The Fear of Death Loomed Over Me: Mercedes’ Story

The Fear of Death Loomed Over Me: Mercedes’ Story

It all began around the Christmas holiday in 2022 when I started experiencing what I thought was indigestion.

Despite trying various over-the-counter medications, nothing seemed to relieve my discomfort. By New Year’s Eve, my condition had worsened, but I pushed through to celebrate the new year.

However, while ascending the train steps, I suddenly felt a crushing sensation in my chest, prompting me to pause. I decided to wait and see my gastroenterologist on Monday. That night, despite feeling unwell, I had dinner and a couple of margaritas before heading to my next destination.

Feeling no relief from an antacid purchased at the pharmacy, I eventually made the decision to visit the emergency room across the street. After being given antacids, which I vomited, the medical staff suggested a CT scan.

As the new year began, I received the devastating news that I had multiple clots in both lungs, along with significant fluid accumulation, a collapsed left lung, and strain on my heart. The fear of death loomed over me, but the medical team assured me that my prompt arrival had likely saved my life.

I was immediately put on heparin and admitted to the ICU for two and a half days, receiving enoxaparin sodium injections every 12 hours. The cause of the clots remained a mystery, with a positive antinuclear antibody test, but negative results for autoimmune diseases.

Upon discharge, I was prescribed apixaban twice daily. Unfortunately, I had to return to the ER due to further fluid accumulation in my left lung. By March, the clots had dissipated, and throughout 2023, I regularly visited both a hematologist and pulmonologist.

My course of apixaban extended from three months to six, then nine, until it reached a year.

Through this experience, I’ve learned that pulmonary emboli kill about 100,000 people per year. Once I received my diagnoses, I joined a pulmonary embolism awareness group, which helped me connect with others who shared similar and different experiences.

The advice I’d give to others is to listen to your body and your first instinct. If something is off, it just may be.


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