Survivor Spotlight with Maria Buchan


My Survivor Story

In 1996 ,at the age of 23, I was celebrating my 1st wedding anniversary and the news that we were expecting our first child.  Everything was going well with the pregnancy until 36 weeks. At this time, I developed pre-eclampsia and was admitted to hospital for rest. My body was swollen, I had high blood pressure, protein in my urine and the most excruciating pains in my legs so much so I couldn’t lie on them.

At 38 weeks, I went in to labor.  I had complications and had to have a C-section. I had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic and went into shock.  I was on a drip, antibiotics and pain meds. After 5 days, I left hospital with my gorgeous newborn son, but things just were not right. I was breathless, unable to walk very far and still had the pains in my legs. No one listened to my concerns. At my 7 week post-natal exam, I mentioned this to my doctor and she told me not to worry for the fact that I had just had a baby. She assured me things would be fine.
Three days later, I collapsed at home with only my baby boy with me. Luckily, I woke and phoned my mum. She ran over and phoned a doctor on a Sunday afternoon.  After the doctor saw me and examined me he told us that I had to go to hospital immediately.  I wasn’t in a good place.

In the hospital, I was placed in a critical bed near the nurses, I couldn’t even walk the 2 feet to the bed! I was placed on oxygen. I had chest scans, vq scans, more tests, bloods etc. Later, I found out how lucky I really was.  I had numerous blood clots including a sub massive clot in my left lung, and pneumonia.  They had medical students round me listening to my double heartbeat, they said they probably wouldn’t hear one again soon. I was on heparin, painkillers and antibiotics.  I went into shock again, my body was in trouble. Eventually, after 10 days in hospital, I was discharged and left to get on with life at home with only 6 months of warfarin, and no check-ups. What was meant to be the happiest and most wonderful time in any woman’s life was blighted and turned upside down, but that was only the beginning.
In 2003, after the sudden death of my only brother, my mum was rushed to hospital with blood clots in her lungs. She was released within 5 days and on blood thinners for 6 months. Less than a year later the same thing happened again and she was admitted with blood clots again.  The doctors then starting asking questions about our family history. When mum was discharged from hospital and a lifer on blood thinners we checked and found death certificates.  We found out that my maternal grandfather and his mother my great grandmother also had died of pulmonary embolisms! At the ages of 61 & 58.
We were sent for genetic testing in 2004 where it came back positive for antithrombin def III and unfortunately, I have passed this down to my son.
In 2009, I was having breathing problems.  By this time, I was diagnosed with asthma and after seeing my GP I was admitted to hospital with numerous blood clots in both lungs.  I had a stroke also.  Now, I was a lifer on blood thinners.
Since then my breathing and stamina has declined.  I have had various problems and recently had tests to see what’s happening.  Some of the clots in my lungs have never absorbed (pulmonary thromboembolic disease) and I have been left with scar tissue (fibrosis).  I have 2 holes in my heart, a irregular heartbeat and the start or pulmonary hypertension due to the strain on my heart due to the clots.
I have problems that probably in time will get progressively worse but I still get up every morning, swallow a handful of drugs and use inhalers. I live life to the fullest and I enjoy my life. I appreciate everything and everyone in it.  I have people that love me, help me, look out for me and most of all I appreciate being able to breathe. We all have problems.  Some of us must live with the consequences but don’t dwell on them. Life is to short and too precious.

I would like to add that in 1997, I was depressed and in a bad place.  By 2003, I withdrew from life and this continued right up to 2009. With the second blood clot, it gave me the wake up call I needed. Why was I playing around and wasting the best days of my life? I decided instead of wallowing in self pity… I now had another fight, rehab, speech therapy, physio and a whole lot of Staying Alive!

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