WHEN Sarah Bassra started getting severe leg pains after going on six flights in just four months, she feared it could be a blood clot.
But after seeking medical help, the 32-year-old was assured by a GP and a nurse that what she was experiencing was an inflammatory heel condition or an allergic reaction to nail polish.
Yet three months later, Sarah, from Nottingham, collapsed at a festival and was later rushed to hospital with serious swelling.
She was told she did have a blood clot, which had spread to her lungs and left her with permanent damage due to going untreated for so long.
She says: “Everything happened so fast and was extremely scary. I felt like my life had been flashing in front of me.”
“Always trust your gut,” she adds. “I wish I had got a second opinion or pushed harder for a blood test in the beginning but I just trusted what I was being told at the time,” she says.
“I knew something wasn’t right but I trusted the professionals.
“If I had not gone to that festival in the summer, who knows if I would’ve collapsed and had the severe swelling.
“If not, I would never have gone to A&E and my blood clot would have gotten bigger – I could be dead.”
Sarah first started experiencing pain in her right leg and foot after flying to Jamaica, Mexico and Spain on holiday between March and June 2022.
When her ankle started to swell, she found it difficult to walk, so Sarah contacted the Netherfield Medical Centre in Nottingham for an appointment, fearing it could be the symptoms of a blood clot.
She says: “My foot and toes were all red and swollen and felt much hotter than the other foot.
“I had a throbbing pain constantly in my toes and it was hard to walk.
“I had an appointment with a nurse at the beginning of July, but she says it could be an allergic reaction to gel polish on my toes.
“I thought this was strange as I had gel on both feet and hands and have done for years with no issues.”
Sarah tried resting and working from home, but her ankle became so swollen, she contacted the same medical centre again and explained her worries.
At the appointment on July 27, Sarah says the GP touched her calf and says if it felt soft, it meant she didn’t have a blood clot.
She claims the doctor didn’t request a blood test, but diagnosed Sarah with plantar fasciitis – an inflammatory foot condition – and sent her away with recommended foot stretches.
However, Sarah’s condition worsened, and by August she was unable to leave the house.
She says: “The pain was getting worse by the day. I was getting massages and the therapist kept commenting on how swollen the area was.
“I assumed it was because of the plantar fasciitis and that I had been walking funny due to the pain which was then causing more pain in other areas.
“I had tickets to Creamfields festival on August 28 and after days of worrying if I would be OK to go or not, I finally decided I would go.
“I took painkillers and wore orthopaedic trainers – recommended for plantar fasciitis – and hoped for the best.”
At the festival, Sarah, who was with her boyfriend James, began to feel unwell.
Within two hours, her leg had doubled in size, and she had to unbutton her shorts due to the pain.
At 11pm, she decided to leave and headed to get a taxi but felt like she couldn’t breathe and thought she was having a heart attack.
She collapsed on the floor, but after resting for ten minutes, she says she felt well enough to go back to the hotel, and James checked on her breathing throughout the night.
“I knew there was a problem as my leg was feeling very achy, and it kept swelling up.
“I didn’t want to ruin the day for my friends, so I decided to stay at the festival for the whole day.
“Then during the walk back to the taxis my chest felt so tight and I couldn’t breathe.
“I was panicking and didn’t know what to do, I just collapsed on the floor and tried to take slow breaths.
“After about ten minutes I felt like I could breathe again. My leg was still swollen but the chest pain stopped.
“On the following Tuesday, I spent two hours trying to get through to my GP surgery but by the time they answered, all morning appointments were gone and I had to call back in the afternoon.
“I finally got through at 2pm so I explained the swelling and chest pains, desperate for help, but once again, they says there were no appointments left.
“They told me they’d check my symptoms with a GP and call me back.”
Feeling like she was left with no choice, Sarah drove herself to A&E – she was convinced she had a blood clot and was worried she needed serious medical attention urgently.
At Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, Sarah’s worst fears were confirmed.
Sarah says: “Within minutes of speaking to the doctor at A&E and explaining the pains, swelling, the flights and the fact I sit at a desk eight hours a day, five days a week, he says it appeared to be a blood clot.
“He checked my leg, did tests and confirmed my worst nightmare, it was a blood clot.
“I had to go back later that week for chest and CT scans, and they confirmed it had spread to my lungs.
“There were large clots on my lungs and it has left me with permanent lung damage and part of my lung is dead.”
Sarah stayed in hospital for five days for testing as her platelets were low and she required B12 injections.
She was booked for an operation to remove the clot in her leg but the surgeon says the risk of bleeding out was too high and the procedure was cancelled.
Sarah was prescribed blood thinners and told she may need to take them for life.
She says: “When I was told they couldn’t perform the operation due to risks, I was terrified.
“It’s been a long road to recovery and some of this could have been avoided if my blood clot was noticed straight away.
“I now may need to take medication for the rest of my life.
“We put our trust and faith in doctors and assume they will give us the best care, but unfortunately, I was let down several times.
“If my local medical centre had done a simple blood test when I expressed my concerns about having a blood clot back in June, they would’ve most likely caught it before it had spread.”
Sarah, who says her life has been changed forever, has had to adapt.
She used to love exercising at the gym and going for long walks, but now she struggles with everyday activities.
“I feel breathless after climbing the stairs and my legs swell if I walk for more than a few minutes.
“I struggle to breathe constantly and have had terrible chest pains,” she says. “I can’t even walk for more than five minutes without feeling out of breath.
“I have an office job where I’m sitting at a desk all day, so I have to wear compression socks and get up to walk regularly.
“I can’t drink alcohol anymore as I’m on blood thinning medication – the doctor advised I can have a couple of drinks, but I feel sick every time I drink on them.
“I still don’t know if I’ll need to be on medication for the rest of my life, or if I’ll be unable to fly – I have more tests later this month that should determine that.”
Sarah joined TikTok and Instagram, and says she wants to raise awareness of her condition to prevent anyone else from going through what she did.
In one video that’s had more than 340,000 views, Sarah shares the details of her story, and there are hundreds of comments from others who have been through a similar experience.
“I posted a video on TikTok about my experience and it’s been crazy how many people have been through something just like me. It’s just not good enough,” she says.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to struggle like I have and waste time with the GP.
“Anyone who feels something is wrong and the GP isn’t taking you seriously, please insist on a blood test or go to A&E.
“If I had done that and listened to my gut instinct, my life may have turned out very differently.”
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