Rob Cruickshank, Men’s Group Leader, San Francisco Bay Area, California

Rob & Tina Website photoBorn and raised in Lafayette, California, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am an artist and musician. I travel every opportunity I get, whether that involves flying to a new city or country or taking a road trip with my amazing wife and dog. I’ve been exposed to different hospitals and emergency rooms for a number of reasons from an early age.

Always an extremely active person with the goal to be as fit as possible, my lifestyle frequently results in minor aches, pains and strained muscles. My determination also has a lot to do with my father suffering from a number of weight related and curable illnesses; I have learned from his example.

Therefore, in February, 2009, I did not think twice when I felt a sharp pain in my left hip. Assuming that I had pulled something or twisted wrong, I just pushed through the day like I normally do. When I awoke the next day and my left leg was swollen to twice its normal size and was red and hot, we knew that something was terribly wrong.

I was quickly diagnosed with a massive DVT and Pulmonary Embolism and spent 5 days in the hospital running through every possibility to explain my ER doctor’s diagnosis. I found myself in an area where I had no experience; my first thoughts were complete frustration.

My thoughts were of my father. I was angry because it seemed at the time that no matter what I did I was destined to walk his path. Oddly enough it was his medical history that revealed that I was a healthy 36 year old man, with a clear and strong heart, clear lungs, good blood pressure, low blood sugar and cholesterol. All of the genetic factors were ruled out, and it was at that point, one month later, that my hematologist diagnosed with me with an unprovoked blood clot.

After an MRI and Ultrasound I started talking to the Interventional Radiology department. It was a relief, after a month of unknowns, to hear the words – “this is May-Thurner Syndrome.” I finally had answers! They explained exactly what was going on, why it happened to a 36 year old healthy man and said “we can fix this, don’t worry!”

I scheduled their proposed procedure a few days later, which would involve: three days in the ICU, a heparin drip and tPA infusion, the placement of a few stents and an IVC (inferior vena cava) filter for safe keeping. I was on the mend!

I was shocked at the long recovery; it was 7 months before I was walking without a limp. I am still on a very low dosage of Warfarin 3.5 mg and wear compression stockings each day. But I am back to the active lifestyle that I had before. I’ve come to realize that my entire life was preparing me for this moment. I know what it’s like to live a life that is limited by something that is out of your control. I know my condition will never change; I came to terms with that a long time ago. But I do not let these things define who I am, to me it is just another thing I’ll keep in mind as I do the things I enjoy with the people I enjoy.

My message to others trying to navigate their way through the unknown is this: focus on the quality of life that you desire and do whatever you can to keep as active as possible.

I’m thankful for great doctors and the fact that I am now pain free and for Diane and the all of the amazing people that make up this support group, I know that they are always here and will stand behind me whenever I need it.

Rob Cruickshank

Vallejo, California (San Francisco Bay Area)