A Fatal PE After Knee Surgery: Eric’s Story, as Told by Sophie

A Fatal PE After Knee Surgery: Eric’s Story, as Told by Sophie

My late boyfriend, Eric Vignando, passed away at 49 years old on November 29, 2010.

Eric had knee problems after ski accidents, and he finally went in for a partial knee replacement after having pain for 20 years.   His surgery was on Nov 12, 2010.  His surgery went well, his doctor was pleased, and Eric was discharged from the hospital after 24 hours. He started injections of low molecular weight heparin daily.  The surgeon explained that it was a blood thinner, and he ordered it for 10 days, since Eric’s movement was going to be limited.  There was no mention of any possibility of DVT, PE, or blood clot when his blood thinners were started.

Eric was doing great, and was getting up a few times a day as needed, and doing the exercises recommended by his doctor while lying down.  Ten days following the surgery, Eric and I went for his post-op visit, where the surgical staples were removed. That was the last day that the blood thinner shots were ordered.

He started physical therapy the next day, and we left home for a couple of days to spend time with friends at Thanksgiving. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we went shopping, and Eric was walking much better on his crutches.  It was a perfectly bright sunny Sunday on November 28th, and we had a great dinner after our shopping spree.  He seemed to be doing great

The next day, I got a phone call from him while I was at work, when he told me he couldn’t breathe right.  I called his doctor who told me to call 9-1-1.  The paramedics and I arrived at the same time, approximately 13 minutes later.  Eric was still having difficulty breathing, but was conscious.  The paramedics took him to the ER, and Eric was still talking while they placed him in the ambulance.  He stopped breathing and lost his pulse in the ER, where he passed away after doctors injected clot busting drugs and did CPR for about ½ hour.  It was only about 1½ hours between his first symptoms and his passing.

Eric was a healthy, active, 49 year old non-smoker. He had no pain, no symptoms in his legs prior to this happening.  There was no history of blood clots in his birth family, and he tested negative for blood clotting disorders.

It is now one year since he passed away.  All he wanted was a better life with no knee pain and mostly, to return to skiing.

Knee Surgery Take Away Messages

  • Knee replacement surgery poses risk for blood clots.
  • Discuss needed length of treatment with your doctor, since there are more than one set of clinical guidelines about the appropriate length of treatment with blood thinners to prevent blood clots post-surgery.
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