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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Birthday Arthea!

Today is my cousin, Arthea's birthday!  
My darling best friend received her angel wings, on December 19th, 2014.  At the young age of 36... By the hand of a Pulmonary Embolism.  This is the first time I am really writing about her. Arthea and I were exactly 3 years and 3 months apart.  We were more than cousins, more than god sisters, we were best friends... No, Sisters!  I did not have traditional siblings, Arthea was my sister!  We played together, sang songs, danced, laughed & joked, had many slumber parties, traveled on every family vacation together... Even in adulthood, that didn't change.  She lived with, loved, and cared for my mother... Like a true sister.  It's only been 3 months... And the pain is still deep.  Now, I know Arthea wouldn't want me to be sad or cry... So, instead, today, I celebrate you and will do all of your favorite things... And I promise to educate others on how to know the signs of a blood clot, and prevent pulmonary embolisms.
First things first, I went to my favorite two sites mayoclinic.com and webmd.com, then I asked my primary care physician... Here are the symptoms, causes/risk factors, and ways to help prevent blood clots.
Disclaimer: If you may, halfway think, you might have a blood clot... Call your Doctor immediately... I am not a doctor, which is why I'm not offering treatment options.  I just want you and your family to be aware of what the symptoms/causes are.

Now, I can coulda-woulda-shoulda the days prior to December 19th, 2014... But I'm not going to... What I am going to do, is educate myself and others... Enough Said!

What causes pulmonary embolisms?


Pulmonary embolism occurs when a clump of material, most often a blood clot, gets wedged into an artery in your lungs. These blood clots most commonly originate in the deep veins of your legs, but they can also come from other parts of your body. 
Occasionally, other substances can form blockages within the blood vessels inside your lungs. 
It's rare to have a single pulmonary embolism. In most cases, multiple clots are involved. The lung tissue served by each blocked artery is robbed of blood and may die. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.

What are the symptoms?

Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots and your overall health, especially underlying lung disease or heart disease.
Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath. This symptom typically appears suddenly and always gets worse with exertion.
  • Chest pain. You may feel like you're having a heart attack. The pain may become worse when you breathe deeply, cough, eat, bend or stoop. The pain will get worse with exertion but won't go away when you rest.
  • Cough. The cough may produce bloody or blood-streaked sputum.
Other signs and symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include:
    • Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf
    • Clammy or discolored skin
    • Excessive sweating
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Light-headedness or dizziness

When to see a doctor: Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough that produces bloody sputum.

What are risk factors?


Although anyone can develop blood clots and subsequent pulmonary embolism, certain factors can increase your risk.

  • Medical history: You're at higher risk if you or any of your family members have had blood clots or pulmonary embolism in the past. This may be due to inherited disorders that affect blood clotting.  
    • In addition, certain medical problems put you at risk, such as.
      • Heart disease. High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease make clot formation more likely. 
      • Cancer. Certain cancers, especially pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers, and many cancers with metastasis, can increase levels of substances that help blood clot, and chemotherapy further increases the risk. Women with a history of breast cancer are at higher risk of blood clots. 
  • Prolonged immobility: Blood clots are more likely to form in your legs during periods of inactivity, such as:
    • Bed rest. Being confined to bed for an extended period after surgery, a heart attack, leg fracture or any serious illness makes you far more vulnerable to blood clots. When the lower extremities are horizontal for long periods of time, the flow of venous blood slows and blood pools in the legs. 
    • Long journeys. Sitting in a cramped position during lengthy plane or car trips slows blood flow, which contributes to the formation of clots in your legs. 
  • Surgery: Surgery is one of the leading causes of problem blood clots, especially joint replacements of the hip and knee. During the preparation of the bones for the artificial joints, tissue debris may enter the bloodstream and contribute to causing a clot. Simply being immobile during any type of surgery can lead to the formation of clots.
  • Other risk factors
    • Smoking. For reasons that aren't well understood, tobacco use predisposes some people to blood clot formation, especially when combined with other risk factors. 
    • Being overweight. Excess weight increases the risk of blood clots, particularly in women who smoke or have high blood pressure. 
    • Supplemental estrogen. The estrogen in birth control pills and in hormone replacement therapy can increase clotting factors in your blood, especially if you smoke or are overweight. 
    • Pregnancy. The weight of the baby pressing on veins in the pelvis can slow blood return from the legs. Clots are more likely to form when blood slows or pools.

How do you Prevent Blood Clots?

Preventing clots in the deep veins in your legs will help prevent pulmonary embolism. For this reason, most hospitals are aggressive about taking measures to prevent blood clots:
  • Anticoagulants. Blood thinners are given to people at risk of clots before and after an operation, as well as to people admitted to the hospital with a heart attack, stroke or complications of cancer. 
  • Graduated compression stockings. Compression stockings steadily squeeze your legs, helping your veins and leg muscles move blood more efficiently. They offer a safe, simple and inexpensive way to keep blood from stagnating after general surgery. 
  • Pneumatic compression. This treatment uses thigh-high or calf-high cuffs that automatically inflate with air and deflate every few minutes to massage and squeeze the veins in your legs and improve blood flow. 
  • Physical activity. Moving as soon as possible after surgery can help prevent pulmonary embolism and hasten recovery overall. 

Prevention while traveling

The risk of blood clots developing while traveling is low, but increases as travel increases, and other risk factors are present. Here are some suggestions to help prevent blood clots from forming:
  • Take a break from sitting. Move around the airplane cabin once an hour or so. If you're driving, stop every hour and walk around the car a couple of times.
  • Fidget in your seat. Flex, extend and rotate your ankles or press your feet against the seat in front of you, or try rising up and down on your toes. And don't sit with your legs crossed for long periods of time. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best liquid for preventing dehydration, which can contribute to the development of blood clots. Avoid alcohol, which contributes to fluid loss. 
  • Wear support stockings. Your doctor may recommend these to help promote circulation and fluid movement in your legs. Fortunately, compression stockings are available in stylish colors!
Arthea was a kind, caring, and accepting person of everyone she met.  She enjoyed learning new things, and sharing what she learned with others.  So, in honor of her memory, I share this information with you, with absolute love and kindness.  Knowledge is power, and prevention is key... I loved my darling Arthea... And I miss her tremendously.

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