Co-founder Mazuma
Columnist
Share this content
Light at the end of the tunnel.
istock_noomcpk2528

Millimetres from death: I am accountant

by

Lucy Cohen recounts how a near-death experience prompted a reflection of where she was in her career. Her answer was more than a little surprising.

8th Jul 2021
Co-founder Mazuma
Columnist
Share this content

On 1 April 2021, I almost died. While out walking my dog, my right leg suddenly cramped and stopped working.

At the time, I assumed it was a hamstring tear or a bad glute strain – as an ex powerlifter I’m accustomed to injuries. But it turns out that multiple arterial blood clots had lodged in my legs, almost entirely blocking my arteries and preventing blood from travelling to my foot.

I don’t fit the profile of a person to suffer an arterial blood clot and so the thought never crossed my mind. In fact, it was only due to a series of serendipitous events (a savvy osteopath, a proactive and cautious GP and my own medical anxiety) that on a Friday afternoon I had a call from a slightly panicked doctor that my bloods had come back “a bit off” and so arranged for me to be admitted to hospital immediately.

Once admitted, my right foot was almost blue in colour, freezing cold and – it turns out – had no pulse. Even then, blood clots were not at the front of the consultant’s mind. He explained it was more likely to be an injury or an infection. Arterial blood clots don’t often happen to fit people in their 30s.

Except that it happened to me.

The look on his face when he explained my various scan results will stay with me forever. He explained that I was lucky that I hadn’t lost my foot. And even luckier that the clots (more than five) had got stuck where they did. Had they travelled to my bowel, brain, heart or lungs, I would likely not have survived. 

He described that a “shower of clots” seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Had they not settled in my legs but had instead gone wandering off elsewhere, I most likely would have suffered multiple organ failure on the spot.

After that bombshell, I was prescribed a course of hefty anticoagulant injections that I have to administer into my stomach every night (delightful!) and discharged while various tests and appointments were made for me.

So I returned home to process the information that I had almost died.

What does a person do with that information? I had always wondered what I might do if I heard some life-changing news like that. Would I cry? Fall to my knees in anguish? Sit stoically and nod? 

Nope. When it did happen to me, I didn’t really do anything. There was no dramatic music, no tears, no cinematic wide shot of me looking concerned yet beautiful at the same time. I mean, damn, I didn’t even get to do a Fleabag-style breaking of the fourth wall. 

I just carried on with things.

After a day off to make up for the weekend of lost sleep in hospital (literally the least restful place to try and recover from anything), where I had been scanned, zapped, monitored and prodded – I just went back to my life as normal.

Right now I’m in a strange limbo. I’ve undergone what seems like endless tests and, so far, nothing of significance has been found. The more tests that are performed, the rarer the diseases they are testing for become. Like the cocktail list at an all-inclusive resort that you spend your week working through as they become steadily more alcoholic and less tasty. And so each time something is ruled out I feel relieved that at least it’s not that awful thing, but concerned that it’s something weirder and rarer. 

And of course, there is a chance that we’ll never find out what happened and it was just a total omnishambles of a fluke – a serious case of bad luck. Aapparently your body can do all kinds of weird stuff for absolutely no good reason and some of that weird stuff can literally kill you. Marvellous. 

At the moment I’m Schrodinger’s human. Simultaneously terribly ill and absolutely fine.

I won’t lie – it has been a lot to wrap my head around. Maybe I’m in a state of denial right now, but I’ve coped with all of this remarkably well, if I don’t say so myself. I suspect that, in no small part, it’s because I’ve been able to work.

The only thing that has been my constant throughout all this has been my work.

At first, I was absolutely horrified by that realisation. Jeez – am I really that person who is so defined by their work that they have no other identity? Even staring down the barrel of death, am I really that person who wondered what was happening in the business? When faced with that spooky fella with a cape and scythe, am I really the person who says “let me just send this quick email and then I’ll be with you. Sorry Death, what was it you were saying?”.

Well, no, I’m not ‘that person’, but yes, I was itching to get back to work. And, it turns out, that’s because that I actually love what I do. As family and friends looked on in disbelief, chastising me that I hadn’t taken any time off, I was happily thinking up the marketing plan for the next year.

