After three and a half years, I am ready to share my story about blood clots and pulmonary emboli. My story is tied to my godson, Paul Englert Jr., who unfortunately did not have the same outcome as me. Almost four years ago, he lost his life to a pulmonary embolism at just 19 years old. As a family, we knew very little about blood clots. We did not know very much about the causes, symptoms, or the outcomes. Just two months after Paul’s death, I began having chest pain and back pain near my shoulder blades. I thought I was experiencing indigestion, or soreness, from going to the chiropractor. I had gone in for blood work just a month before, because I worried about being on birth control pills for such a long period of time due to ovarian cysts and other health problems.
My doctor assured me I would know if I had a blood clot. After several sleepless nights, I went to a local immediate care facility to see what might be causing the discomfort I was experiencing. The doctor I saw did not feel comfortable sending me home, and contacted the local hospital to let them know I would be coming in for a scan of my lungs. I almost went home, but thinking of Paul, I drove myself to the hospital. The doctors came in to tell me I had several blood clots, or pulmonary emboli, in both lungs. I burst into tears because I was alone and afraid, but the doctors and nurses assured me I was in good hands.
The cause of the pulmonary embolisms was determined to be the birth control pills I had been taking for five years. The doctors believe there was a blood clot located in my pelvis before it traveled to my lungs. As part of my treatment, I was on injection blood thinners for six months and re-scanned after that. For the first year of my recovery, I experienced panic attacks every time I felt something in my chest or back. Over time, I no longer experienced those attacks, but I have worked with Paul’s mother – who is my cousin – to raise awareness about blood clots.
It is important to both of us that people and doctors know the symptoms and causes of this disease. Together, we have worked in Paul’s memory to honor a young man gone too soon. As a teacher at a high school, I share my story and Paul’s story with the students, as many of them are beginning to start taking birth control pills. I want them to be aware of the potential dangers.
I thank Paul every day for being my guardian angel, and for teaching me about the signs of blood clots and pulmonary emboli. For women, especially if on birth control pills or other hormones, it is important to listen to the signs our bodies give us, and seek professional help when we experience those signs.