Exeter Mayor Cassandra Coleman’s near-death experience last year — caused by deep vein thrombosis — has led her friend, state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, to use her state office to raise awareness of the serious but preventable medical condition.
Mundy, D-Kingston, introduced a resolution in the House designating March as “Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania. The House, in a 196-0 vote, adopted the resolution Wednesday as Coleman and her mother watched.
Coleman, 25, who underwent two knee surgeries in December 2011, developed the ailment a few months later.
She was re-admitted to Wilkes-Barre General and then transferred to University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, where doctors prepared her parents for the worst by telling them on three occasions she might not make it through the night.
“Luckily for Cassandra and for all of us who love her, she was successfully treated,” Mundy said. “I hope by telling her story, we can raise awareness and help prevent DVT from needlessly claiming lives.”
Coleman, who suffered knee ailments in high school from cheerleading, underwent three surgeries in high school and lived virtually pain free until walking down her stairs in November 2011. Her knees gave out and she tumbled. A few weeks later she was under the knife.
She was back in her Exeter home for the new year but was dealing with lingering pain. She woke up the morning of March 13, 2012 and couldn’t breath, was drenched in sweat and could barely walk.
She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors told her she had blood clots and admitted her to the intensive care unit. Blood thinners weren’t working and the clots weren’t dissipating.
She eventually was transferred to the hospital in Philadelphia where doctors determined she had deep vein clots, likely as a result from the December knee surgery. The clots were in her lungs; 100 percent of one artery was blocked and 80 percent of another was clogged. She spent 32 days in the hospital before being sent home. She cast her vote in the primary election days later in a wheelchair.
She has recovered but will take medication for the rest of her life.
“I feel very blessed to be here,” Coleman said. And to make sure others don’t have to go through what she has, she’s thrilled that Mundy took it upon herself to help bring attention to the ailment.
Dr. David R. Mariner, director of vascular and endovascular surgery at Geisinger Wyoming Valley in Plains Township, said he sees 50 to 100 cases annually. Shining the spotlight on what he called “a very prevalent thing” is a positive, he said, because the condition is a “silent, deadly killer that many times is preventable.”
Early detection is a key, said Mariner, noting that about 15 percent of those diagnosed with DVT in the country annually will die from it.