Fellow student, Jack Davies, offered to sit down with Wessex Scene for Men’s Health Month to shed some light on his hereditary condition and what kind of impact it has had on his life. His optimism and positive outlook regardless of all else is incredibly inspiring.
Can you explain what your condition is?
My condition is genetic, it was passed down through my mother’s side of the family. Effectively, I am 8 times more likely to develop a blood clot than people who do not have this condition. I first became aware of it at around the age of 14, during an operation. At the time, I had to have a couple of operations to stop my left leg from growing and allowing my right leg to catch up.
What can be done to help with this condition?
In order to act on this and the rampaging varicose veins that had developed on my left leg, I underwent an angiogram at Southampton Hospital. This flagged up something unusual in my left leg. It was always deformed, with strange colouring and swelling, but the angiogram showed why. I have three main arteries going down my leg. Two of them are fine and go straight down, but one does the loop the loop behind the other two which causes malformation at my ankle (this is visible as a swollen ankle). In order to reduce swelling and the chance of a blood clot, I have to wear a special compression stocking on my left leg. However, last week, I felt a pain at work and was taken to the General Hospital where they found I had a small blood clot in a varicose vein just below my left knee.
I’m very sorry to hear that. How has this affected your life?
When I was younger it wasn’t that big of a deal, I occasionally missed school to have scans and attend appointments but this didn’t really affect me too much. As I grew older and came to university, my condition worsened. I’ve always had a continuous dull pain in my left leg, but it has become almost unbearable within the last year. I find it hard to walk, and have to get taxis to the train station from my house in order to get to university. As you can imagine this has a big impact on my wallet. Also I’ve also found it increasingly hard to participate in activities I enjoy nowadays – like football and cricket.
That sounds incredibly difficult. How has not being able to participate in activities you enjoy, and your financial concerns impacted your mental health?
It’s taken a toll on my mental happiness. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to be intimate because I was so terrified that the person I was with would not want to be with somebody deformed. I used to think myself as ugly because of my leg and it used to make me miserable. With my blood clot now, I’ve had to miss nearly a week of university, and will likely miss a few more weeks as my mobility has been cut down completely since I cannot walk without excruciating pain. On top of that, I have to take injections every morning for 6 weeks – which includes Christmas – so I’ve had to get over my fear of needles very fast!
However, all of this has also shaped who I am. I’ve faced my fears and consistently beaten them. I’ve become more confident as a person because I now understand that my condition is not the end of my life – it can kill me but that doesn’t mean it will. I’ve become determined to take every opportunity.
Your optimism and positivity despite all else is amazing. Are there any techniques you have that help you remain positive?
I don’t really have any techniques, I just focus on the future. I know where I’m going, so I don’t dwell on the past. I accept that the past has helped make me who I am, but it’s a means to an end, and an end in itself. I put all my troubles down as just something else that helps shape who I am.