Megan Henry said NuvaRing sidelined her from the Olympics. (WFSB photo)
Megan Henry is a world-class skeleton skater. (WFSB photo)
NuvaRing's maker stood by its product. (WFSB photo)
Roxbury, CT (WFSB) -
A skeleton skater from Roxbury said her Olympic dreams were denied by a widely prescribed birth control device.
Megan Henry was one of the top five women in the country. She's an army specialist and part of the world class athlete program.
She was speeding towards qualifying for the Olympics, but she said her 85-mile-an-hour trip down an icy track came to a screeching halt.
"It really flipped my world upside down," Henry said. "I had a hard time breathing to the point where it was really dangerous. I could have lost my life from it."
In the summer of 2012, Henry started using the device NuvaRing. It releases the hormones estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream.
The two hormones work together to prevent the ovaries from producing mature eggs.
"Within 10 days of taking it," Henry said, "I had a hard time breathing."
She said she continued to use the device because she had not yet made the connection.
However, she said things became worse. She was training in Utah where her breathing became so bad, she could not speak in conversation.
Henry said she saw a total of five doctors. None of them could determine the cause.
She eventually went to see a pulmonologist in Connecticut, who said she had blood clots and sent her to the emergency room.
That doctor diagnosed her with pulmonary embolism and told her it was from the birth control device.
"They just said multiple blood clots in both lungs. It looks like if you took paint and splattered it like that, there were just blood clots everywhere," Henry said.
She spent 10 days in the hospital. That's when she said she found out her Olympic dreams had been dashed. She said she had to miss a year of training, and that there was long term damage.
"If I were to have a family," said Henry, "I'm a high risk pregnancy. The danger of me having blood clots and even the fetus is there, and that's kind of scary to think about."
Eyewitness News contacted Merck, the makers of NuvaRing. The company stood by the safety of its device.
"While there is a very small risk of a blood clot when using NuvaRing or any combined hormonal contraceptive, this risk is much less than the risk of blood clots during pregnancy and the immediate post-partum period," the company said in a statement.
Henry said when her doctor prescribed NuvaRing, she was told about the risks. The warnings were also on the box, especially for smokers.
However, Henry said she does not smoke.
"I'm extremely fit," she said. "I eat well, healthy. It did not cause me any alarm whatsoever."
Two years ago, Henry said she joined with 3,800 people as part of a multi-district lawsuit against Merck. Some of those people said they had daughters who died. They claimed it was because of fatal blood clots.
Just last week, Merck announced it was willing to pay $100 million to resolve the lawsuit, but 95 percent of those who filed must accept a deal first.
Henry argued that the risk of clots is significant and not as small as the company said.
While she missed an opportunity to compete in the Sochi games, she said she plans on fighting for a spot on the 2018 team that will compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Until then, she'll fight on behalf of women she said need to know why she was forced out of the race.
"I had to be very persistent," said Henry. "I had to see five doctors, and If I listened to the first one I may not be here to tell my story."
Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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