Christine Ashimwe’s fight with killer clots
3 weeks ago, 17:14
Determined is an understatement when describing Christine Ashimwe Gatsinzi.
She has taken it upon herself to educate the public on the risks and dangers of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis, a condition caused by the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. Most times, it is fatal.
October 11, marked as World Thrombosis Day was also the day that the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis named Ashimwe, 35, the first Thrombosis Ambassador of the Year in recognition of her efforts.
Ashimwe had a close shave with the condition — which is poorly diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality on the continent. She lived to educate others.
It was Ashimwe’s persistence that saved her.
On December 1, 2015, one week after delivering her third child, she woke up out of breathe and in pain. Her husband, a medical doctor, was away for further studies.
“On that fateful day I woke up struggling to breath. I became very alarmed because it felt like I was dying and my concern was that I would leave my children motherless. My newborn was still at the hospital because she was premature. She was hooked to oxygen tubes fighting for her life,” recalls Ashimwe.
Despite it being 3am, she called her husband, who advised her to drive herself to hospital immediately.
She consulted a personal obstetrician and another doctor, but neither could give her a conclusive diagnosis.
It was at the emergency room of the King Faisal Hospital that a junior doctor who was on duty that night happened to mention that that she looked like she had pulmonary embolism. A curious Ashimwe googled the condition.
“I looked up all the signs of pulmonary embolism and realised that was what I was experiencing. I had not mentioned some of the signs to the doctors like the chest pains and the persistent cough, which came on suddenly,” she recalls.
Family members who visited her in hospital had their own conclusions, from effects of the C-section to witchcraft.
After further consultation, the junior doctor informed his senior supervisor of her case and, surprisingly, the senior doctor ruled out pulmonary embolism saying that Ashimwe didn’t exhibit any signs of someone with blood clots.
Ashimwe says the doctor’s words still haunt her, although he later apologised after medical tests confirmed the condition.
“They first did an X-ray that showed that I had pneumonia and I had water in my lungs and I pushed the doctors to do a CT-scan. It confirmed that I had multiple blood clots in both lungs,” she said.
She was then diagnosed with pulmonary embolism in the right lung, which was a result of deep vein thrombosis in her right leg, a condition known together as venous thromboembolism.
“The doctor who had doubted the first diagnosis by the junior doctor then apologised for his misdiagnosis,” Ashimwe says.
She was one of the lucky ones because of her keenness and persistence in seeking the right diagnosis.
Ashimwe ended up being admitted for a ...
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