Just before her 19th birthday Hannah Azman found herself in the emergency room after collapsing at the top of the stairs of her grandparents’ home.
She had been complaining of leg pain and worsening shortness of breath for several weeks. She had been to visit a general physician who told her it was probably due to being out of shape. Although she felt that it was more than being out of shape, she tried to carry on with her daily activities until the day she collapsed.
Her grandparents brought her to the Memorial Hospital Belleville emergency department. Right away the medical staff felt they had a good idea what was causing her now severe symptoms. They placed her on morphine for the extreme leg pain she was having—she could not tolerate the pain it was so severe, and she was having trouble breathing.
Her leg was swollen, red, and engorged. A CT scan revealed massive blood clots had formed in her lungs. Soon she was taken to a cardiovascular area for testing. Scans and various tests were performed on her heart and lungs. The test results showed she had a large blood clot in her leg and one in each of her lungs that were causing her heart to not function properly.
Hannah then met with Dr. Patrick Neville, a vascular surgeon with Memorial Medical Group (MMG). After his evaluation, he felt that through a new catheter-based procedure, he could help relieve her symptoms and in doing so restore her heart function to normal. Dr. Neville informed her that it was critical since her heart was already enlarged and showing signs of failure due to blood clots in the lungs and her body was not getting the appropriate amount of oxygen.
She agreed and was then taken to a room to prepare for surgery. Although she only waited about 30 minutes, she said it felt like a day. Hannah was very anxious and nervous, because it seemed to be a life-threatening situation.
Dr. Neville and the staff were very reassuring with her. Dr. Neville asked her what type of music she liked, because she would be awake during the surgery. The procedure, called catheter-directed thrombolysis, involved going through a large vein in the leg then into her heart and lungs to place medicine in the arteries of her lungs to dissolve the clots. Within 10 hours hersymptoms were significantly improved, and follow-up testing showed her heart function had returned to normal.
Dr. Richard Coats, also an MMG vascular surgeon, performed an additional surgery to remove the large blood clots that filled the veins of her leg. She spent several days in the ICU.
Sharing Her Story
When asked what caused the blood clots, Hannah said she and her current physician are speculating the birth control pill she was taking at the time. On the medication warning it states, “May form blood clots in legs and lungs.” Her takeaway for other young women is to read the warning labels on medications and be aware of symptoms they may be experiencing.
If she could, Hannah would like to repay the medical staff for what she feels was lifesaving care. She feels fortunate to be able to do everyday things like go to college and attend concerts. She no longer feels the pain in the leg and has no long-term breathing problems. Hannah is attending Southwestern Illinois College, where she’s studying English and cinematography.
Hannah wanted to share her story to let others know about the compassionate care she received while at Memorial Hospital Belleville. Dr. Neville, Dr. Coats, and the entire staff were all kind and reassuring to her. They also made her feel at ease during a very frightening time. She said it truly touched her life to know that people could be that nice and helpful.