Houston woman says finding blood clot saved her life

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With COVID-19 some people are opting not to go to the doctor or hospital in an emergency but not going could be dangerous - even deadly. Doctors say you need to listen to your body. Julianne Kovacik told ABC13 she is glad she did.

Kovacik is an active, 24-year-old woman, who discovered she had a blood clot. She makes hitting the gym a habit, even at 5 a.m., but in late August something wasn't right.

"I was doing the water rower and all of a sudden my entire arm was on fire and I couldn't grip the handle anymore. So I called my coach over and she had me stop doing upper body for the rest of class," said Kovacik.

After her class at Orange Theory, things didn't get better as she said her arm started turning blue.

Kovacik is also a teacher and despite the concern with her arm, she went to class.

"It was the first day of in-person school, so I decided that I needed to show up at school," said Kovacik.

On her off period, she went to a Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center.

"[Doctors] found a blood clot in my shoulder and so they took me by ambulance to Memorial Hermann in the Medical Center, where I had emergency surgery to clear the vein. I was on blood thinners," she said.

Kovacik had a second surgery the next day to remove part of her rib and muscle around her collarbone to prevent future clots.

Her doctor, Dr. Naveed Saqib, a vascular surgeon at UTHealth/Memorial Hermann told ABC13 situations like this, show why it's important not to delay care, because the condition can worsen or even become fatal.

"It's important to take care of these things in a timely fashion. If you feel symptoms, please seek advice," said Saqib.

Dr. Saqib said some athletes could be more susceptible.

"So it's not wrong to do exercises, it's just some subgroups of people develop these symptoms and we want to catch them before they get worse," he said.

He said there are some things to watch out for.

"Like raising your arm above your shoulder can cause numbness, as [a] symptom or you may feel weakness lifting up the arms, [these] are some of the screening tools that help us identify patients," said Dr. Saqib.

Kovacik is back in the gym and says she has a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

"I am thankful that I'm almost fully recovered. I can be back at the gym. I can be doing things with my family and friends and be back with my students and just living my life like I was before," said Kovacik.

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