Because what I do gives me purpose. Granted, right now having that focus gives me something I can control in my life; a form of control that is vitally important given the state of limbo and uncertainty my health is in. But I also love what I have built. It fills me with pride to see how the company has grown and how the team has developed over the years. It thrills me that we keep improving what we do and are creating tech innovations that can transform things for the future.

It turns out that I actually do practice what I preach. I’ve built a business centred around happiness.

My life is busy, unpredictable and demanding. Yet it seems that I don’t want it any other way.

I was offered the golden excuse – I almost died. I had the perfect out. A moment where I imagine many other people would jack it all in, up sticks and live on a tropical island (alright, that does also sound pretty appealing). But I didn’t. I chose to keep doing what I do. I wanted to do it.

I have built a life that fulfils me and gives me purpose and happiness. And my business has been a huge part of that.

Creating a business with my happiness at the centre of it allows me to set my own hours, take only the meetings I choose, work only with the people I want to work with. I can focus on the things that bring me joy and delegate or refuse the rest.

This year sees Mazuma celebrate its 15th birthday. Maybe if I had almost died ten years ago, I might have felt differently about carrying on. While I was going through all the pains a growing business experiences, I most certainly did not feel like I was living my best life. But right now, I do. And it transpires that not even a life-threatening series of blood clots can put a damper on things for me.

As for my mental health, I’ve learned something incredibly valuable.

I have absolute proof now that anxiety is a liar. Of all the things that have kept me anxious and worried over the years, the most serious thing I could have worried about didn’t even cross my mind.

Bugger off anxiety – you didn’t see this coming did you? 

So next time anxiety rears its head, I can point to my medical record and tell it very firmly to get lost. 

Bugger off anxiety – you didn’t see this coming did you?  Not only that, but I have proved to myself that in an actual real-life crisis, I am incredibly capable. It’s just the things that my anxiety fabricates that tend to floor me. Now that I know that to my very core, somehow this has all been a little easier to handle. 

There’s something strangely liberating about this whole experience, despite me currently being somewhat of a human pin cushion as well as a medical mystery. Deep down, we’re all a lot stronger than we think we are and it really is true – there is nothing so far in life that you haven’t survived. I carry that mantra around with me with renewed meaning at the moment.

I don’t recommend almost dying as a tool to assess if your life is going the way you’d hoped. But if you were to almost die, would you keep things the same?

Unless your answer was a resolute ‘yes’, maybe it’s time to build something different.

As for me, I suspect I’ll be dining out on this story for a long time yet.

For more from Lucy, catch up with her AccountingWEB Live show People Matters. Each episode focuses on topics that empower team leaders, such as learning to say no more often and staying on course in a world of distractions. Lucy will also be a guest on Monday's Any Answers Live where she'll be discussing the topic - how to get your accountancy mojo back.  

Replies (32)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By Dr Fauci
09th Jul 2021 10:13

You're not gonna like this Lucy, but have you considered that these sudden blood clots may be connected to "the jab" you may have had recently? I hear lots of similar stories about people in their late 40s and 50s who suddenly have strokes despite no underlying conditions. They all share one common characteristic - they've all been jabbed.

At some point people will start to connect the dots. The jabs massively increase your risk of blood clots. Facts don't lie - look it up for yourself:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-...

Thanks (1)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
avatar
By lh3f9764bg1g
09th Jul 2021 10:22

One is much, MUCH more likely to suffer from sudden blood clots should one develop Covid-19 than if one has been vaccinated. Facts don't lie - look it up for yourself.

Thanks (7)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
09th Jul 2021 10:29

Well I had a mini-stroke about 2 and a half years ago (I was 45) Happens all the time.

Nothing to do with Covid or jabs.

its surely more that all remotely sensible 40-50's people have been jabbed, so any strokes or clots will happen to jabbed people by definition as its 95%+ of the population.

Thanks (7)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
09th Jul 2021 10:42

Dr Fauci wrote:

What the flip are you a Doctor of?

