During the birth of her daughter Olympia, Serena Williams saved her own life.
Opening up in a piece with Elle, the Tennis legend reveals how close she came to death during child birth.
“So much of what happened after that is still a blur. I may have passed out a few times. In my haze, I wondered if I should ask someone about my drip. In 2010, I learned I had blood clots in my lungs—clots that, had they not been caught in time, could have killed me,” Williams writes.
“Ever since then, I’ve lived in fear of them returning.”. It wasn’t a one-off; I’m at high risk for blood clots. I asked a nurse, “When do I start my heparin drip? Shouldn’t I be on that now?”
“The response was, “Well, we don’t really know if that’s what you need to be on right now.” No one was really listening to what I was saying.”
She reveals that she began coughing so hard her C-section stitches had burst.
“When I woke up from that surgery, in the hospital room with my parents and my in-laws, I felt like I was dying. They were trying to talk to me, and all I could think was, ‘I’m dying, I’m dying. Oh my God.’”
Williams proceeded to move into another room and talk to a nurse who subsequently dismissed her concerns.
“I told her: “I need to have a CAT scan of my lungs bilaterally, and then I need to be on my heparin drip.” She said, “I think all this medicine is making you talk crazy”,” she adds. “I said, “No, I’m telling you what I need: I need the scan immediately. And I need it to be done with dye.””
The nurse insisted that she just needed rest, but Williams persisted. Eventually her doctor agree to the CAT scan, and they found a blood clot in her lungs that needed breaking up before it reached her heart.
“A week later, I finally left the hospital with Olympia. In the span of seven days, I had gone through four surgeries back-to-back, including my C-section. My body, my entire being, was just so tired at that point.”
The 40-year-old writes that in the U.S., Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women.
Williams ends her piece: “I didn’t know what kind of mom I’d be, and I still don’t know. Instead, maybe for the first time in my life, I’m just being.”