Bouncing Back After Deep Vein Thrombosis: Kelsey Minarik’s Story
Kelsey Minarik never would have predicted she’d become passionate about compression stockings. But after she developed a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) at age 21, this type of leg wear was the only thing that relieved her pain. Six years later, Minarik is founder and CEO of RejuvaHealth compression leg wear, a line intended to make you look as good as you feel.
Minarik, of Irvine, Calif., developed a DVT while on a cross-country flight to celebrate her birthday in New York City. She was stuck in the middle seat and her leg and ankle started to cramp and swell. “By the time I landed, it was like a tree trunk of a leg,” she said.
The swelling and pain was brutal, but Minarik had no idea what was wrong. Being an athlete, she chalked it up to a sprain or muscle strain. After five days of hobbling around the Big Apple, she flew home to California.
“In hindsight, this was very, very dangerous — I am lucky nothing worse happened to me,” she said. Blood clots from DVT can break free and travel to the lungs, which can be a life-threatening emergency called a pulmonary embolism.
Coincidentally, Minarik also got a sore throat on her way home and decided to see her doctor to get antibiotics. She showed him her leg and he immediately sent her to the ER, suspecting a DVT. He was right.
Minarik was put on two weeks of injectable blood thinners followed by a year of the oral blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). She was also told to wear the compression stockings every day.
Compression stockings “are very useful for people who have chronic swelling, whether it’s from a prior DVT, a current DVT, or some other reason,” said Edward Woo, MD, chief of vascular surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., and director of the MedStar Vascular Regional Program. Dr. Woo explained that the stockings constantly squeeze the legs and help move fluid and blood back toward the heart.
Compression stockings are often prescribed to prevent a DVT complication called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). That’s a chronic condition that causes pain, swelling, and sometimes leg ulcers after the DVT is gone.
Putting the Sexy Into Compression Stockings
As a young woman, Minarik found herself wearing hosiery that was more senior citizen than 20-something. “My first pair was $111 for something that looked like an ACE bandage,” she said.
After a year of wearing the stockings, she was fed up. Driving home from work one day, “I totally had a breakdown moment of crying,” she confessed. She didn’t feel pretty or feel like herself in any way. She turned to the Internet for more fashionable options but didn’t find any. That's when the light bulb went on in her mind.
“I thought, ‘Well, heck, I am going to make some of my own,’” Minarik said. “It was really just going to be for me.” But the more she investigated, the more she was convinced that other women would be interested in compression stockings with fun and even sexy designs.
When this DVT patient found compression stockings dated her, she decided to make some of her own.
After a year of developing the product, securing investors, and researching manufacturing options, she launched RejuvaHealth in January 2011.
Minarik affectionately calls her line “Spanx on steroids.” She said, “You get the beauty and the slimming but also the gravity compression for the added health benefits.” Her creations are doing well. “We’re growing every year in the right direction,” Minarik added.
DVT Prevention Measures
Preventing another DVT is always on Minarik’s radar screen. She wears her compression stockings to prevent blood clots whenever she’s traveling. Because her doctors believe her use of birth control pills contributed to her DVT, she stays away from any hormone-based medication.
Minarik has to be aware of deep vein thrombosis risks during medical procedures too, like when she recently needed to have her gallbladder removed. Her anesthesiologist gave her blood thinners before and after the procedure as DVT prevention.
Having a DVT put Minarik’s life on a different yet satisfying trajectory. It’s a change Minarik said she never would have expected “but certainly one for which I am very grateful.”
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