#Just Googled Dr Fauci, he's a pro-immunisation doctor in the US... I'm confused#

Thanks (2)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
avatar
By bendybod
09th Jul 2021 11:57

She's in her 30s and this happened in April. So the likelihood is, she wasn't jabbed back then.

Thanks (5)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
Lucy Cohen
By Lucy Cohen
09th Jul 2021 11:59

Hi - definitely not vaccine related. I hadn't had the vaccine when this happened.

Thanks (11)
Replying to Dr Fauci:
avatar
By eppingaccountant
09th Jul 2021 12:55

Oh no, not another vaccination scare story based upon unfounded facts!

Thanks (8)
avatar
By bendybod
09th Jul 2021 10:13

A friend of mine frequently uses the "you have 100% success rate in coping so far" mantra when I express doubt in my ability to cope with something that is threatening to overwhelm me. That doesn't mean it won't be tough. It just means that the balance of probabilities is in favour of me also coping with the current tough thing. I have passed it on many times to other friends as they too struggle.

Thanks (4)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
09th Jul 2021 10:35

Sorry to hear about this Lucy.

I had a mini-stroke which eventually no-one could work out where it came from or why and I am fine now, but it was probably stress related. I have tried to reduce my hours and also reduce my "goto medication" of beer or two in the evening.

I am medium fit in my mid 40's, turns out lots of other people have had them too once I got talking to folks about it.

Take care of yourself. There is something very chastening of sitting in the cardiac ward being the youngest person by 20+ years sat in there, but a battery of tests later including a rather cool go in the full body scanner they couldn't work it out and I seem to be OK.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Peter Natel
09th Jul 2021 10:36

Hi Lucy
I simply could not take my eyes from your article.

As a practising accountant (why is it still referred as practising ?). I had a similar experience a few years ago simply being diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a shattering experience and mind blowing as you say. I am still hard at work at the tender age of 74 but I love my clients and my work and the people who work with me- they have been with me for donkey years-maybe its the humour and our lovely clients I don't know but I look back with pride at the successful practice we have built from almost no clients. yes I do want to spend more time with family and friends and visit places that I want to but I value each and every day and don't suffer from anxiety or worry as I feel that I and my team have performed miracles with our clients and having overcome the cancer I am more aware how little we value ourselves. Each day is a holiday day for me. Stay safe and be well. Peter

Thanks (7)
avatar
By Alistair Holows
09th Jul 2021 10:48

I had DVT 5 years ago - I had not flown for months and was exercising regularly. The doctors could not really explain why it happened (their best guess was dehydration as I had been in the gym the day before). Had the stomach injections then warfarin for 6 months. I did have some swelling when exercising in the first year afterwards (when not wearing compression socks - yes stupid I know). Not had DVT since and still exercising regularly. I was lucky that my brother had just had DVT so I was aware of the need to act quickly - the hospital were skeptical when I turned up with the self diagnosis at A&E but very quickly spring into action once they saw my leg (looked like a massive pork joint). Ironically all the tests led to an early diagnosis of prostate cancer which probably would not have been identified for years otherwise. These things can just happen out of the blue and give you a chance to reassess your life but do not mean you have to change it drastically - I still love my work but also now make more time for play as well

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Chhotalal
09th Jul 2021 10:48

Wonderful article Lucy. Wish you a speedy recovery.
Insight for all to think about our personal paths.

Thanks (4)
Nefertiti
By Nefertiti
09th Jul 2021 10:56

Sounds like the results of a COVID vaccine to me.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Nefertiti:
Lucy Cohen
By Lucy Cohen
09th Jul 2021 12:00

Definitely not vaccine related - I hadn't had the vaccine when this happened.

Thanks (8)
avatar
By keirthomasbryant
09th Jul 2021 11:09

This is a terrific piece of writing. I write for a living, so I should know!

