Serena Williams shared the gruesome details of her near-death experience in an Elle essay published on Tuesday.
Shortly after the tennis superstar gave birth to daughter Olympia via caesarean section in 2017, Williams wrote, she knew something was wrong – she started coughing so hard she “couldn’t breathe. “. The nurses warned her to stop as it might burst her stitches, but she couldn’t help it.
“I was coughing because I just couldn’t get enough air,” Williams said. “I grabbed a towel, rolled it up and put it over my incision. Sure enough, I was hacking so hard that my stitches burst. I had my first surgery after the caesarean to get myself sew it up.
Little did Williams realize that this would be the first of his many surgeries at the hospital.
“I wasn’t coughing for nothing; I was coughing because I had an embolism, a clot in one of my arteries. She added that her medical records showed that her doctors had also discovered a hematoma – an accumulation of blood outside the blood vessels.
Still, medical workers wouldn’t have caught these conditions if Williams hadn’t had prior knowledge of the blood clot symptoms (she had experienced them before) as well as the willingness to fight back so they took her concerns seriously.
But they didn’t at first.
Williams notes in her essay that after being stitched up, she woke up and “still felt like she was dying”.
She mustered the strength to get out of bed and find help. But when she found a nurse and suggested she get a CT scan and take blood thinners, the nurse ignored her, she said.
“I told him, ‘I need to have a CT scan of my lungs bilaterally, and then I need to be on a heparin drip.’ She said, “I think all those drugs make you talk like crazy,” the tennis star recalled.
Williams persisted and after several attempts to get the nurse to listen, she said, they finally called the doctor.
“I fought hard and ended up getting the CT scan. I’m so grateful to him. Lo and behold, I had a blood clot in my lungs, and they had to insert a filter into my veins to break up the clot before it reaches my heart,” she wrote.
The experience had a huge impact on Williams. In 2018, when she first spoke about his pulmonary embolism with the BBCshe pointed out how lucky she was.
“I had a wonderful, wonderful doctor. Unfortunately, a lot of African Americans and black people don’t have the same experience as me,” she told the BBC. She added:
“Because of what I’ve been through, it would be really hard if I didn’t have the health care that I have ― and imagine all the other women going through this without the same health care, without the same response. “, it’s upsetting. I think there’s a lot of bias, absolutely, that’s definitely going on. And that needs to be addressed.”
Read Williams’ full essay in Elle.