In 2017, tennis phenom Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter, Olympia, with her husband Alexis Ohanian at her side. Serena has been open about the serious medical difficulties that she faced after childbirth, which forced her to have four surgeries within a week. She suffered numerous life-threatening blood clots that did not receive immediate treatment, but she has now revealed that she had to advocate for herself after a nurse dismissed her concerns. In a new essay for Elle Serena describes how she had to take her life into her own hands which brings attention to the racial bias that exists in medicine.
This sentiment is echoed in a 2021 report from UCLA which states that “Black women die from pregnancy-related complications at more than three times the rate of white women, regardless of income or education level.”
What Happened During the Birth of Serena Williams Baby?
After waking up from a successful cesarian section delivery of her daughter Serena knew something was wrong. She was immediately aware that her legs were numb and began experiencing excruciating pain. After passing out a couple of times, Serena knew exactly what was wrong and she tried to tell the nurses who helped her during the C-section delivery.
Serena Williams tried to warn her nurses that she would need a drug called Heparin. This is typically used to help blood clots as it thins the blood. Serena was not unfamiliar with blood clots, because her body was prone to them, and in 2010 she actually had one in her lungs (which is called a pulmonary embolism) which nearly killed her. This was scary enough that she developed a heightened awareness of the symptoms that warn you of blood clots.
“So much of what happened after that is still a blur,” Serena explained. “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.”
She asked the nurse for a heparin drip, but they were not willing to oblige. One of them reportedly said, ‘Well, we don’t really know if that’s what you need to be on right now.’”
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Serena Williams Had a Multitude of Surgeries
Serena’s symptoms got worse, and she started coughing frantically. If any of you are familiar with blood clots, you will know that coughing is one of the symptoms. Her cough got so bad that her stitched closing the C-section she’d just had ripped, and she started bleeding. This required another surgery to close up again. This was the first surgery after a few that ultimately saved Serena’s life.
According to Serena, when she woke up after the re-stitching surgery, she felt extremely faint. Her parents were in the room, but she could not hear them over the fearful chatter in her head. Serena said, “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,’”