"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." —James 1: 2-4 Bible verse
Eight years ago, I wrote this article and it was published in a university publication, where I was a student at the time. I kept a laminated copy of the original stored in a boxed collection of my published writings. Yesterday, my husband Khari and I celebrated eight years of marriage. It is truly a blessing to share eight years of your life with someone that you love. Within this time, we have shared joyous moments and sorrowful ones, too. Our marriage has endured sickness, heart aches, disappointments and moments of uncertainty. Yet, through it all, we have remained faithful to each other and the Lord has been faithful to us.
In reflecting on our beginnings as husband and wife, I have decided to republish my original article that details the first health challenge that we encountered as a married couple. It is a testament to God's goodness. I am thankful that the Lord has given us eight years together and I pray that He gives us many more.
In October 2012, my husband of three months rushed me to Oakwood Hospital's emergency room because crippling pain in my legs made it impossible for me to walk. The discomfort started as a tingling sensation in my left leg. Then, it spread to my right leg and abdomen. Within a week, the tingling had turned into a debilitating pain that would not respond to over-the-counter medication. That is when I knew I needed help.
At 28, I was proactive about my health. I was a vegetarian, and I maintained an active lifestyle. A former high school track athlete, I started running again to prepare for a 5K. So when the doctors ran several tests and discovered multiple blood clots in my legs and abdomen, I was shocked. This was the first time I had developed blood clots, and I was concerned about my health. The physicians admitted me to the hospital immediately.
The day that I was hospitalized, I was scheduled to start a new position as a youth programs facilitator with the Boys and Girls Club of South Oakland County. This was a great career opportunity, and I was looking forward to working with the youth. So it was challenging for me to make that call to my employer and explain that I would not be able to start work, and I didn't know when—or if—I would be able to start. I was hurt and disappointed, but I knew that I had to get well.
Now I was on blood thinners, hooked up to monitors and hoping to get some answers. The following day, I was shocked to learn that further testing revealed that my inferior vena cava—the large vein that carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower part of the body into the right atrium of the heart—was not visible. My doctors later learned that the reason for this was because my inferior vena cava had collapsed years earlier—most likely in utero "in the womb." In its place, collateral veins formed to compensate and carry blood to my heart. It was like the blood from my legs had to travel back roads to get to my heart, whereas most people's blood travels on a highway.
The doctors were surprised by this discovery because collateral veins are typically not seen in patients under 60. Yet, I had these veins and they allowed me to survive for many years.
For the next two days, I would undergo procedures to dissolve the blood clots in my legs and abdomen. My legs had swollen twice their normal size due to the fluids that had been pumped into my body. I remained in the intensive care unit for four days before being moved to a room on the general floor.
At times, it was overwhelming to process all of the information given to me by the doctors. There was just too much going on at once. But in times of trouble, I did what I always do; I turned to my faith in Christ and I trusted Him to restore my health and strength. The constant visits and calls from family and friends also served as a source of strength for me.
I'm thankful to be here to tell my story. If the blood clots had traveled to my heart, lungs, or brain, I might not be here today. Initially, the physicians shared with me that there were so many blood clots in my legs and abdomen that they were uncertain whether or not they would be able to dissolve all of the clots. This process typically takes several days to complete—with three weeks for the swelling in my legs to completely go down—but the doctors were able to remove all of the blood clots within two days. Three days after both of my procedures, the swelling in my legs had gone down, and I was able to walk a short distance without any pain.
The blood tests never confirmed the cause of my clots. However, doctors thought it could be linked to family history and a clotting disorder. Therefore, I continue to take blood thinners. Still, I am thankful for the gift of life because it is fleeting. I believe everyone has a purpose, and there is a reason that I am still here on Earth.
This experience brought my husband and I closer together and taught us about commitment through hardship early in our marriage; we now have a stronger bond. Also, I have learned to be thankful for the simple things in life, like being able to go outside and take a walk around the corner. These moments are a treasured pastime.
About a week after being released from the hospital, I regained my strength and I was able to return to school and work. In the midst of an economic recovery, my employer held my position for two weeks until I was well enough to start working. My professors gave me additional time to make up homework assignments. I have health and strength in my body. My husband, family and friends continue to be incredibly supportive. For all these blessings and more, I am thankful.
Following my initial health crisis, I found a cardiovascular surgeon who was able to open my inferior vena cava with stints. For four years, God allowed me to serve within the Boys and Girls Club organization. After one year of working as a youth program facilitator, I was promoted to Education Director. In April 2018, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and I completed my program with distinction. Currently, I serve as a first-grade public school English language arts teacher. Khari and I enjoy our lives together, and I still love my daily walks.