ineteen years ago, Mary Kay Ballasiotes
was eagerly expecting the arrival of her third
child. As a busy mother of two, Mary Kay
wasn’t expecting any surprises during her
pregnancy or delivery.
However, an ultrasound procedure at 29
weeks’ gestation found that her baby’s brain
ventricles were enlarged, which now meant she had a high-
risk pregnancy. Doctors diagnosed her baby with probable
hydrocephalus, a condition when there is an excess of
cerebral spinal fluid accumulation around the brain.
Later, at 35 weeks pregnant, Mary Kay broke her foot
and needed to have surgery. Her doctor decided to induce
labor the following week in hopes of a vaginal birth.
However, it didn’t work and a Caesarean-section (C-section)
delivery was done, with the intention of completing the foot
surgery the day after her C-section.
Unfortunately, the pain from the C-section was too
intense and her foot surgery was delayed. Since Mary Kay’s
broken foot prevented her from walking, she was given
heparin (a blood thinner) to help prevent clots while she
awaited her foot surgery.
Two days after the C-section, while still in the
hospital, Mary Kay began to feel severe chest pain,
making it painful to breathe.
She reported it to the doctor
on call, but they told her not to
worry as she was on heparin.
With her foot surgery finally
rescheduled, she stopped
taking heparin the day before
the surgery, which is standard
protocol. The foot surgery was
successful, and Mary Kay was
scheduled to go home with her
newborn baby the next day.
However, something was wrong. Mary Kay felt a pain in
the calf of her leg that did not have the surgery.
“It felt like a muscle strain with a ‘marble sized’ lump,”
Mary Kay recalls. She immediately alerted her medical team
and an ultrasound was done on her leg.
The bad news was that Mary Kay had a deep vein
thrombosis (DVT). She reminded her doctors of the chest
pain she had experienced between her surgeries. Upon
testing, her doctors discovered that she also had a pulmonary
embolism (PE). Unbeknownst to Mary Kay or her doctors,
she had developed blood clots in between her two surgeries,
which could have had potentially devastating results.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION, COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY ON THROMBOSIS AND HAEMOSTASIS