Our Atlanta vein specialists know that due to the rigorous needs of their sports, Olympic athletes are in the very best physical condition possible. That was certainly true for Rebekah Bradford, a 30-year-old Olympic speed skater, two-time U.S. Sprint Champion and Master Sprint World Champion. However, she nearly died from deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT. This is her story of how she came to advocate for DVT awareness.

Rebekah Bradford felt stronger than ever before after she competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. She had done well in her competitions, but she had not medaled in the Games. Still, she had motivation going forward, and she returned to her training schedule with enthusiasm. She became concerned, however, when she discovered her knees were in so much pain that she could no longer do simple skating maneuvers.

Bradford assumed her pain was related to her training schedule, but she had the wisdom to let her doctor check her out. She was diagnosed with severe arthritis in her knees and had to have surgery in October of 2011 to avoid total knee replacements. Bradford stayed busy during her recovery period, but little did she know that her body was creating the clots that would cause her to have a pulmonary embolism. According to our Atlanta vein specialists, surgery recovery is one of the times to be particularly concerned about DVT developing.

Bradford had inherited the blood clotting disorder Factor V Leiden, but none of her doctors realized it. She was prescribed birth control and noticed that her legs began to swell even though she had largely recovered from her surgery. She expressed her concerns to her doctor, but the doctor assumed the swelling was related to her body adapting to the birth control, never thinking a clotting disorder might be at play. Our vein specialists note that women on birth control may be more susceptible to clotting.

An injury while playing Ultimate Frisbee may have ultimately saved Rebekah Bradford’s life. Tests done after the injury discovered that she had pulmonary embolisms in both of her lungs, a partial infarction (dead lung tissue) and excess fluid around her right lung caused by blood clots that had burst.

A three-month regimen of daily injections of blood thinners helped Bradford to recover enough to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic skating team headed to Sochi this past winter. She didn’t make the team, but she has taken the opportunity to advocate for DVT awareness.

If you are concerned that you may be at risk for DVT, we encourage you to visit our vein clinic, undergo an ultrasound of the legs and talk with one of our vein specialists.