So there I was in full competition mode at Altus Shooting Solutions in Baker, Florida. The Range Officer said, “Shooter Ready?” I replied, “I’m ready!!” BEEEEP! This particular stage had you climbing up logs. You would stop at each log to shoot the three different distance targets, then up another log you would go. I was starting to climb to my last log, and I had a bad pinch in my upper abdomen. OUCH!!! I kept climbing because I knew the time was almost up, and so far, I’ve hit every target. I got into position on the last log and hit every target!! I climbed down and told my husband I felt like I squished my liver. He laughed and congratulated me on the great stage. My upper abdomen ached, but I kept shaking it off. In a male-dominated sport, I didn’t want to look like a wimp. I finished the match 8th overall and Top Lady.
The following week my upper abdomen kept aching. I told my husband that I felt like something wasn’t right. I was starting to gain weight, and my abdomen felt like it was distending out. I went to the Dr, and they told me it was just gas. Ummm, I know what gas feels like, and it moves. This ache was in one spot and radiated all over the abdomen. I felt tired a lot and would get home from work and take short naps before bed. This wasn’t like me at all, but I dealt with it. NRA 2019 conventions were the next week, and I had to do something to lose these pounds that I felt like suddenly appeared! So I kept working out and started fasting that week. Easter Sunday was upon us, and I drug myself up to get ready and head to Church. Something just wasn’t right with me. My husband had to teach a class in Indiana the following week, so he headed out that Sunday afternoon and would just meet me the following Thursday at the NRA Conventions.
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019, I got up that morning, unknowing how my life was about to change. At this point, my upper abdomen was tender to touch and ached. I mean, it ached badly. I would try to take deep breaths, and it would hurt so bad that I couldn’t. I figured maybe I had a stomach ulcer, like a really bad stomach ulcer. At least that’s what Web MD told me, LOL. I felt bad that morning, I just threw my clothes on and got my son to school. I headed into my office and felt like a dark cloud was over me. Everyone at work told me I didn’t look well. By 11:00 am I just couldn’t deal with whatever was going on inside me. I drove myself to the Emergency Room. The ER Dr. examined me, and he went to press on my abdomen, and I about jumped off the table. He ran a CT scan with and without contrast. After the tests, there I was sitting in the ER room by myself when the nurse walked in. She explained to me that the Dr ordered morphine for me. I laughed and told her I wasn’t one of those kinds of patients, and I explained to her that I drove myself, so maybe just some strong Tylenol because I knew it was just a bad stomach ulcer. Then the Dr came in and sat down. He asked me if I was taking oral contraceptives. I answered, yes. He told me that they knew what was wrong with me, that I had several blood clots in my abdomen, which were DVTs (Deep Vein Thrombosis), and that they were preparing a room in ICU for me. The Dr was explaining other things, but my mind started racing at this moment. The Dr stood up and walked over to the nurse. I laughed and said, “I will take that morphine now.” I texted my husband immediately. I told my sisters, who are all five hours away. I was scared and was reaching out to everyone. I learned that my splenic vein and inferior mesenteric veins were blocked, and I had blood clots in my portal vein.
I was so confused about all this. Was this all correct? I can’t be dying. I have a 10-year-old son at home that needs me, a husband that needs me, and a job! I have adult children that are navigating through life that call me when they need advice; they need me. And wait, my front porch hasn’t been built yet. I haven’t got to enjoy drinking my coffee on the front porch yet. I have much more life to live. This can’t be the end. Or is it? Is this how you feel when you’re dying? Surely not! I don’t feel like I’m dying, but how would one know? Yes, so many thoughts were racing through my head and the fear. The fear of all this being the end.
While I was waiting on an ICU room to open, the nurse administered another IV in my other arm. I was still sitting in the ER room when my best friend Candice walked in. It was a relief to see her and was comforting knowing she was there with me.
