As a doctor, Janel is trained to recognize when something is wrong with one of her patients. That skill proved useful in 2012 when she passed out three times while climbing the stairs in her house.
Knowing something wasn’t right, she called out to her husband. An ambulance trip to the local ER followed, and an unexpected diagnosis was made. Janel had a pulmonary embolism – a clot that blocks the arteries in the lungs.
She was put on medication to break up that clot and keep more from forming, but over the years they kept coming back. As her doctors struggled to understand what was causing the clots, Janel’s health worsened.
“I slowly became less and less active,” she says. “I used to love going on long walks with my dog but that had to stop. I couldn’t use the stairs at work. I couldn’t grocery shop. My world was getting progressively smaller because I was short of breath and fatigued.”
Receiving a CTEPH Diagnosis
After her fourth pulmonary embolism, Janel was diagnosed with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, or CTEPH for short. This serious condition can cause debilitating breathing problems, heart failure and even death. In Janel’s case, doctors found that CTEPH had already damaged the right side of her heart. For the first time, she began to think she might die.
It was then that someone at another hospital gave her advice that would change her life — Go to Temple, they said.
The Right Team, Close By
Within 2 weeks, Janel had an appointment with the Temple CTEPH team, which she quickly learned is one of the most experienced in the nation. She was also told about a treatment option that only a few hospitals in the country offer – pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE), a procedure that surgically removes the clots from the lungs. Temple has the largest PTE program on the East Coast.
“I went online and realized that there are only a handful of hospitals in the world that offer this surgery,” she says. “I was so grateful that Temple was one of them and that it was right here in my own backyard.”
By now, Janel was on oxygen 24/7 and knew that PTE surgery was her best option. She admits to being afraid, but she had confidence in her Temple medical team.
A Return to a Normal Life
Leading up to surgery, Janel describes her experience at Temple as “amazing from day one.”
“The whole team walked me through everything,” she says. “All my tests were coordinated and efficient, and everyone was so helpful. We had a doctor sit with us for an hour and go through the surgery step by step. How often does a doctor spend an hour with a patient like that!?”