Melanie Przybyla remembers the day she passed out and died all because of a pulmonary embolism (PE) or blood clot in the lung. She remembers passing out in front of her house, and thankfully was able to call her mom in time for her to arrive and call an ambulance.
“I couldn’t breathe, and my heart kept trying to beat but couldn’t and the doctor said it was due to a PE,” says Melanie, who is in her late 30s and works as a program assistant for the Army’s substance abuse program in Bavaria, Germany. “They finally managed to get my heart to beat thanks to CPR and blood thinners.”
Melanie remained in a coma for 12 days and experienced multiple organ failures and toxic shock. She says her blood was so thin that she had a bruise on her ribs caused by the weight of her heart.
Melanie says this started about four years ago when she switched her birth control pills. After this, she felt constantly dizzy and had problems with balance and walking. Her heart was also beating very fast. She went to the doctor who told her it was panic attacks and gave her anti-depressants, which did not help much. Fast forward two years later, Melanie began to experience trouble breathing — even bending over to tie her shoes was challenging.
Eventually Melanie did go to the doctor as her difficulty breathing did not dissipate. They drew blood and conducted other tests but found nothing out of the ordinary. And then the next day she died.
Says Melanie, “When the doctors brought me back and I woke up from the coma, I was only able to move my head in one direction and could barely hold my phone with two hands or squeeze a soft ball. I celebrated my 35th birthday in the hospital.”
It’s been almost three years since Melanie’s brush with death and she still lacks feeling in her legs, but has no trouble walking. Her balance is still not back to normal and she recently tested positive for the blood clotting disorder Factor V Leiden. Despite her physical struggles, Melanie tries to help educate others about blood clots through her Facebook group, and will be celebrating her life on World Thrombosis Day while working to spread awareness about the risks, signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly disorder.
“When I heard about World Thrombosis Day, my first thought was it’s about time,” says Melanie. “This day is so needed. People need to know their family’s medical history so they can be aware of any potential problems.”