Cheryl Smith’s Story

Cheryl Smith’s Story

I noticed I had a cough that would not go away in November 2007. I knew it wasn’t a cold, because I didn’t have any other symptoms of a cold.  I went to my doctor the next month, and she couldn’t identify a cause.  She suggested that I try allergy medication for a week, but that didn’t work.  She then prescribed an inhaler to open my airways for what she thought might be asthma induced by cold weather.  The inhaler didn’t work either.

The X-ray that my doctor ordered was lost or misplaced.  My doctor then had me do pulmonary function tests that showed some mild obstruction.  I became more and more short of breath and easy tasks like taking a shower or tying my shoes became harder each day.  On the morning of Feb 15, 2008 I was short of breath even when lying down.

I got ready for work and debated about making a stop at the ER on the way.  I’m glad I stopped, because I had blood clots in both lungs (pulmonary embolism/PE) and was admitted right away for five days.  I took blood thinners for 6 months and after a month off of them, I had more blood tests as requested by my hematologist.

The tests showed that I had Protein S deficiency, Protein C deficiency, and Antithrombin deficiency.  My hematologist said it is like being struck by lightning three times.  I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life to prevent future clots.

I had no idea what a PE or DVT (deep vein thrombosis) were until the day I was diagnosed with a PE.  An ultrasound also showed a DVT in my left leg from which the clot traveled to my lungs.  Now I have monthly visits to the doctor to check my PT/INR.  I am more careful about what activities I participate in, because blood thinners can make one bruise and bleed more easily.

I am now much more aware of how blood clots can be a matter of life and death, especially after surviving a PE.  I am convinced if I had not stopped at the ER that February morning I would not be alive to tell my story.

My message to others:

  • Get any symptoms checked immediately, especially shortness of breath that is unusual, such as when it persists at rest
  • Share information about blood clotting disorders with your family, since they are more often inherited

Take Home Messages

  • See messages above from author
  • Blood clotting disorders associated with blood clots in form or DVT or PE are usually treated with blood thinners for life
  • Pulmonary embolism can be misdiagnosed as other lung conditions
  • Go to the Emergency Room for symptoms unusual shortness of breath; this wise decision saved Cheryl’s life
  • Tell your family and friends the signs and symptoms of DVT and PE
The personal story is intended for informational purposes only. The National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) holds the rights to all content that appears on its website. The use by another organization or online group of any content on NBCA’s website, including patient stories that appear here, does not imply that NBCA is connected to these other organizations or groups or condones or endorses their work. Please contact info@stoptheclot.org with questions about this matter.
Join the conversation
Share to Stop the Clot