Friday, November 15, 2013
Gracie Galindo knew the dizzy spells she’d been experiencing for weeks were not normal.
At first, the busy attorney and Mom of two from Azle, TX thought it was just stress and told herself she’d rest more.
"I was too busy taking care of my family to realize something bad was happening," 42-year-old Gracie said.
Then the shoulder pains began. She thought she’d pulled a muscle, but the pain kept getting worse until she began having trouble breathing.
“I kept thinking, I am not having a heart attack,” she said. “Something about the pain just didn’t seem to fit with a heart attack.”
She began to pay more attention to her symptoms and researched them online. When sharp chest pain woke her abruptly in the middle of the night, she knew it was time to do something. She immediately went to the Emergency Room at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Azle for help.
Doctors first administered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to test for a heart attack. When it came back negative, they ran a computed tomography (CT) imaging test to determine what else could be causing her symptoms. What they found surprised them: Gracie was suffering from pulmonary embolism — a highly lethal type of blood clot that travels to the lungs. Doctors confided to Gracie that if she had gone back to sleep, she might not have lived through the night.
“It is important to know the signs of pulmonary embolus,” said Dr. Richard Niles, a hospitalist on the medical staff at Texas Health Azle. “Rapid response is crucial in preventing serious complications because sometimes the symptoms can progress very quickly.”
Symptoms can include chest pain, coughing, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate and/or shortness of breath, clammy skin, dizziness and anxiety, Dr. Niles said. Long periods of inactivity, recent surgery on hips, legs or knees, smoking and extreme obesity are all risk factors for developing a pulmonary embolism.
Now Gracie is working to get back to her normal workout routine and is more watchful of her health and well-being.
“As women, we are always so busy taking care of others that a lot of us ignore our own health issues,” she said. “I was in shock when I received my diagnosis because I never get sick. If I’d waited any longer, it could have been deadly. This was an eye opener for me and I hope my story can inspire others.”