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The Story of My Mom, Carol B.
A Life Cut Short by Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Cathy Kincaide
March, 2007

Editor's Note: (from Marie B. Walker) Cathy Kincaide was touched by ClotCare's efforts to promote awareness of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) and wanted to share her story with others via ClotCare in hopes that it might help save a life and prevent others from losing a loved one to deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism as she has.

This is my second attempt at putting into words the story about my mom Carol B. She died suddenly on April 2, 2005 from a pulmonary embolism (PE), secondary to deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The first draft I wrote of her story was very factual and impersonal. So unlike her, so unlike me. Bear with me as I attempt to share with you her story. I do this not only on a personal level to help with my healing in grief but also with the hope that re-telling this experience may help save a life.

Mom had gone in for a routine arthroscopic procedure for her knee (local anaesthetic, 10 minutes, and home within 2 hours). She had the same procedure done a year before, but the sore knee persisted and the surgery was felt to have not been successful. Over the course of that year she showed us the swelling in her knee, complained about the cramping in her calf, and she was concerned about the sudden appearance of spider veins on her leg. As she and Dad had moved to a new community and she was attempting to find a new doctor, her knee was not her priority. She hated to be slowed down by anything. No pain no gain. That was her motto. She had endured much worse pain in her lifetime and thought this too shall pass.

Eventually when she located a family doctor they addressed the concerns about her knee, but her family doctor and the surgeon assured her there was nothing to worry about. Her mission now was to get the knee fixed so she could walk and hike the trails by camping season. Well, this was to never be. Two days after her "minor" surgery she collapsed at home and died.

Were her previous complaints about her knee signs of DVT? We will never know. Had she been having symptoms over the past year? We will never know. Was the onset of occasional "wheezing" in her chest, blood clots in her lung? We will never know. Was the knee swelling and cramping DVT? We will never know. The doctors tell us a clot had formed during the 10-minute procedure and after being home for two days it dislodged and went to her lungs. I think there were some red flags, and if we were more informed we may have acted on them and sought medical attention before the clot went to her lungs. We may have followed our gut feelings that something was not right with the appearance of the spider veins and cramping and swelling before surgery, and we would have known what to look for after her surgery.

Well, the guilt set in. Should we have known something was going on other than postoperative pain? Should we have had her "complaints" investigated more thoroughly before she agreed to surgery? The difficulty was that she had surgery. It hurts; you have a big bandage on your knee. It was very easy to rationalize the pain and discomfort she was feeling as "normal." Never had our family heard of the possibility of blood clots after "minor" surgery, especially with routine scoping of the knee and scraping of the cartilage. We all know someone who has had this done.

What I do know though, is that I will forever educate others that no surgery is minor and to be aware of the symptoms of blood clots pre and post surgery. Have any leg/knee swelling investigated, especially if there is calf pain, cramping and sudden appearance of spider veins on one leg. If you have to have elective surgery, make sure you have proper circulation in your extremities and that appropriate preventative measures are used to prevent blood clots. Follow your gut. Mom kept saying something was not right. Her doctor was very good but was exploring some other health complaints and as yet had not gotten to investigate this one more thoroughly.

This has been a terrible loss for my family. Mom was 68 years young. She was very beautiful and had a young vibrant spirit. People could not believe she had 12 grandchildren. The passage of time is all that really helps with the pain of her loss. Mom was a very positive giving person .She used to say "you have to give of yourself to get out of yourself." I see this opportunity to share Mom's story as a chance to do just that - to help educate others, and help in any way that we can. She would be proud.

We love and miss you Mom.
God bless.

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Friday, June 14, 2024