At 55, Chris Betelak considered himself active and healthy. So, it was a surprise when doctors found blood clots in his leg and lungs.
The discovery occurred in March 2017, when the Carmel resident began feeling chest pain while working in his yard.
“I’m thinking, well, could this be bronchitis, you know, a cracked lung or something,” Betelak said.
Betelak said he had been experiencing ongoing shortness of breath and fatigue from short walks. He thought they were signs of bronchitis, but his right leg had become swollen and very warm. He called his primary caregiver, Stephen Knauss, who recognized the symptoms as blood clots.
That night, Betelak was admitted to Ascension St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital on 86th Street in Indianapolis.
“They started administering blood thinning agents and different agents to help break up the clots,” Betelak said.
A couple of days later, he had an appointment with Dr. Brandon Hardesty, a hematologist who practices at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center in Indianapolis. Hardesty ran blood tests to see what might have caused the blood clots but found no underlying conditions or health factors. The diagnosis: deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism.
DVT is the development of blood clots in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually the legs. A pulmonary embolism occurs when this type of blood clot travels to the lungs, causing blockage.
Betelak said he hasn’t had any blood clot-related issues since 2017. He believes he will be taking blood thinning medication for the rest of his life.
“When you see something so sudden like that, try not to think it might be something else. Don’t be afraid to react to it,” Betelak said.
Hardesty said 100,000 blood clot-related deaths occur annually in the U.S. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and persistent muscle cramps. Risk factors include recent surgeries, trauma/injury to the legs and a family history of blood clots. Some cases can have no direct cause and have no symptoms.