“I am thankful for the variety of available styles of medical compression stockings!”
She likes cross-fit, running and horseback riding, plays piano and is interested in sustainability, fashion and politics. At first glance, Ilka John appears to be a typical woman in her mid-twenties. One feature sets her apart from many others her age: she wears medical compression stockings after a thrombotic episode. Today, she is self-confident and fashionable when integrating these stockings into her daily outfits. However, she wasn’t always this candid when it came medical compression. In the interview, she tells us about her watershed moment and why communicating with other affected patients and the perfect fit of her compression stockings are so important to her.
Ms John, please give us a brief summary about what happened leading up to your thrombosis diagnosis.
“I was 18 years old and doing volunteer work in Gran Canaria when I suddenly got pains in my lower back which were so strong that they made it difficult to walk. Various local doctors weren’t able to help me. The pain moved to my groin, extended to my left leg and got even worse. This caused my leg to become very swollen and discoloured, turning a dark red. Then I contacted my general practitioner in Germany, who suspected that it could be venous thrombosis. At the local hospital, they confirmed that it was deep vein thrombosis in the leg and pelvis, which may have been caused by taking birth control pills.”
What long-term therapeutic measures have you received to date?
“I’ve had exclusively conservative therapy. I go to the doctor regularly, take blood thinners every day and wear medical compression stockings. These factors are especially important: a lot of exercise, drinking enough water, showers alternating between hot and cold in summer, regularly putting my feet up and avoiding standing or sitting for long periods. This is an especially big challenge in the workplace. Skin care also plays an important role. I try to moisturise my legs every one or two days in order to ensure that the stocking sits well on my leg. I started wearing a medical compression stocking for the first time in 2014.”
At just 19, what were your first impressions of medical compression stockings?
“Honestly, it was difficult. The stocking I received in Gran Canaria didn’t fit properly. Once I got back to Germany, about ten weeks after the diagnosis, I was properly measured for the first time and got a medical compression stocking made by medi. It was a very good fit and didn’t slip. For me as a young woman, wearing medical compression stockings was initially quite a strain, and I tried to hide them. Nowadays, I have a different attitude, I’m more self-confident and have come to terms with it."
What was your watershed moment; when did you start to accept the medical compression stockings?
“I received psychological support and learned to view my illness and compression from a different perspective. Before, I used to wear black tights over the medical compression stockings to hide them. Then I started to rethink things and put on medical compression stockings that were black with a pattern. About one and a half years ago, my angiologist also recommended that I wear compression tights for additional pelvis support. The advantage to this is that both legs look the same and that the medical compression stockings are even easier to integrate into my outfit. I then began concentrating more on keeping up with the different fabrics and colours. I was impressed by the variety and the effort that the compression manufacturers take to make their products fashionable. I’m very thankful for that!”
How was the service at the medical retail store?
“I was able to find a medical retailer that suits my needs. The experts there recognised that, in addition to the medical aspect, an appealing design is also important to me. Understanding and good advice are worth their weight in gold!”
You wear round knit medical compression stockings made by medi. What do you like about them in particular?
“The level of comfort! The round knit medical compression stockings from medi fit well, don’t slip and I feel comfortable wearing them. They’re also robust, which is a big advantage when you wear them every day. I particularly like their combination of functionality, comfort and attractive design. Visually, the medical compression tights are almost indistinguishable from “normal” tights. Another bonus is that the colour Bronze is similar to my skin colour, which means that I can hardly see the difference in summer. That’s the most tricky time of the year for me, because clothing gets shorter and the compression device becomes more obvious.”
You show how fashionable compression can be on Instagram and are very open about your condition. What motivates you?
“When I received the diagnosis at 18, I had no prior knowledge and didn’t know anyone else my age with this condition, so I wanted to find other patients. That worked well, and my account has been growing ever since and acting as a platform for exchange between patients, especially young women. I also use my account to educate about thrombosis, because very few people are informed about the condition or know its risk factors. In future, I would like to raise awareness among physicians of these young patients because they still tend to associate thrombotic events with older people. This leads to many younger patients being treated too late, causing them lasting damage, as in my case. Fast, correct and consistent care might have prevented that.”
So you focus on education and communication?
“Exactly. I have felt better since I started communicating about this topic! I feel like people understand me, and I have recognized that I’m not alone with my condition or with the psychological stress it causes in particular. We in the community support each other, recommend physicians and share views on therapeutic measures. Particularly at the beginning of the diagnosis, it helps to get your bearings: What do I have to pay attention to, what can I do about the pain and how do I find the right compression device?”
Starting this autumn, you will be one of the faces presenting medi’s trend colour campaign. How did that come about?
“I want to show other young patients that having to wear medical compression stockings isn’t the end of the world – far from it! The old frumpy image simply no longer reflects today’s reality, which is that you can dress fashionably with compression!”
Is there anything else that you would like to say to other young women?
“Give your body and mind time to come to terms with thrombosis and make sure you’re informed about the condition. It’s important to have good medical support that makes you feel at ease, for example a specialist medical practice and a medical supply store that helps you to find the right compression stocking. This plays a major role because, once you find your appropriate compression and it also appeals to you visually, it is easier to accept. It’s okay to hit a low sometimes. The main thing is to always keep a positive mindset!”
Dear Ms John, thank you so much for sharing your personal insight and also for the great interview!
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