Pulmonary Embolism Survivor Tells About Experience, Gratitude to Be Alive

A mother, a wife and an active woman experienced a horrifying and terrifying near-death experience one day while walking her daughter to school. As a lover of all things fall, she was enjoying the onset of her favorite season and a full recovery from recent surgery. She had plans for apple and pumpkin picking, birthdays, Halloween, long and scenic walks to enjoy the leaves and changing temperatures and attending numerous fall festivals to see the wares and interact with other fall-loving people. However, during the walk to school, things started to go very wrong.

She started to feel short of breath and her chest hurt on the left side. The illness caused her serious concerns about what might be happening to her body and the fact that it did not quickly dissipate. Despite her pain, she put on a brave face and said goodbye to her daughter, not knowing it could potentially be the last time she spoke to her loved offspring.

Kathy Soppet had undergone major surgery related to severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. Following the difficulty of the medical struggle over the summer, she was looking forward to fall fun. However, the experience walking to school with her daughter brought that to a crushing halt.

Soppet took 20 minutes to walk home with her son, a trip that normally took five minutes. Once home, she got in touch with her husband and let him know that she needed to get medical attention as soon as possible. Her husband dropped off their six-year-old son to school and came home quickly. The two of them loaded into the vehicle and headed for the hospital, fearing they would take too long to get there.

The trip to the emergency room was nerve-wracking. Once there, Soppet was given a full blood panel and was put in bed and attached to an IV quickly. While it seemed like forever, the wait was short. The verdict came back from the doctor with both good but also some not so good news. Soppet was not sure what to think when that announcement was made.

The good news was, Soppet was going to get into a room quickly so the CAT scan could be done. The bad news was, further testing was necessary and admittance into the hospital was a must. The test that measures a patient’s risk of blood clot was high.

A blood thinner called Lovenox was administered through the IV. The CT scan showed that there were not any blood clots present in the body. An echo was done and an ultrasound of her legs was completed. Both also came back with negative results, which was a welcome relief.

Various factors can contribute to the onset of blood clots. Despite never having blood clots previously, Soppet had some of those factors present, including the recent surgery and bed rest and also estrogen that was a result of her birth control pills. There are other factors that include pregnancy, heart disease, long trips, smoking and obesity that make a person more susceptible to blood clots. Cancer is also a reason for increased risk of blood clot.

Soppet was taking birth control called Yaz for PMDD. This particular pill put a person at particular risk for blood clots. Likewise, the recent hysterectomy and oophorectomy that Soppet had experienced were risk factors. Soppet, as a woman in her 40s who had previously avoided this medical condtion, had little reason to think that she would get one now.

After three days in a hospital room with friendly and knowledgeable staff, Soppet had a very sore stomach due to twice-daily injections. She also struggled with being so far from family and friends, although the staff helped her feel connected when her family was not able to be at the hospital with her.

A CT scan led to a diagnosis of multiple bilateral PE. That led to a prescription for blood thinners and multiple tests scheduled for the next six months.

Soppet ended up with a longer recovery time, which is just as common as a short recovery time for this situation. It all depends on the patient. For those who are not in shape and are overly anxious, the recovery time is extended. Because of her recent surgery, Soppet saw her recovery time stretch out ahead of her.

Asthma that was already present has coupled with the high anxiety to make it common for her to struggle to breathe and also make it hard to travel long distances on foot. Soppet has difficulty with basic tasks and leaving her home on a regular day. She is taking medication to help with the stress and help her to get moving and exercise, as that is necessary for her to improve her health and hopefully see her life return to normal with the next year.

Soppet’s experience can end on a positive note. However, she hopes that by sharing her experience, others can learn about pulmonary embolism and avoid drastic consequences and potential injury or death.

It is important to know the following when it comes to pulmonary embolism:

  • It can affect anyone of any gender
  • It can affect anyone of any age
  • Risk for pulmonary embolism increases with age
  • Certain birth control pills increase the risk, so make sure to discuss the ones you take or your daughter takes with the doctor and ask about the potential risk
  • Learn about drospirenone, which is the main factor in increased risk of clots in birth control pills
  • Learn the symptoms of pulmonary embolism: shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, lightheadedness, fast heart rate, fast breathing
  • Know your body and make sure to visit the ER whenever you feel concerned

Those who suffer from a pulmonary embolism and ignore the symptoms may have to deal with difficult consequences and even death. The trip to the hospital can have much worse results. Therefore, it is wise to know the risks and symptoms and make that trip to the ER if you are older and have the slightest concern about breathing or chest pain. Over-preparation is important in cases like this to prevent tragedy.

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