Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Paul Westerman vividly remembers the date when he suffered a massive pulmonary embolism (PE) – April 12, 2011, just 10 days shy of his wedding.
"My doctor told me that I literally collapsed down dead," recalls Paul, who was 44 years old at the time. "I don't remember much else beyond that, save only my fiancé Ellisa saying "Don't leave me, stay with me please!'"
A month before this moment, Paul recounts that he injured his knee playing tennis, a sport he hadn't played in 25 years. Being an ex-cricketer, he missed the competitiveness of the sport and returned to tennis by joining the local tennis clubs. Paul was taken to the hospital, had his knee x-rayed, was given some medication, and sent on his way.
The day before he collapsed he remembers working at the office. His leg ached considerably, and he felt tired. He thought it was all due to the strain of being on crutches and having his leg immobilized.
"The next two weeks were spent in the ICU and were a blur made up of a flurry of scans and blood tests," Paul remembers. Ellisa had to cancel their wedding plans. The day they should have been married was the day Paul was finally released from the hospital.
Paul says a lot has happened in the years since his PE. He finally married Ellisa, but his physical and mental progress has been up and down, as he will be on blood thinners for the rest of his life and must undergo blood tests every two weeks to ensure he is safe from clotting. He credits Ellisa and his family for helping him to persevere.
"I survived but mentally there are times when I get very depressed and stressed just being in social situations," he admits. "The strength to have to focus, listen and understand even friends and family is too much for me sometimes."
Despite some setbacks, Paul says there are four main reasons why he remains positive today and focused on gaining his life back as much as he can: first and foremost is his wife Ellisa; second is his family; awareness of the condition is third and lastly but definitely not least, is supporting and mentoring other thrombosis survivors.
He has taken the last reason to heart, as he was recently appointed to the Board of Thrombosis UK, a thrombosis charity in the United Kingdom. And in 2014, Paul set up his own charity, Charity Oars, a World Thrombosis Day partner organization, to work alongside Lifeblood in raising awareness about blood clots. The non-profit organization has offered Paul a voice and a focus.
He says, "I have never loved doing this sort of work before and now I wouldn't let it go, because, in a small way we are making a difference. We are changing people's understanding of thrombosis and by doing this, we are saving lives."