DVT: Caryl Granville on her recovery from deep vein thrombosis

By Tom BrownBBC Sport Wales
‘Like a permanent cramp, a horrible pain’ - Welsh hurdler Granville on her DVT

Welsh international hurdler Caryl Granville thought her athletics career was over when she was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in July, 2020.

Even now she has no idea how long it will take to recover and when, or if, she will be able to train properly again.

It is such an uncommon thing for an athlete to suffer that the condition was originally diagnosed as a muscle problem.

Four days later, after visiting A&E, Granville had a blood test and an ultrasound that confirmed the DVT, a blood clot in a vein.

"Even the ultrasound technician when I walked in was like 'oh, this will be negative'," recalls Granville, who competed for Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"She was really surprised when she found a clot.

"There needs to be a bit more awareness that anyone can get a clot - you don't have to be elderly or immobile or anything like that to get one.

"I don't know now if the three-day delay in getting the anticoagulants [blood thinning medication] in me has caused any long-term damage."

The NHS lists the people most at risk of getting DVT as being over 60, overweight or those who smoke.

But there are other risk factors such as dehydration or a period of inactivity on a long flight or through illness.

However, it also notes DVT can happen in anyone for no obvious reason.

'It was a horrible pain'

After two injury-hit seasons, the 30-year-old had a promising start to 2020.

Personal best performances in the winter indoor season were followed by a productive lockdown of training at home.

Granville was excited about her prospects at September's re-arranged British Championships and was even hoping for a late push for Olympic qualification next year.

But after a short illness, thought to be norovirus, she woke up with a pain at the back of her knee.

Despite the initial diagnosis of muscle pain, she contacted a different GP later in the week who recommended she go straight to A&E.

Even after starting treatment, it took a while for the pain to improve.

"My calf was excruciating," she told BBC Sport Wales. "It felt like a permanent cramp.

"I just couldn't get rid of it and it was horrible. It was a horrible pain.

"I couldn't reach down to put my sock on and I cried. I was a bit of a mess.

"But after that initial three or four days the progress has been really good."

In the three weeks since her diagnosis, Granville has gone from being unable to walk to even being able to do some light exercises at the track.

But her path to recovery remains full of uncertainty. Not least because she still has no idea what caused the DVT.

"When you have your normal athletics injuries like a torn hamstring or something, you know there's a clear pathway back to performance," continued Granville.

"Whereas for this, it seems it's not a common thing. I don't know anyone else who's had it to get advice on comebacks from it.

"If they do find a cause, what treatment am I going to have to have?

"I believe I'm going to have to be on blood thinners for at least six months. So it's whether I'll be allowed to hurdle during that time because if I fall I could get a brain haemorrhage.

"So it's just going to be biding my time and seeing what I can do in recovering."

'The perception needs to change... I don't know the damage'

Granville can take confidence from the experience of tennis player Serena Williams.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion has a history of blood clots, most recently after the birth of her daughter in 2017.

She revealed she had had a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in her lung, which needed surgery and weeks of rest to fix.

Although Williams has not won a Grand Slam since, she has reached four finals and is still ranked in the world's top 10.

Beyond that, there are few examples of elite athletes having similar problems. But Granville is warning younger people - and healthcare professionals - not to assume it cannot happen to them.

"That perception that young people can't get a DVT needs to change," she said.

"I don't know if my vein's been damaged. Am I going to have long term swelling in the leg? Or long term pain? I think it needs to be ruled out initially rather than just dismissed and assumed it's something else."

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