CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A Leasburg woman is grateful to be back on her feet after months of surgeries and rehabilitation.
It started with an unusual accident, but the condition doctors discovered affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.
Lori Dodson never expected she’d spend so much time at UNC’s Deep Vein Thrombosis Clinic, nor did she ever imagine the series of events that would lead her here.
“All this happened just from falling in a tiny little hole,” she explained. “You know those little water meters that are sometimes in the grass but have a cover on them like a manhole cover… The cover slipped sideways and I fell into the water meter hole, all the way up to my thighs.”
It happened while she was on a cross-country vacation. The accident left a huge gash in her leg that needed surgery. Then the family had to drive back from Texas to North Carolina.
“I really kind of thought that was going to be the end of it, and it really was just the beginning,” Dodson said. “My leg swelled up very big, and the swelling never went down.”
Doctors at UNC determined blood clots were behind the swelling.
“That was a very severe case,” noted Physician Assistant Cassi Frank, who manages UNC’s Deep Vein Thrombosis Clinic.
“I ended up getting blood clots that ran from the top of my leg all the way down to the bottom of my leg,” added Dodson.
According to the CDC, blood clots affect as many as 900,000 people in the US every year.
“It can be very serious very quickly,” said Frank. “We really want people to recognize the signs and symptoms and to kind of think, ‘My leg is swollen; That’s an emergency similar to a heart attack or a stroke.”
Many patients can be treated with medication alone, but Dodson needed two surgeries as well. Doctors believe the trauma from the initial accident and operation along with the long drive back from Texas may have led to the clots. Because of her injury, Dodson couldn’t get up or move around during the trip.
She’s grateful her medical team found the clots when they did because blood clots from the legs can travel to the lungs. “That, in a fair number of cases, can be fatal,” explained Frank.
Doctors in the UNC system can refer patients directly to UNC’s Deep Vein Thrombosis Walk-In Clinic rather than sending them to the ER. The clinic treats patients, then follows up to make sure they’re recovering well and have the medications they need.
Dodson will need medicine for a while, but she’s grateful to be walking again and hopes what happened to her will remind others to take signs of blood clots seriously.
Those signs include: swelling in one leg, chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain taking a deep breath. Any symptoms like that should be considered an emergency.
Dodson, who has maintained a sense of humor throughout the situation, also offered an additional piece of advice. “Just watch out for those water meter holes,” she said. “Don’t step on covers.”