Last summer Elyse Mundelein, 26, of Oviedo, was having the time of her life. Hanging out with friends, teaching a fitness class and taking a vacation to the Bahamas filled her days. By fall, however, everything had changed dramatically.
In early September, Elys started feeling constant pain in her left side. When her primary care doctor couldn't find anything wrong, she and her mother, Tina, went to several specialists, one of whom determined she had pneumonia. Elyse began taking antibiotics, but within a few days she could only walk about 10 feet on her own. By September 16, the situation wasn't any brighter. Now Elyse was short of breath. Her mom decided to call 911.
You have that inner feeling something isn't right, says Tina. You have to go with that.
Finding a Diagnosis
EMS took Elyse to the emergency department of AdventHealth Orlando, where Daniel Haim, MD, pulmonary disease/critical care medicine specialist, diagnosed her with pulmonary embolisms, which can be fatal. The condition results from blood clots that form in the deep veins of the body (most often the legs) and then break off and travel to the lungs. The embolisms were causing severe blockages in Elyse's pulmonary arteries.
Until then, no one had detected blood clots or blockages in her lungs.
Dr. Haim said Elyse would need to stay in the hospital for several days. Rohit Bhatheja, MD, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the cardiac care unit at AdventHealth Orlando, explained their options. Because Elyse was so sick, an ultrasound-accelerated,whether-directed thrombolytic therapy under clinical trials at the time was offered as a potential solution.
A Positive Outcome
During the procedure, Dr. Bhatheja guided a catheter(a long, thin tube) through Elyse's blood vessels to her pulmonary arteries, where he delivered medication to break up and dissolve the clots. After two hours of surgery, Dr. Bhatheja came and told Elyse's family that it had gone well.
Elyse has a special memory of what happened next: When my mom and dad came into my room in ICU, there was a double rainbow over the lake outside my window, she says. I think that was a sign from God that everything was going to be OK.
Since Elyse's scare, she has worked tirelessly with Dr. Bhatheja and the AdventHealth Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute to promote awareness of pulmonary embolisms and available treatments. She has also resumed her roles as a spokesperson for the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida and an International Best Buddies Ambassador, and was recently appointed to its Board of Directors.