I have been taking the drug warfarin since I was just six months old. I’m now 23, and when I tell people I take warfarin, they are sometimes confused and shocked. Why would a seemingly healthy 23 year old woman be on a drug commonly associated with elderly heart care? Having had a Fontan procedure at six months old, followed by a shunt placed in my heart at 18 months, my heart is working a lot harder than it should have to. So, I take wafarin to prevent my blood from clotting.
Growing up, I never really understood why I was taking it. As far as I was concerned, my heart defect had been corrected with surgery, and now I was just taking the medication as a ‘precaution’. To me, warfarin seemed pointless. I took it every day but it never really made me feel any different. The only issues that bothered me were the bruises that would appear on me for no reason, and, whenever I cut myself, I would bleed a lot more than anyone else I knew. However, it was only when I reached my late teens that I finally noticed I was different to a ‘healthy’ person.
Like most teens, I started going out a lot more when I turned 18. I would go out most weekends with my friends to a pub or a bar. They would all be drinking bottles of wine like it was pop. But me? I sat there with a glass of coke. I researched drinking alcohol while taking warfarin, and I did not like what I discovered. Warfarin thins your blood and so does alcohol. Combined, the effect can be very dangerous if an accident occurs, I fall over, or simply cut myself. It was for this reason I decided it was best to stick to soft drinks!
As previously mentioned, the random bruises I kept getting for no reason were also a concern for me. I hated my friends noticing them and asking me how I got them and why I was always bruised so much. No matter how many times I tried to explain, they never seemed to understand. But why would they? We were all 18, and the thought of any of us having a heart defect and being on medication was something so far away from their lives and comprehension.
Luckily, as the years went on, my friends got used to the fact that I was ‘different’, and as I got older taking warfarin stopped bothering me. I went for regular blood tests and everything went smoothly.
That was until a few months ago. I had been feeling generally unwell since Christmas time, but I just put it down to a little too much partying over the festive period and the stress of recently starting a new job. Well how wrong I was. Sitting at my desk at work, I started to feel like I was having a panic attack. I couldn’t get my breath back no matter how hard I tried, so I was taken to hospital. When I arrived I had many blood tests and scans, and I was informed that I had several blood clots in both of my lungs. So, it finally made sense, why I had been taking warfarin for the past 23 years: it was to stop something like this happening.
I was very surprised when I was told I had blood clots, I thought it was impossible while I was on warfarin. But my doctor explained that the warfarin stopped the blood clots becoming a lot worse, and he also said that if I had not been on warfarin, they may have gone undiagnosed, which obviously would have made things much worse. But at least now I knew why I had been feeling so poorly for so long. I was relieved to have a diagnosis and to be able to get it treated, and, although I currently still have the blood clots, I feel a lot better than I have for months.
So, now I know why I take warfarin, and it isn’t really just a ‘precaution’. As far as I am concerned, warfarin is a life saving drug.
By Kerry Fallon