Blood clot risks and what to look for

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A Detroit's woman's life will never be the same after taking a trip to Florida. The long car ride triggered a condition that put her life in jeopardy. 

"My leg was starting to swell, hurting, tingling," Tracy Crigler Jones remembers. 

The long period of sitting caused blood clots to form in her leg veins -- and Tracy had no idea those blood clots would almost kill her. 

Eventually, doctors treated her with blood thinners but the biggest fear is that those blood clots would travel up to the heart and lungs, which is exactly what happened to Tracy. 

The biggest fear is that clots in the legs will someday travel up to the heart and lungs, and that's exactly what happened to Tracy. She remembers intense pressure and not being able to breathe. 

It's called pulmonary embolism. St. John interventional cardiologist Dr. Antonious Attallah explains about half the patients can be treated with just blood thinners, but others develop other problems, like Tracy. Blood clots about an inch long were blocking blood flow from her heart to her lungs. Just taking steps was excruciating. 

"If I had to use the bathroom [in the night] it took me about a half hour to get over there," she says. 

When Dr. Attalla saw her, he realized this was a life or death crisis. 

"The left side of the heart is barely seeing any blood crossing from the right side because now there's physical obstruction to blood flow, and also oxygenation. So her body is basically aching and not receiving any oxygen," Dr. Attallah explains. 

So how do you get to those clots and break them apart? Dr. Attalla turned to a newer treatment that uses a catheter, ultrasound and medication to clear blockages like a Roto-Rooter. 

"We go directly into clot with these catheters. We infuse a very low dose of the clot busting medication, so the work that would be done by the body in six months we're able to do in less than 12 hours," he says.  

Tracey noticed the difference immediately, and now she's working hard to rebuild her strength and her life. She says she's looking forward to someday walking a mile.

What puts you at risk for blood clots? Pregnancy, smoking, birth control or hormone medication, cancer, obesity and simply sitting for long periods of time. 

Knowing your heart health is a good first step in knowing your risk for blood clots. Mark your calendar; we're once again teaming up with St. John Providence and Crittenton for the Healthy Heart Project. It's happening Saturday, April 28 at three locations. There will be free heart health screenings and on-the-spot results.

 You can get more information here.