YouTuber iJustine says she was ‘basically bedridden’ by life-threatening blood clot

Justine Ezarik, known to her YouTube fans as iJustine, has opened up about her experience with a life-threatening blood clot that left her bedridden for four days.

In a recent interview with TODAY, Ezarik – who has more than seven million subscribers on YouTube – detailed the symptoms she experienced before she was sent to the hospital with a blood clot. The 38-year-old influencer first noticed numbing in her arm, which soon became swollen and turned purple. When she went to the emergency room on 1 April, she learned that she had deep vein thrombosis – a type of blood clot that forms in the deep veins – which caused her arm to numb.

“I went from (being) perfectly fine to almost (dying) in the course of a few hours,” she told TODAY.

After being admitted to the hospital, Ezarik was prescribed high doses of blood thinners for her deep vein thrombosis, and was later transferred to another hospital that would better treat her blood clot. There, she underwent two thrombectomies – a surgery to remove a blood clot from an artery or vein – which involved using a catheter to break up the clot.

“I was basically bedridden. I couldn’t move either of my arms because one had the catheter (and) the other had so many needles,” she said. “My sister was brushing my teeth and feeding me. I was basically in bed for four days without moving.”

“My body was not letting me be myself,” she said. “It was very very difficult.”

Despite the two surgeries, a piece of the blood clot broke off and moved into her lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, which blocks blood flow, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“The clot is one thing that’s dangerous, but the after effects of that are also something to think about,” Ezarik said.

Doctors later diagnosed the Los Angeles native with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that occurs when blood vessels or nerves between the collarbone and first rib are compressed.

“They found the rib is actually set in a way that it pinches the vein, and that’s what caused the clot to actually happen,” Ezarik said. “I do a lot of martial arts and also sword and lightsaber training, and there’s a lot of repetitive arm movements, like circular spinning. Thoracic outlet syndrome is very common among athletes.”

There are three different types of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Neurogenic TOS is the most common case, in which the the nerves leading from the neck to the arm are compressed. Venous TOS occurs when a vein is compressed, affecting the upper body. And Arterial TOS, which occurs in only about one per cent of cases, happens when an artery is compressed.

Symptoms for thoracic outlet syndrome can vary depending on the type of condition and the parts of the body they effect. Some common symptoms include pain or weakness in the shoulder or arm, tingling or discomfort in the fingers, and swelling and blueness of the hand or arm.

In order to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, some patients may be prescribed medications that decrease the blood’s ability to clot before undergoing surgery or physical therapy.

Nearly five months after her blood clot, Ezarik said her recovery has been a slow but steady process.  “I rested as much as possible because the first three days my body felt so weird. Just standing up and walking, I was just very, very weak,” she said. “That first month I took it very easy.”

She told TODAY that she is considering surgery to remove part of her rib that’s pressing against the vein, and hopes that her story raises awareness of deep vein thrombosis.

“I hate that this happened to me, but I’m so glad I have this platform to be able to let people know,” Ezarik said. “No one would ever think about blood clots until it happens to you.

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