About 12 years ago, I had arthroscopic knee surgery, which is an outpatient procedure. It was supposed to be a walk-in, walk-out procedure. I told everyone that I would be getting this done on a Friday and would be back to work on Monday. It turned out that for me that wasn’t the case.
I developed a blood clot in my leg following the surgery. I didn’t know what it was. I called up my orthopedic surgeon. He asked if I had a fever, thinking it might be an infection. When I went to see him, he ordered an ultrasound and we discovered that it was a blood clot. I went to the hospital and was given injections of enoxaparin and put on warfarin. After a few days, I was discharged and told that I could get off of the warfarin in 6 months. I was told that my life would return to normal. Unfortunately, it was harder for me. I spent the next two months in bed with a lot of discomfort in my leg.
I started looking for other help to find out what was going to happen to me. I felt pretty insecure at that time and unsure if I was ever going to be well again.
Mark found himself discharged from the hospital with little information about his condition.
I was put on warfarin, but by seeking second opinions, I discovered that there might be some other treatments that might help easy my discomfort. This led me to Dr. Goldhaber at the Brigham.
I think the two things that changed right away was that I was given compression stockings, which really helped with the discomfort and, to answer my many questions, Dr. Goldhaber suggested I attend support group.
His suggestion was that an informed patient would take better care of themselves and that made sense to me, so I said, “Okay, I’ll give this a try.”
When I was first diagnosed with a blood clot, I was of the opinion that doctors were the experts and that I should just do what they said.
Over a period of time, I began to realize that if I wanted to take care of myself and live a long happy life, I really had to take responsibility for my own healthcare. I think the support group was very helpful in guiding me towards asking questions and learning more about taking care of myself. There are a lot of different ways of treating things and your engagement as a patient really helps the effectiveness of whatever treatment you’re given. I think that’s really, really important. It’s not a passive role, to be a patient. It’s an active role and you can really positively impact the outcome by taking the responsibility to be well informed and to ask questions.
It helped me to ensure I always took the medication and that I religiously wore the compression stockings, which I still wear today. At first it felt strange and uncomfortable to have to take medication on a regular basis and wear the stockings. I had never done that before. After a while, it felt good to be taking care of myself and I like the fact that, 12 years later, I haven’t had a reoccurrence of a blood clot.
I didn’t think I was susceptible to something like this. After, my attention was driven inward on myself in a way that wasn’t really productive or helpful. It led me to feel fearful for my own wellbeing. You can really dig a hole for yourself when you get into that situation.
Being with other people who have had a similar experience and seeing that they’re surviving, that they’re in a process of recovery instead of being victimized by a circumstance that they didn’t want, really helped me to see that there was potentially a very good future for me. That was the essential factor to being in a support group, seeing other people who were doing well and hearing their stories. It allowed me to realize that I’m not alone and this is something that I can turn into something positive for me.
I still use my compression stockings and I take rivaroxaban.
I think the support group is a wonderful opportunity that a lot of people may have available to them and don’t take advantage of. I’d really love to encourage people to do that. It’s possible that there are people that wouldn’t benefit from the experience, but I think it’s really unlikely. The opportunity that you can give yourself is to go and learn and see other people who have experienced what you’ve experienced. You’ll feel encouraged that you can recover from this. You’ll take better care of yourself without as much effort, if you have the support of other people around you.