I are very eager to start a family but won’t be able to do so like we hoped. I was informed of the dangers with being pregnant and having children while on blood thinners. There have been studies that suggest certain blood thinners are “safe” while being pregnant, Warfarin not being one of them, but still hold potential risks to me and a future child. I am lucky to have man who is very understanding and willing to wait however long we have to in order to safely have children but it still brings heartache and sadness to not only us but our families also.

As is physical and emotional struggle isn’t enough I have and am still struggling with academics too. Colorado Mesa University came to me while I was in recovery in the hospital and was willing to work with me however they could for school. I had to take incomplete grades for the fall semester last year. My professors were great in helping me to complete the classes so I didn’t have to completely re do my entire semester. The professors along with the school were very understanding of my physical and emotional strains and gave me an entire semester to complete the classes. I did complete each class but fell behind in the loss of my spring semester due to needed recovery time. Being the determined person I am, my goal is still to graduate in 4 years as originally planned. However, this may sound like an easy task but is not. I am now trying to juggle weekly doctor visits, additional health problems, a job, and a very heavy next two semesters of school. Nothing I am trying to achieve is impossible by any means but very stressful on my mind and body. It is crucial that I do not become overly stressed and maintain a balance in all aspects of my recovery and life in general so I do not end up back in the hospital. Nothing will be easy but I will not be held back anymore by my Pulmonary Embolism and intend to keep pushing through all the struggles of life no matter what the cards are dealt to me. Not only have I been affected but both my family and my fiancé too.

Each day my finance is here trying to help me push through the day but constantly worrying about my health. Both my parents and my 2 siblings have been greatly affected. Going through recovery with a sick sibling or child puts stress on their lives too. They know that I am a stubborn and determined person who will push my limits and sometimes overdo it causing stress and extreme fatigue to my body. I know that on a day-to-day basis the four of them are checking in to make sure I am doing ok, eating, and sleeping enough. Being four hours away each phone call from me causes some initial panic and worry on their part. I am grateful for all the doctors, nurses, friends, and family who have stood by me this past year in my miracle but I still wonder each night why me and remind myself everything happens for a reason. My reason is to be a young who helps to prevent other young women from having this life threatening and life changing event happen to them. I hope my story can help bring awareness to those of a higher authority and that they can take a second look at what birth controls are doing to so many young people.

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