In March of 2016, I was 28 years old and pregnant with my second child. Being nine weeks along, I had severe morning sickness and was vomiting more than six times a day. Everything seemed normal. One morning, I noticed a dull pain on my right side along my ribcage. I assumed I must have slept funny. As the day went on, the pain worsened and my breathing became short and fast. After a quick phone call with the OB/GYN, my husband rushed me to the emergency room (ER). The doctor was worried about blood clots. When I arrived at the ER, the staff immediately ran a series of tests, including a D-dimer test used to detect blood clots. Aside from my obvious dehydration, everything came back normal. I was sent home with a diagnosis of pleurisy and medication for the pain.
The next day was Easter. I remember giving my son his basket of goodies and spending the day in bed. My chest was tight, my breathing was shallow, and the pain in my side was getting worse despite being on pain killers. I tried to “tough it out” and sleep. Later that night, I called for my husband and mom and told them that I needed to stand up. The pain was unbearable, and I couldn’t breathe. They helped me get out of bed. Keeping my hands on the mattress for support, I swayed back and forth trying to find relief. My husband asked me if I was getting back into bed. I nodded that I would, but I slowly slipped down to the floor instead. Everything after that is fuzzy. I remember being loaded into the ambulance and a man hovering over me with a needle. The ER room lights were so bright. Later, my husband told me that my heart rate had gone through the roof and my oxygen level had taken a nosedive. After a much-heated debate between the ER staff and the OB/GYN, I finally received a CT scan. The results showed multiple pulmonary emboli and right-sided pulmonary infarction. My lungs were so full of clots that my right lung was dying. I remained in the hospital for ten days.
The rest of my pregnancy was full of pain, weakness, and many blood thinner injections. When I gave birth to my second son, I could finally feel my body start to heal. My right lung has scar tissue and the anxiety of this experience comes and goes, but I’m living a normal life. After many tests, including those for clotting disorders, my doctors could not find any additional risk factors for my blood clot. My major risk factor was pregnancy, which resulted in blood clots forming in my legs and pelvis. Eventually, the blood clots traveled to my lungs. Years later, I still think about what happened, and daily, I work on looking back with gratitude instead of anxiety. Because of modern medicine and good people, my son and I lived through it all.