A Shocking Lesson: Leg Pain is First Warning of Life-Threatening Illness

For 39-year-old Jill Stautberg, annoying pain in her leg was a warning sign prior to the formation of life-threatening blood clots in her lungs. When she suddenly experienced severe shortness of breath and couldn’t stand up, she knew she was in trouble and dialed 911. She thought she could be having a heart attack.

Green Township paramedics arrived quickly and raced her to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, where she was quickly diagnosed with pulmonary embolism and rushed to treatment that saved not just her life, but her quality of life.

Blood clots that had originally formed in her leg, had broken free and lodged in Jill’s lungs. As a result, she couldn’t breathe. Even worse, the blood clots were likely to cause permanent damage to her heart – something she would have to live with for the rest of her life if they weren’t dissolved quickly. Her heart was racing at 180 beats per minute – two to three times a normal heart rate. It couldn’t keep that up for long. She was going into heart failure, and her liver and kidneys were failing.

Minimally Invasive Treatment and Surgeon’s Skill Saves Jill’s life

Brian Kuhn MD, a vascular surgeon with the TriHealth Heart Institute, performed a rare procedure using technology that is not available in most other area hospitals. He threaded catheters from the tops of her thighs, through her heart and into her lungs to deliver medicine directly to the clots to dissolve them. The following hours were harrowing for her family, and they were not sure she would make it. But the treatment worked, and by the next day she was out of danger. A month later she was back to work as an elementary school teacher at Miami Heights Elementary School, surrounded by her beloved students.

Had Jill been taken to another area hospital, the clot-dissolving drug would have been delivered through her veins in a much larger dose, working more slowly and with a higher risk of bleeding complications. She was grateful to have been in the right place to receive this life-saving treatment.

“Everyone who took care of me was fantastic,” says Jill. “I didn’t realize how sick I was until the day after. All the doctors said I was lucky to be alive.”

Jill Tells Family, “Get tested”

Jill later learned that she has a clotting disorder that she was unaware of. It is genetic, but no other family members have had any clotting problems. “My mom was tested, and she has the disorder too. I have three brothers and they are all fine, but I am making sure they get tested. My Dad passed away so they can’t test him, obviously. I told my family, ‘I’ll take the hit for everyone, but you all need to get checked out,’ because I don’t want anything to happen to them or their kids.”

Tags: Heart

Last Updated: February 20, 2015