Durham, North Carolina, USA
What started out as an ordinary day for the Williams family soon became a nightmare.
Anthony Williams recalls the last time he saw his college-aged daughter Alex alive. “She was sitting on the sofa like most 20-year-olds would do, scrolling through her smartphone.”
The next morning, Alex met a repair man outside their home and suddenly fainted. Her family called an ambulance and they confirmed she still had a pulse.
However, Alex quickly went into cardiac arrest and passed away soon thereafter. Alex had suffered from multiple blood clots in her lungs, known as pulmonary embolisms (PE).
“For her to just drop dead, right in the drive way—it’s taken a big toll,” Anthony said. “One of the things that hurt us most is that her organs were so damaged that they could not be donated.”
Alex’s death was as just as surprising as it was devastating to her family. A vivacious college student studying hospitality, Alex lived a healthy and active lifestyle playing soccer and eating healthy. Described as “a helping-type person,” Alex was appreciative of the “smallest things” around her.
“My daughter’s blood clot was basically a weapon of mass destruction going off in her body,” Anthony said.
Following Alex’s death, Anthony and his wife searched for clues that may have contributed to Alex’s blood clots. Months prior, Alex complained of a backache and was diagnosed with a respiratory infection, which can share many of the same symptoms of a PE, including cough, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. Alex was also taking hormonal contraceptive pills, which can be a risk factor for blood clots.
Despite their tremendous grief, Alex’s family is honoring her memory by partnering with awareness organizations to share her story and encourage the public to understand the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of blood clots. Alex’s sister has also since be tested and her cousin has been diagnosed with protein S deficiency, which is a known risk factor for possible blood clotting.
“When you’re on medication, make sure you know your family history -- not just your own history,” Anthony explained. “I try to stress that to everyone I see. If you can use her story to help other people, that is what Alex would want,” Anthony said.
Click here to learn more about thrombosis and tips for asking your doctor about risks.