Woman who longs to be a mum is warned that pregnancy could kill her after a near fatal blood clot at 23 turned her life on its head

·9-min read

A would be mum whose life was turned on its head by a near fatal blood clot on the lung at just 23 now faces the devastating fact that pregnancy could kill her.

Unable to work because of her health problems – the cause of which remain a mystery – it is now 13 years since Robyne Toseland, 36, was hospitalised for two weeks with her first blood clot and her family were told to “prepare for the worst.”

Since then, she and her husband Carl, 37, a police station custody officer, have received the devastating news that pregnancy could be fatal for Robyne, who has had multiple blood clots over the years, leaving scarring on her lungs.

Her dreams of having a family lying in tatters, Robyne, of Cambridge, said: “I always assumed I would get married then have kids, but it’s very unlikely that me and Carl will be able to have a baby now.

“The high pressure in my lungs caused by the clots makes pregnancy very dangerous for me, which is absolutely devastating.”

But her first blood clot remains the most shocking, as it was so serious, she was left in intensive care, fighting for her life.

Now doctors say it is too dangerous for Robyne to fall pregnant. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Now doctors say it is too dangerous for Robyne to fall pregnant. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Robyne said: “I was training to be a teacher when I first noticed things weren’t quite right.

“I had trouble walking up a steep hill on the way to my lectures, while all my friends breezed along the route.

“I was hardly unfit, but I just assumed it must be down to my physical fitness.”

She added: “I was 23 and at that age you think you’re invincible. I didn’t want to see the doctor because I was embarrassed, but it got to the point where I was struggling with things like walking up flights of stairs.

“There was a particular incident at a trampoline centre when I jumped twice and was so tired, I could barely move.

“I remember lying on the trampoline and joking to my friend that she needed to call an ambulance. I tried to jump again, but after another two jumps I thought I was going to pass out.”

Robyne hopes to warn other people so that they do not suffer a similar fate. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Robyne hopes to warn other people so that they do not suffer a similar fate. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Despite her friend commenting that Robyne’s lips looked blue, she decided not to seek medical help and, a week later, she collapsed at home.

She said: “I had just got out of bed, and I had walked down the stairs when I collapsed at the bottom.

“I tried to carry on with the day, but my heart was beating really fast and my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, told me that I really needed to go and get checked out.”

Robyne believed it was a chest infection, but after being admitted to hospital, doctors sent her for tests.

“After that, they realised that the situation was actually very serious and I was taken to intensive care,” Robyne said.

“They put me on oxygen, which made me feel a lot better, but I didn’t really understand what was happening. I remember a doctor sitting down at my bedside and telling me that I was very sick.”

The tests revealed a blood clot on her lung, which could have been fatal.

She said: “My husband and mum were told to prepare for the worst. They didn’t think I was going to make it.

“I was put on blood thinning medication and was covered in heart monitors. It was a very surreal experience.”

Robyne has been hospitalised multiple times with blood clots. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Robyne has been hospitalised multiple times with blood clots. (Collect/PA Real Life)

Luckily, the treatment worked and Robyne’s blood clot was broken down into scar tissue. Two weeks later, she was allowed to return home.

She said: “They still weren’t sure of the cause, but at the time doctors thought it could be due to the contraceptive pill I was taking.

“When I left hospital, they warned me that it would take a long time to recover, but nothing could prepare me for the reality of that.”

  • If you are suffering from a blood clot in your arms or legs, you may experience swelling, pain, and tenderness, as well as redness and warmth above where the clot is positioned.

  • Blood clots in the abdomen can cause serious stomach pain, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

  • A clot in the heart may cause breathing problems, pain and heaviness in the chest, sweating, nausea, and dizziness.

  • If someone has developed a blood clot in their lungs, they may cough up blood, suffer from a racing heart, shortness of breath, sharp chest pain and a fever.

  • For blood clots in the brain, the main symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness in your face, arms and legs as well as difficulty talking and seeing correctly.

She added: “I imagined it would be a couple of months, but my recovery has taken over my whole life ever since.”

