Christina, my precious daughter, this is for you in an effort to provide AWARENESS of DVT and Pulmonary Embolisms.
It has been 17 days since my 30 year old daughter left this earth. In my mind, and often in my dreams, I replay the events leading to her death. It is a natural part of the grieving process, but one that also leaves many earthly questions. I tell Christina’s story to raise awareness of pulmonary embolisms as they are not uncommon and when misdiagnosed or assumed to be anxiety attacks…they are deadly.
After Christmas 2014: Christina broke her foot carrying Christmas decorations to her basement. She went to our local prompt care and they put her in a boot and made her a doctor appt with a podiatrist “as soon as he could get her in” which was almost 2 weeks out.
Within the next week, Christina was complaining of her calf hurting and I asked her to call to get her appt moved up. The podiatrist could not see her for another 6 days.
Worried, I called another office and asked them to see her. Christina confirms the appt and is scheduled for the very next day. I’m relieved that finally she can see someone soon. Christina would never make that appointment because:
That night –
Phone call from my son-in law. I need you to come. The EMT’s are here and they think Christina is having a bad panic attack; I thought it was a seizure of some kind. It’s been 45 minutes now and she isn’t calming down.
My arrival: Christina is in their bedroom on the bed not fully conscious. The EMT’s stand at the end of her bed seemingly annoyed that she is not calming down from her panic attack. They did not suspect a pulmonary embolism even with the broken foot. I try to talk with her, but she is asking to go to the hospital. I’m looking to the EMT’s for some direction and getting none.
I ask the EMT’s for oxygen for her as she is sweating profusely and cyanosis is apparent to me in the blue tinge to her lips. They tell me they cannot give her oxygen until she calms down as “it won’t go in!” Minutes elapse…I tell the EMT’s that I have not witnessed a panic attack like this and she is not calming down – could they please give her something; they tell me they have called in for something. They administer a sedative via her nose to help her calm; my son-in-law removes the boot from her broken foot.
Within minutes Christina rolls to the side. I look at the EMT’s and say, “Guys, she doesn’t look good.” They assure me that it is the sedative at work and relaxing her as one of them checks her wrist for a pulse…tries to get an IV in unsuccessfully. Minutes elapse…another EMT arrives and asks, “What do you want me to do?”
Now, one EMT is bagging oxygen and they load her in a sling to carry her to the ambulance. They are stepping on her hair and my mother’s heart is breaking as I yell silently, “Please don’t step on her hair!” In my mother’s heart, I knew she was gone, but they assured me it was the sedative.
Moments later I gather some of her things she will need at the hospital and ask my son-in-law which hospital we are going to. He doesn’t know so I try to find someone in the ambulance to tell us. As I round the corner, they are doing CPR on my daughter inside the ambulance. I have taken CPR classes for 29 years and even when the EMT stepped in front of the window, I could see the rhythmic movements.
At the hospital, we ask for updates, wait, ask for updates again, and wait. Finally a man in blue steps into the waiting room and states, “She’s expired.” That is all, just expired…and left. That very day a firefighter from our town died from an embolism…same cause, same result.
Thus began our journey into grief.
As Christians, we know that she is safe and in the loving hands of God. We, her family on earth, are left to carry on in a world that is now void of her beauty. We will make it with loving friends, family, and God by our side carving a path to lead us forward to future joy. Questions remain and I hope that by our story, we can raise aware of pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. For anyone who has suffered an injury to the lower extremities or had recent surgery, it is necessary to watch for symptoms –they often mimic the symptoms of an anxiety attack. Not always do they come in any specific order, but in many EMT forums for emergency response, “LOAD and GO” should be automatic; do NOT assume anxiety only. Heparin can be effective when administered promptly. Christina did not get the chance, but if we can save even ONE life through knowledge and awareness, she would want it.
From a mother’s perspective, I question human error and free will. It shakes the foundation of a FAITH that I have long had. Does God plan the death of each individual or can human error and our own free will aid in the process; God willingly accepting those of faith when we arrive and when humans fail? It brings to mind the taboo subject of suicide: will God accept into his Kingdom when humans or human error ends a precious life?
I now belong to a club I didn’t wish to join: the bereaved mother’s club. Many before me have asked those same questions and our FAITH requires us to believe that God called her home. There were MANY things that went horribly wrong in those two weeks. It may or may not have made any difference for Christina, but would more training on deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms save another life? I have no doubt it would and it should.
A quote from Christi’s sister: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.”
Christina’s response: “and if we could all find a wealth of tolerance, acceptance, and empathy, wouldn’t that make this journey all the sweeter?!”
To that we can all say: AMEN!
You were a loyal and devoted wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend, Christina. Your beauty is missed and much needed in our world.