To complicate the confusion, Caitlin had shoulder surgery last fall, which was successful, but she noticed soreness in her arm and chalked it up to muscle pain. But the pain got worse and then she began to have trouble breathing.
"One morning I took a deep breath at the very end of inhaling and it would hurt on the right side, but maybe I had just slept in a weird position," says Caitlin, "but my breathing got worse. I went to work and left messages with my doctor. He phoned and said that kind of pain indicates a blood clot but it is extremely unlikely that the shoulder surgery caused it and blood clots happen in legs."
Fortunately Caitlin's doctor referred her to a cardiologist, just to be on the safe side. He said the worst-case scenario would be a blood clot that turned into a pulmonary embolism, but in this situation, it would be unheard of. Wrong!
Next up, Caitlin saw a radiologist and had an ultrasound of her arm and an MRI of her lungs. "Even the technician said I didn't have a blood clot, then he said, 'Actually you do have one, in the crook of your arm' and showed me where it was," says Caitlin. "My vein was hot and hard like a pencil; apparently the clotting area had traveled up my arm, through my heart and had lodged in my lung.
"The scan revealed two clots. One was up high in my lung—I had a pulmonary embolism. Then I remembered the night before. I had woken up feeling weird—at that time the clot must have been going through my heart. Later that day, I was waiting for the train home and wondered if I shouldn't get on it. It was a strange feeling—it took my breath away and I felt dizzy just for a few seconds. I could tell something was off but then it passed.
"When I got to the hospital and filled out the forms, they asked if I was on any medications. They knew I was taking Yasmin but that wasn't a red flag for pulmonary embolism because I wasn't a smoker, according to the hospital doctors."
Caitlin didn't get admitted. Instead, she chose to inject herself with Lovenox—an anticoagulant therapy—twice a day in her stomach. And she had to take coumadin for the next six months.
"Nobody asked me about Yasmin but my doctor later said that anybody on a birth control pill such as Yasmin scheduled for surgery now has to go on Lovenox. Doesn't that mean birth control pills can cause blood clots?
"I didn't find out that Yasmin was to blame for my pulmonary embolism until my mom saw an ad on TV and called me. I did a google search and found out that so many women have suffered the same Yasmin complications.
"My first reaction to this realization was feeling lost and confused. I wasn't getting consistent information from doctors, but I had a student (I'm a teacher) whose father is a surgeon and he told me to get off Yasmin immediately. The upsetting part was that neither my cardiologist nor my gynecologist knew anything about it. I want to do what is right and good for me, but what is that?
"I didn't go off Yasmin for some time because I was on the coumadin and I think I was overwhelmed. The cardiologist said I didn't have to think about Yasmin because I was on coumadin and constantly getting my blood checked. So I didn't stop taking Yasmin until last month.
"My new gynecologist said I am no longer a candidate for birth control pills or any kind of hormone therapy—ever.
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"The most frustrating thing for me is knowing that I could have died. I used to ride my bike everywhere and I can't do that anymore. My arm is still sore and it is taking a long time to work out residual pain. I'm feeling optimistic right now; therapy and swimming is going well, but maybe this is a long-term condition—I don't know what is in store. Just to think that after a simple surgery I wind up with this, a much bigger problem."
Yasmin attorneys representing plaintiffs who have suffered pulmonary embolism or DVT are currently in talks with Bayer, the Yasmin manufacturer, regarding possible settlements.