In January, Elanor’s leg began to ache.
It was an ache pronounced enough for her to notice, but an ache quiet enough for her to keep moving. It was a dull, consistent ache that, before long, wasn’t so dull anymore.
“In the beginning, [the pain] was enough for me to not want to walk much. I didn’t feel like I could walk as far as usual, and dad and I, especially when we’re on holidays, really like to walk,” the 20-year-old told Mamamia.
Her holiday was in Europe and her father is Labor MP Julian Hill. In the space of two weeks, that dull ache became a cramping, “throbbing”, “shooting” sensation, and that holiday had moved on to Sri Lanka.
She was “cramping for an hour” one night. On another, it took her ten minutes to walk to the shower from her bedroom.
“The only way I can describe it is that I felt funny, really off. I didn’t feel like I could concentrate and I definitely didn’t feel well. I couldn’t put any pressure on it.
“I said to dad, ‘I think I have a blood clot’. I think at that point he thought I was being a little dramatic,” she says.
But as it happens, she wasn’t being dramatic at all, but it would take them a few more hours to know that for sure.
“We went straight to the local hospital which was 20 minutes away. They told me it was a muscle injury from when I fell over – even though I had never fallen over – bandaged it, and said it would be fine. They wouldn’t do an ultrasound for eight hours.”
After driving four hours to find another hospital – ignoring the “flawed medical advice” of the regional hospital – the results immediately settled their guessing game. Doctors at the second hospital confirmed she had deep vein thrombosis, a 64cm blood clot that had found a home in her leg.
By this point, death was a very real possibility.
Mercifully, Elanor survived the ordeal, but not unscathed. She remains on blood thinners, has regular blood tests, will have to wear a full leg compression stocking for two years and it’s very likely she will never be able to take the contraceptive pill again.
According to Elanor and her federal MP father, this blood clot was entirely avoidable, and a direct result of the 20-year-old being prescribed an acne drug called Diane-35 as a contraceptive pill just four weeks before. The drug in question has never been approved in the United States and was temporarily suspended in France.
Now, the father and daughter are campaigning for tougher regulations on the prescribing of Diane-35 and other similar drugs, with Hill penning an impassioned letter to The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The drug, which has the same active ingredients as nine other brands (Dermapil, Estelle-35 ED, Juliet-35 ED, Brenda-35 ED, Chelsea-35 ED, Jene-35 ED, Carolyn-35 ED, Katie-35 ED and Laila-35 ED), is approved in Australia to treat severe acne and the excessive hair condition hirsutism. However, under regulation from the TGA, the drug is not to be prescribed as a first-line contraceptive pill.