Despite returning home, the effects of the blood clot continue to have an impact on Robyne’s health.

She said: “It left scarring on my lungs and I still struggle with the breathlessness.”

She added: “I’ve had multiple blood clots on my lungs since. It’s become a part of my life that I have had no choice but to accept.

“In 2011, I had a retroperitoneal haemorrhage – an accumulation of blood in the retroperitoneal space at the back of the abdomen.

“I lost six pints of blood into my abdomen, which medics think was because of the blood thinning medication.”

Robyne’s family were told to ‘prepare for the worst’. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Robyne’s family were told to ‘prepare for the worst’. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “After multiple blood transfusions, I was taken off those meds, because they decided the risks outweighed the benefits.”

Since then, Robyne has been hospitalised repeatedly due to health problems, the most recent time being in March 2021, when she had pneumonia.

She said: “It has started to affect my whole body. It even stopped my bowel from working properly, as the blood compressed on the nerves, so I now have a stoma bag to collect my waste.”

She added: “The issue is that as soon as I get an infection, my lungs cannot cope.

“When I was younger, doctors had considered that the contraceptive pill might be a cause factor, but I haven’t taken that for years, so it has now been ruled out.

“I was unclear on what the cause of my chronic blood clots was for years but now doctors think it could be down to antiphospholipid syndrome, which is an immune system disorder.”

Not only have the clots damaged Robyne’s health, but they have had a negative impact on many other aspects of her life – leaving her unable to work or have children.

She said: “I would love to be a mum, but doctors have told me that I would likely die if I fell pregnant, which is just devastating to hear.

“There is too much pressure in my lungs, as a result of the clots, and they say it’s likely they would fail under the strain of pregnancy.”

Robyne now hopes to raise awareness on the effects of chronic blood clots. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Robyne now hopes to raise awareness on the effects of chronic blood clots. (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “There are alternative options, but I’m not eligible to adopt due to my health and surrogacy is very difficult.

“I’m holding out hope that one day the doctors might change their minds on how risky it is for me to get pregnant, but until then, I’ve just become an aunty to a beautiful little nephew, which is lovely.”

Now, Robyne hopes that by speaking out, she will raise awareness of blood clots and the fact they can strike at any age.

She said: “This is part of my life now and I know a lot of people are going through similar experiences, but I don’t think there is enough awareness among the general public of just how serious blood clots are.

“I’m really passionate about raising awareness, because I just don’t want people to go through anything similar.

“I’m grateful that I’m still alive, but the blood clots really have destroyed my life in a lot of ways. I don’t want other people to suffer a similar fate.”

Consultant Venous Surgeon and founder of The Whiteley Clinic, Professor Mark Whiteley, warned that blood clots can affect anyone.

He said: “When a blood clot is formed in the body, it is to prevent you from bleeding too much, however, sometimes a blood clot can form in an artery or a vein with no obvious cause.

“Blood clots can affect anyone at any age, but there are certain risk factors – such as surgery and hospitalisation, pregnancy, family history and certain types of cancer treatments.”

Robyne first experienced a blood clot aged 23. (Collect/PA Real Life)
Robyne first experienced a blood clot aged 23. (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “One of the most common misconceptions about blood clots is that they only affect the older generation. Despite what people think, blood clots don’t discriminate by age.

“While it’s true that as you age and become less active you have a slightly higher risk of blood clots, some of the patients we see at The Whiteley Clinic are in their twenties and thirties.

“If the diagnosis is delayed or left untreated, the clot can cause scar tissue or break off and travel to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart or brain, which can prove fatal.”

He added: “If you have suffered from blood clots before, you are at a slightly increased risk of developing one again. One of the risk factors for recurrent blood clots is stopping taking blood-thinning medications after your first VTE is diagnosed.

“A blood clot is a medical emergency and should be investigated as a matter of urgency.”

Thrombosis remains a major cause of death in the UK, yet many people have little or no understanding about the causes and effects of thrombosis, and how it can be prevented.

To find out more, head to www.thrombosisuk.org or www.worldthrombosisday.org

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