A Survivor Speaks: You’re Stronger than You Think You Are by Sidney Penner

The day I suffered from my P.E (November 15,2012) was a day I never thought I’d get through. The night before my P.E, I was walking from my college class to my car when I realized I was getting short of breath. That was not normal for me at the time because I was exercising every day and always out running and walking.  The next day I woke up and had terrible side pain. I thought maybe I had pulled something while exercising. As the day went on, the pain progressed more severely.

By the time my mom got home I was in my bed and couldn’t sit and couldn’t lay flat and then I remember a huge rush of pain. I went to the living room in tears, and that’s when my mom told me to get my coat on because we’re going to the E.R. I had never been to the E.R and had never even been to the doctor that much since I was always a healthy girl. After tons of blood work and a chest x-ray, the doctor came back into the room and said they saw something but wanted a better look. They took me in for a CAT scan and then came running back into my room saying, “this girl has an Acute Pulmonary Embolism in her lungs and we need to admit her now!” I remember the doctor telling my mom that if I hadn’t of came in that night, I wouldn’t have been alive. That was very scary to hear when I was only 20 years old. I was scared, because even daily tasks I wasn’t capable of doing. My mom had to help feed me, had to help me with showering, and had to help me get dressed. The pain was so bad I couldn’t do anything for myself.

If I could tell anyone about what happened I would say: I was a healthy and active 20 year old girl who never smoked, never drank, never had sex, had never been on birth control, never had injuries, never took long trips and never had family history of such an illness. This is something that can happen to skinny or big people; old or young people. I feel like there needs to be a lot more awareness for such an illness; it is the 3rd leading cause of death in America.

The one image I can clearly capture from my experience, it was when they sent me to get admitted and they were hooking up IVs and EKG’s and oxygen to me. I remember all the doctors and nurses working and then I remember my mom sitting by me; and I remember yelling at the nurses that I would rather die, just kill me. Then one nurse, who tried to make light of the situation, said “Oh sweetie we have a whole other level for patients who are thinking that way!” He was super funny and made me feel a little better.

Looking back, I think my main emotion was fear that I was going to die. I remembered always waking up to the intercoms of the hospital saying “code blue” and I was thought “Oh my God, is that me? Am I alive? Am I breathing?” It was a scary moment for both me and my family.

The biggest challenge I have overcome with since my P.E. is the fear of doctors, hospitals and needles. I was terrified of all three before my P.E. Every time I’d get sick I’d wait it out. I wouldn’t dare step near a doctor’s office. But since my P.E, everything has changed. I realized that the doctors and nurses are there to help me and keep me calm during such a difficult time. I overcame that fear and this experience has made me fall in love with the healthcare field. Now, I am trying to get into nursing school and become a nurse. I’m not scared of needles anymore, and I’m definitely not scared of doctors.  I was very lucky to be blessed with such an awesome medical team, my doctor and nurses who have helped me so much during this scary time.  I will forever be blessed this has happened to me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Because of this I now have my dream career and I’m stronger than ever.

Reading other survivors stories make me feel like I’m not alone with such a scary illness. It also makes me wonder why so many people have this life threatening illness and still no awareness is made. 

I would say to another survivor, to NEVER give up. It looks like a long road right now, but you will get better and back to normal! I was on blood thinners for five months. I was getting my INR checked all the time, and I was always tired and weak. But now, I’m off the blood thinners, I’m getting active again and I’m feeling more like me as time goes by. It’s not impossible and if I was able to make it through, then we all can! Awareness is key.

Connect with Sidney in the comments below or through theese links:
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Thank you, Sidney, for sharing your story and message of hope with BCRN!


  1. Brittany says

    I enjoyed reading your story. I just had a PE in May and birth control is believed to be the cause. I had chest/collar bone pain and ibuprofen helped so I thought I pulled something since the ibuprofen helped. It started Wednesday and be Sunday I was in excruciating pain. I called my mom (she is a nurse but states away) and my husband also agreed it was by far time to take me in. After a night in the hospital they finally found the clot. I was so shocked and so was my mom and best friend who is a er nurse. I’m recovering but am on blood thinners for at least 6 months (xarelto) and no hormones for the rest of my life.

    • Hi Brittany. Thank you for sharing your story! WOW! I am so glad you are here to talk about it. Your story is important to note because it sounds like your clot was not in the typical place – like the leg. Thank you again for sharing and wishing you the best during your recovery.

  2. I read your story after reading your post on the mo trial I can say I have had the same fear from PTsd they couldn’t figu out my chest pains for 6 months in 05 turns out it stemmed from being at the terrorist attacks after a year of being afraid to sleep in a bed because I might not wake up they found they put me on a Ned I was allergic to the only thing is I been in the health care field long before and still don’t like doctors or hospitals cute nurses are a plus though lol

    • Thank you for reading, Tim! I am so sorry to hear about the struggles you are facing and thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  3. I love this story. I’m 27 years old and have had a few health issues. I have ignored them for the most part for years because in my head a 27 year old fit looking person that eat right does not get sick. By the way I’m in the field of health care, so saying that is contradictory. I take my health seriously Now. Way too many of us young people are getting sick and not listening to our bodies. Therefor your story is will written and I will pass it on to others

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