Thanks (0)
Replying to keirthomasbryant:
Lucy Cohen
By Lucy Cohen
09th Jul 2021 12:00

Thank you!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By SHIVKRUPA
09th Jul 2021 11:42

Thought provoking , thank you for sharing. Hope your health is on the mend.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Jimess
09th Jul 2021 11:46

Hi Lucy, I went through the experience of blood clots in my thigh about 8 years ago. I had spent 5 years before I had the clot running myself ragged setting up my accountancy practice and I think my body just gave me a warning that things were out of balance. It does make you think about lifestyle and I used to send myself silly trying to work out the number of hours in my life I had sat on my BTM at the desk after 30 odd years of working in accountancy up to my having the DVT- I never did work out the answer and have thankfully stopped beating myself up like that. I am on lifelong anti-coagulants because, like you, the clots were unprovoked. I still get reminded that I have sat at the desk too long - ankle in the left leg swells and painful cramp now and then etc, but I am still here to tell the tale. I think every now and then our bodies let us know that we are out of balance and need to change something to redress that balance. I now regulate the hours I work and try not to sit at the desk for too long without a break - although that has definitely not been easy this last year due to the huge amount of extra work caused by the pandemic. Whilst working at home during the pandemic I have rediscovered the benefits of taking a brief walk every few hours, no matter how busy you are. I had previously believed that taking a few minutes out every few hours was not always possible for me whilst working in the office, and I had got into the bad habit of eating lunch at my desk, but that was very wrong thinking on my part. Regular walks, no matter how brief they may be helps with the pedal pulse that keeps the blood flowing through your legs feet and ankles, which is very important if you have had any sort of blood clot, and being out in the fresh air revitalises a tired mind. I admire your spirit and your positive take on life and wish you very well for a speedy recovery.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Jimess:
avatar
By bendybod
09th Jul 2021 12:07

Absolutely. Lockdown was definitely good for my fitness - came off a whole load of medication that I'd been on for years on the basis that the pain was just something I had to live with as a result of being a functioning member of society with my underlying medical issues.
Having all of my leisure activities / outside of work commitments come to a halt literally overnight, I am now not rushing to add them all back in again and am assessing each one. Whilst many of the things that I chose to do were valuable to other people, I am assessing whether doing them is valuable to me. Where other people used to say "It is so impressive that you manage to do all those things as well as work full time", I am now asking myself whether I should be filling my spare time with things that add responsibility and commitment on top of running a practice.
So, for the time being, the exercise has stayed but nothing else has yet been added back in.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By johnjenkins
09th Jul 2021 12:12

Lucy, I can relate. Had two clots at different times, one in left thigh and other in right knee. On warfarin for rest of life. The thing was it didn't really hit me that these were life threatening until the second clot when the Doctor said we will have to check for malignancy. Luckily all test were ok, but after that you tend to have a different mindset. No doubt each person will change things in a different manner.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By EMiller
09th Jul 2021 13:02

This resonated with me. I lost my 24 yr old son in December 2020, (accident so not expected). I worked (mostly) throughout. I took time off (4 days) while we were in hospital going through organ donation and then for the funeral (where 26 of the 30 attendees contracted covid) and 2 days off when I was poorly with the virus. I too love my job, but I didn't realise how much until this happened. I used to complain about my job and bad decisions that were being made (out of my control to a degree). When the accident happened I had tremendous support from 2 directors and the whole team. While I didn't work 9 to 5 during this time, I got my job done, found more efficiencies etc, but ultimately ticked over as normal. It was the structure I needed in a time where my world was in turmoil (and still is). Oh, and my house was on the market and just recently sold so I had that to contend with as well. (If you've recently moved, you will understand the amount of chasing required to ensure the stamp duty deadline was met.) But I'm standing and proving life goes on, uninterrupted, and I'm still functioning. Certain things that would normally cause me anxiety, I can let go of now. The "stuff" I used to fret over doesn't bother me one jot. The worst has happened to me, but I am still here. Having the freedom to work how I wanted and when I wanted in a company that supports you has been a huge help in my surviving the death of a child.

Thanks (1)
Replying to EMiller:
avatar
By adam.arca
09th Jul 2021 13:17

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. I have a 24 year old son myself and he seems fit and healthy but your story would horrify any parent of a child any age. I appreciate that it must be early days for you and I'm sure there will always be a hole in your heart but I would just like to say that I am impressed by the way you, and others who suffer loss too, are still functioning.

