Creative Thinking on Deep Vein Thrombosis with Mark Ballard

Mark Ballard, Deep Vein Thrombosis PatientWithout realizing it, I was holding my breath. I watched the nurse as she carefully and methodically ran the ultrasound wand up and down my legs, watching the computer screen in front of her like a hawk. Her eyes darted back and forth with precision as she stopped often to freeze the image on the screen and hit a few keys on the keyboard. I wanted to talk (as I always do) but tried to hold back. Finally I couldn’t any longer. “What’s happening?” I blurted out. “Are the blood clots gone?”

Anyone who knows me, reads my blog or Facebook entries or, for that matter, even passes me on the street, knows by now that last July I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis or blood clots in both of my legs. Receiving that news was very shocking to me since I would have never thought of myself as a candidate for blood clots. I’m a cyclist and exercise regularly and, if I had to pick the strongest part of my body, would definitely say it is my legs!

My Journey with Deep Vein Thrombosis

Here’s how it all started. I had a kidney stone the latter part of June that landed me in the hospital having surgery to remove it. Anyone who has ever endured a kidney stone knows what an ordeal it is. I went from being very active to suddenly being bed- ridden for several days. I noticed that my right calf was becoming extremely tender and sore and my left one was headed in the same direction. I immediately assumed it was because my muscles were stiff and sore due to my recent lack of exercise. In fact, I thought I should just get back on my bike and work all the kinks out. My friends at the gym suggested I get a deep tissue sports massage to help with the pain so I could get back to my normal exercise regimen.

I had planned to schedule a massage, but the Fourth of July was quickly approaching and I put it off until after the holiday. My calf pain and stiffness worsened with each day until finally on the morning of July 4th I could barely walk. As most of us do, I went to Google to diagnose what was wrong with me. One of the things that kept popping up was blood clots but, because of my strong legs, I knew that couldn’t possibly be the issue! I got in touch with my vein doctor, Ken Harper, who graciously met me at his office on a holiday. It was then that he confirmed I had blood clots not just in one leg but both! I couldn’t understand why. He immediately put me on blood thinners and cautioned me of the danger of blood clots. I was not familiar with them at all but that was soon to change.

Things that we don’t understand oftentimes scare us. I was healthy and in my early fifties and had blood clots. How could that be?  I knew nothing about Deep Vein Thrombosis. I had never even heard the words before. I made it my goal to read everything I could about Deep Vein Thrombosis so I would better understand what was going on deep within the muscles of my calves. The first thing I read alarmed me. Deep Vein Thrombosis has the potential of being life threatening. Having blood clots is nothing to play around with. If a blood clot should become dislodged and travel through your veins to your lungs, heart, or brain, it can take your life.

A series of doctors performed test after test on my blood trying to ascertain why I had blood clots. In the process, they discovered that I have a rare mutant gene called Factor V Leiden that I inherited which predisposes me to having blood clot issues. For six months I tried just about every kind of blood thinner on the market to thin down my blood so that my clots would dissolve.

Because I was taking blood thinners, I had to be extremely careful with sharp knives, falls, and accidents that would cause me to bleed. I was not allowed to ride my bike I love so much for fear I would fall, injure myself, and bleed out. Thank God I was able to continue my spin classes and other workouts at the gym. I also had to start wearing compression hose and be concerned about sitting for long periods of time without standing or walking around. These are all lifestyle changes I have to do to get rid of the clots I already had and hopefully prevent new ones from forming.

My recent ultrasound results were good as all but one of my clots are gone. The one that remains now has blood flowing through it and will hopefully continue to regenerate itself. I’ve been off of blood thinners since mid-December and now just take a daily aspirin to help keep my blood thin. I will have to be carefully monitored since I have Factor V and if I should get another clot will have to take blood thinners for the rest of my life.

March: Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month

I’m devoting my column this week to my journey with blood clots because March is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month. I feel it is extremely important for me to share what I experienced to educate my readers on the signs and dangers of blood clots. Space will not allow me to get into all the details here but I urge you to take a few minutes and look into blood clots. The Internet is full of important information that will help you understand them better. If you are experiencing an unexplained pain or tenderness in your legs, I urge you to call your doctor and have it checked.

Whether I’m dealing with arts, crafts, cooking, or simply telling my stories of life, I take my role of reaching others with information I’m familiar with very seriously. If, by writing this column, I can help save one person’s life, then it will be well worth it. Here’s to your good health!

 More with Mark

  • Cyclist Join Mark on Saturday, March 15 at 11a.m. at the Monroe County Club House in Forsyth for a Spring Brunch to benefit the American Cancer Society. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved by calling Dorothy at 478-995-5832 or 478-951-8595. Enjoy a delicious meal and be entertained by Mark as he focuses on celebrating spring!
  • Mark is again coordinating and emceeing the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Brunch and Fashion Show on March 27. Tickets are going fast. More information at CherryBlossom.com or call 478-751-7429.
  • Check out Mark’s website at MarkBallard.com for current projects, recipes, and lots of other fun stuff and Mark’s tees, prints, cards, and his collectible porcelain plates!
  • Mark is on Macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns, and articles are featured. Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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Over 18,000 Procedures Performed

Dr. Kenneth Harper, founder of Vein Specialists of the South, has evaluated more than 22,000 patients and performed over 6,000 procedures since 2000. Dr. Harper is a leader in comprehensive vein care, having focused on diagnosis and treatments for varicose veins, spider veins, venous ulcers, and leg swelling since 1997.

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