When Harpreet Chauhan's calf started to experience excruciating pain, she knew something was wrong.

"My calf swelled up quite a bit," she said. "It was so painful that I couldn't put my calf down onto my bed."

She went to the emergency room at St. Paul's hospital the next morning, where doctors discovered she had two blood clots.

The diagnosis came just days after she had already been in the hospital to undergo foot surgery.

Doctors said the recent surgery caused her to be immobile, which was the perfect storm for a clot.

"If you sustain a trauma, your body has to defend you. So it naturally has an ability to make blood clots. It's when that ability goes beyond what your body needs that it becomes worrisome," explained Dr. Anna Rahmani.

Chauhan also had genetics working against her: her family has a history of blood clots.

"I was mostly just worried what that would mean for me moving forward – if I would have to be on blood thinners and how long … because of the location of the clots being in the lower calf, and because it was related to surgery, that prognosis was very good," Chauhan said.

Dr. Rahmani said if people don't pay attention to the warning signs, those clots can get bigger and travel to various parts of the body.

"If [the clots] fly off to the brain, we recognize them as a stroke; if they fly off to the lungs, we recognize them as pulmonary embolism in the lung … blood clots that form inside the blood vessels of the heart are what we know as heart attacks."

She said it is important to recognize the symptoms before it becomes potentially dangerous.

Symptoms of blood clots in the leg:

  • Pain, similar to a charley horse or the feeling of over-exercising
  • Warmth in the calf and/or thigh
  • Swelling, redness or discolouration

Symptoms of blood clots in the lungs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid breathing and/or rapid heart rate
  • Light-headedness or passing out

"Blood clots really don't discriminate. It doesn’t what matter your age, gender or ethnicity – everybody is at risk, so education is power," Dr. Rahmani said.

To equip the public with this power, St. Paul's will be hosting two free information sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 9. People are asked to register in advance