Thanks (3)
Replying to adam.arca:
avatar
By EMiller
09th Jul 2021 13:49

Thanks, but I don't have a choice... the alternative is to crumble and not function. My son would not have wanted that. He was the most positive person I've ever known. His family and friends have tried to "Be More Tom" by living our lives as positive as possible. We've raised over £70k for charities in his name, people have run marathons, we raised money in the month of Feb by walking/running/cycling 5k per day for the whole month. People have kept on since then. He's had such a positive influence on so many people. He played semi pro rugby and 3 clubs he played for have name tournaments in his honour this summer. So the world lost a great guy, me a best friend and son, so I better buck up my ideas and make sure that my future is a positive as it can be. #BeMoreTom

Thanks (1)
Replying to EMiller:
avatar
By johnjenkins
09th Jul 2021 15:04

If you are doing a fundraiser please let me know.

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnjenkins:
avatar
By EMiller
09th Jul 2021 15:19

Ah bless you John! My next fundraising will be about organ donation. My son's death (head injury sustained in an accident) meant that 5 people could (hopefully) live longer and more productive lives. He worked for Oddballs as a uni ambassador raising awareness of testicular cancer so that has been our chose charity along with the Adult ICU in Nottingham who cared for him (and us). I appreciate your message and offer. I hope reading Lucy's story, and in part mine, readers will try and live their lives without anxiety or negativity. Life is wayy too short!
Go well

Thanks (0)
avatar
By adam.arca
09th Jul 2021 13:11

Lucy, you were incredibly unlucky but also incredibly lucky. What your story tells us is that we're all potentially one step away from disaster: "there but for the grace of God" and all that.

Thank you for sharing. I'm not really a touchy / feely people person myself but it's nevertheless uplifting to read a massive human interest story like yours and see this as an example of triumph through adversity.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Herminder Sandhu
09th Jul 2021 13:45

Your article certainly resonates in lots of way having been through a similar experience a few years ago.
All the best to you Lucy.

Thanks (0)
Julia Penny
By Julia Penny
09th Jul 2021 14:21

Great article Lucy - thank you for sharing.

Thanks (0)
By Husbandofstinky
09th Jul 2021 14:22

A classic case of Carpe Diem.

I lost my brother at the age of 26 some years ago (two inquests with no definitive results). It most definitely changes your outlook in life. This may sound wrong and selfish, but for the positive in my book.

We all have these stories to tell and hopefully we can all adapt and get through the trauma.

Great article Lucy and good luck with the rest of your life. We all need a bit of that too (luck)..

I have been taking low dose of aspirin for years after reading plenty on the subject.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By North East Accountant
09th Jul 2021 15:08

Glad you're on the mend and I wish you well for a speedy recovery.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By [email protected]
10th Jul 2021 17:27

Hi Lucy

Thank you for your superb article and I wish you a speedy recovery. This was a very poignant read as I also suffered an unprovoked DVT in the leg whilst running a sales meeting. I didn't even notice and only realised something was wrong that night due to one very swollen leg. Events like this do help to put things into context. My DVT turned out to be the result of a hereditary blood condition unknown in the family and also on anti-coagulants for life. Five years down the line and no repeat or re-occurrence. Again thank you for sharing and expressing how you dealt with this so well and all the best for your recovery.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By ASF
14th Jul 2021 14:59

Lucy, Sooo close to my own situation. I left full-time work as a CFO/COO, at the start of 2019, having worked for 40+ years, and decided to go part-time as a portfolio FD. I was just getting some of the "marketing-type" stuff done (which, to be honest, I didn't particularly like!), when I was walking the dog (must be something about dogs!), and I felt a stitch across my upper chest. Within 6 hours, I was in my local hospital, sat there for 3 weeks to get to the top of the list for my triple bypass (bit like a ring-road, only much better for you!). I have to say since recovering from that, my goals have definitely changed. I now am not pushing the portfolio thing, but looking to work 1 -2 days a week if I can find it (which is another story), plus 1 -2 days a week at a local charity, overseeing the Finance side. I don't want to stop working altogether, or I risk turning into a root vegetable, but now totally on my terms, and at my pace.

I think these types of things are called "life-changing" for a reason - and in our case, it seems as though they really were!

Thanks (0)