Scooting Around with Hannah Dewitte

Elsa LaFollette

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Imagine waking up with a terrible pain in your leg, it is it so bad that you can’t feel anything. Then having to get out of bed, ready for school, and make it through the day with the pain. This doesn’t sound like fun but is a daily reality for Hannah Dewitte.

Dewitte is a sophomore who is missing the iliac and femoral veins in her legs. Dewitte found out about the missing iliac vein in 2017, and the femoral vein in late 2018 during a venogram test.

Dewitte has had many tests done on her leg at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital- including venograms and MRA’s. Dewitte got the tests because her doctors suggested them to learn about her varicose veins and the pains in her leg, not expecting take two veins would be missing. Venograms are when contrast (a dye that colors blood) gets put into your veins and then your blood flow is controlled. MRA’s also use contrast and are similar to MRI’s. When Dewitte first found out about her missing veins, she was confused because she didn’t know what it would mean for the future.

The reason for the missing veins might be from Dewitte being a premature baby and a PICC line having to be used to give her nutrients. She had to stay in the hospital for several months, but ten days before leaving, the PICC line migrated and caused scar tissue to form.

Pain is also a daily struggle for Dewitte. She says that the pain “hurts so bad you can’t feel anything and is similar to pins and needles.” Ways she deals with the pain are elevating, taking Advil, lay in bed, and using a heat pack. Dewitte also wears a compression stocking on her left leg 24/7, which helps pain and regulation of blood flow.

Dewitte can be seen in the hallway using a red and black mobility scooter. She has had the scooter since Dec. 13, 2018, and has named it “Carlos.” Dewitte doesn’t normally have problems getting through the hallways, but there are some for getting into classrooms. The scooter was hard for her to get; there were notes from vascular surgeons, walking tests, talks with physical therapists, and test runs with a scooter. When getting the scooter she was “really happy but at the same time stressed about others getting adjusted to it.”

While using her scooter and on days where she is in pain Dewitte often uses the school elevator to get to her classes. The elevator is really small and one day during freshman year Dewitte got ended up getting stuck in the elevator after lunch. “I went to get out of the elevator on the second floor and I accidentally turned my scooter and got stuck on the elevator panel. I couldn’t turn to get unstuck so I had to ride the elevator about three times so it would stop beeping. While I was stuck Emily Baker told Mr. Timm, ‘Hey Hannah’s stuck in the elevator,’ and he thought that the elevator was stuck between two floors,” said Dewitte.

Dewitte is currently involved in archery and speech. She has done archery since fourth grade and quit halfway through freshman year, but she is rejoining for this year’s season. Last year she was experiencing a lot of pain from having to stand through the hour practices. This season she is going to be shooting from her scooter and is excited and also nervous to rejoin the team.

In 2018, Dewitte attended a KTS (Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome) conference for different vein malformations. The conference included meetings on pain management and advancements in research.

For people going through similar things, Dewitte says “the pain is only temporary, bad days only mean good days ahead.”

Getting blood clots is never a good time for anybody, especially the person having them. During freshman year Dewitte happened to get a blood clot in one of the worst times. While in gym class a tornado watch happened and her class went to a storage room. “My leg was in pain all day, but this was different pain than before, so I pulled down my compression stocking and the area that it hurt was all red and warmer than the other areas around it. Redness, heat, and pains are the three main signs of a blood clot,” said Dewitte. Another time that Hannah got a blood clot was last year during lunch. “Then she went to the bathroom and realized he had a blood clot. We went to the nurse together and called her mom” said Emily Baker.

Hannah Dewitte has been through a lot with her leg but hasn’t let the missing veins hold her back. She has multiple ways to try and stop the pain and has a growing support system.