Pulmonary Embolism & Advanced Directives

A friend of mine died this past week, suddenly, of a pulmonary embolism. After she died, I learned that a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot, typically from the legs, blocks one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. Death is sudden. Be aware of potential causes: you should be cautious after surgery, if you have cancer, after flying on a plane, and if you have been immobilized for some time — when you are most likely to develop blood clots. On planes it is common to have swelling in both ankles, but you should be on guard if one of your ankles, or feet, has more swelling than the other. Call a doctor immediately! And do those plane exercises, and move your legs as much as you can during the flight.

I wasn’t aware of any of this and felt it should be passed on. It turns out that many people I know have friends and family members who have died from pulmonary embolism. Here is more information about it from The Mayo Clinic.

And while we’re talking about the end of life, please read Shoshana Berger’s essay How to Die in 5 Easy Steps — and make sure you have an advanced directive written to help people who love you make decisions about your care should you become incapacitated.

2 thoughts on “Pulmonary Embolism & Advanced Directives

  1. Yes, a very sad reminder. Thanks for sharing. Some of my frequent flyers and long haul folks swear by compression socks for this very same reason and movement is critical.

  2. I’m really sorry for your loss. :(

    I’ve had a few instances of DVTs (clots) and PEs when I was in my 20s, and luckily survived. One of the things to note is that some people are genetically pre-disposed to get clots and have PEs. Anyone who has a family history of rheumatological diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc) might consider getting checked out.

    I’ve been told by doctors that smoking is a significant contributor to risk of DVTs in those who are susceptible, especially for men for some reason.

    Also, compression socks are (literally) life savers.

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