Fans of Emily Mitchell were shocked to learn weeks ago that pregnant Instagram influencer and her unborn son died three days before Christmas after she became unresponsive at breakfast. Now, her family has shared what happened.
Mitchell, 36, who was a mother of four, suffered a pulmonary embolism, or a blockage in the pulmonary artery of the lungs, her family wrote in a letter on a GoFundMe page set up for them.
"A few days ago we learned from the state Medical Examiners Office that the official cause of death was a pulmonary embolism," the letter reads. "Although it is challenging to wrap our heads around how this could have happened, we know all first responders and medical personnel did everything they could to help, and therefore we are certain that it was simply her time; the Lord was calling her home."
The family also vowed to "continue our commitment to homeschool in the same spirit and vision that Emily was so passionate about, and we are looking forward to learning how best to continue sharing what the kids and I are up to on Instagram."
Mitchell shared the news of her fifth pregnancy on Instagram in early November. "YOU GUYS. NUMBER FIVE. 🥳 Who guessed the secret?!!! 🤣🥳🥳 you've probably noticed I've been a little MIA..welp this be the reason lol 😂🤢😴🥳Number FIVE comin in hot and we are here 👏🏻 for 👏🏻 it 👏🏻," she wrote in the caption.
Mitchell's final post was on Dec. 8, where she wrote about needing to have fifth C-section with this baby.
Mitchell's death raises a lot of questions, including how a young, otherwise healthy woman could suddenly die this way. Here's what you need to know.
What is a pulmonary embolism, exactly?
A pulmonary embolism (also referred to as a PE) is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. It starts with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). When that clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism.
PE is a serious condition. It can cause permanent damage to the lungs, low oxygen levels in your blood, and damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen. A pulmonary embolism can also be life-threatening, Medline Plus says, especially if the clot is large or if there are several clots.
What causes a pulmonary embolism?
While anyone can develop a PE, there are certain factors that raise your risk. Per Medline Plus, those include:
- Having surgery
- Certain medical conditions, including:
- Heart diseases
- Lung diseases
- A broken hip or leg bone or other trauma
Women are at a higher risk of developing a DVT and PE during the first six weeks after giving birth, but the risk is also higher than usual during pregnancy, the NHLBI says. This could be due to hormones or other factors in the blood or changes in the way blood flows through your veins.
What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism?
Unfortunately, MedlinePlus says that half of people who have a PE have no symptoms. Others may experience these signs, per NHLBI:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain with deep breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Coughing up blood
Symptoms of a DVT (which, again, happens before a PE) can include the following around the area where the clot forms:
- Pain or tenderness
- Increased warmth, cramps, or aching in the area
- Red or discolored skin
How is a pulmonary embolism treated?
A pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency and needs to be treated right away. The main goal of treatment is to break up the clot and to keep other clots from forming. That can include a mix of certain medications and procedures.
For medicines, doctors will often use anticoagulants (aka blood thinners) to keep clots from getting larger and stop new clots from forming and thrombolytic, which are medicines used to dissolve blood clots. In some cases, doctors may do what's called a catheter-assisted thrombus removal to insert a tool in a tube to directly break up the clot or to deliver medicine through the tube, Medline Plus explains. They may also insert a vena cava filter into a large vein in the body called the vena cava. The filter will then catch blood clots before they travel to the lungs, helping to prevent a future PE.
As of now, the GoFundMe for Mitchell's family has raised more than $173,000.
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