As soon as I got to the ICU room, the nurse greeted me and explained everything she was doing. I was being pumped full of Warfarin, which is a blood thinner. I remember asking her if I was dying, over and over again. See, when I get bad nervous, I talk…..A LOT. The Nurse assured me I wasn’t dying and that she would give me something for my nerves. And, just like that, I was out. I woke up to see my sister Deb at the end of my bed, smiling. I remember closing my eyes, and when I opened them, there was my husband standing there. After a few days in ICU, they put me in a regular room. I was given Eliquis (blood thinner) which is now a part of my everyday life.
The following months were pretty tough. The mental aspect of this is sometimes more than I can take. After being released from the hospital, I was scared. I was scared of every ache and pain I was having. I am still like this, almost 10 months later. Is this another blood clot? Is the medicine working? I was able to work from home for a few months following my release from the hospital. My body had to get use to the medication. I was seeing five different specialists and having appointments every week. We were trying to figure out what was causing the clots, as it is unusual to get blood clots where I have them. The wait was long, almost a month. I researched and googled everything about blood clots in the portal vein and mesenteric veins. Through bloodwork and waiting, I found out that I have an inherited blood disorder called Prothrombin G20210A Thrombophilia or Factor II mutation. The protein produced from the F2 gene, prothrombin (also called coagulation factor II), is the precursor to a protein called thrombin that initiates a series of chemical reactions in order to form a blood clot. The particular mutation that causes prothrombin thrombophilia results in an overactive F2 gene that causes too much prothrombin to be produced. An abundance of prothrombin leads to more thrombin, which promotes the formation of blood clots. Between this inherited disorder and taking oral contraceptives, this was just a storm brewing, and unfortunately, the veins in my abdomen was the target of it all.
My hematologists advised me to take it easy and no shooting for at least 3-4 months. So I took it easy for the summer. I spent a lot of time with my family around our pool. I was just grateful to be able to spend this time with them. When I first got my diagnosis, a good friend and fellow shooting competitor, Dr. Prodanovich, reached out to me. He helped guide me in what to ask my Dr’s, and if I had any concerns about anything, he was just a phone call away. Dr. Prodanovich was indeed an angel in the times of need. God puts people in your life for a reason. Doc is genuinely someone I will forever be grateful for.
My first competition back was the MPA Summer Shootout in August. I have to take different precautions now when on the range. For example, I carry in my range bag Wound Seal. If I get cut, it will help stop the bleeding fast. Doc advised me to put this in my range bag. If I would have a bad stage, I wouldn’t let that get me down. I was just so happy to be standing there, among all the competitors breathing fresh air and enjoying the match. I have slowly progressed to getting back to my competitions. I also just recently got back into working out with a personal trainer. I have been so apprehensive at being overly physically active. I am easing back into it now.
My MRI this past January still showed clots in the portal and superior mesenteric veins, but blood was moving around them. At this point, they are considered chronic and have scar tissue around them. Because of the location of the clots, my Dr’s at Emory hospital just want to monitor them with follow-ups. I will be on blood thinners for life, and I’m okay with that. It beats the alternative! I take this whole situation day by day and am very fortunate to be alive. I can live with my chronic thrombosis and Factor II mutation. I’m trying to get back to living normally again.
From this situation, I have learned you need to listen to your body. Your body will tell you when something is not right. Get it checked out. I have learned to love more and give more of my time to my family, friends, and God. I tell everyone how much I love them, not only my family but my friends. I now live with a grateful heart.
During this whole process, I had so many people reach out to me. A very dear of mine by the name of Susan, reached out daily with scriptures and uplifting encouragement. She sent me a book about how some people have Second Acts. You see, when everyone is born, that is your First Act. Some people are only given First Acts in life. I have been blessed to be given a Second Act. After giving my First Act a good hard look, I’m going to live my life like the lyrics of the Tim McGraw song “Live Like You Were Dying”. I’m going to live my life to the fullest and take every chance that comes my way.
For more information on blood clots, Factor II mutation, and blood clot awareness, please visit these websites: