I had no idea what thrombosis was until I met Ken. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure how I first connected with him but… that’s insignificant now. Today, Gary and I consider Ken and his daughters, Victoria, and Cheryl good friends after meeting them in Lucca.
Connecting at Vinarkia, we spent a few hours finding out more about this wonderful family from Portsmouth, UK. We enjoyed every moment. We knew Ken lost his beautiful wife, Giuseppina ‘Gio’ but not the entire story.
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Then Ken pulled out his book, Tell Me Your Sweet Lies that he and Gio wrote together and handed it to me as a gift. He continued with how he had to fulfill his promise to his wife to finish it without her. You know me – I started crying. This moment touched me greatly. Ken wanted to share this treasure with me – with us – and I was overwhelmed with emotion.
But why am I sharing this special meeting with you? It’s important information to be aware of when traveling. I knew people wore compression stockings on airplanes, but really didn’t comprehend why. Now I know – and you should too.
What is Thrombosis?
Thrombosis is the process of a blood clot, also known as a thrombus, forming in a blood vessel. Symptoms include pain and swelling in one leg, chest pain, or numbness on one side of the body. This clot can block or obstruct blood flow in the affected area, as well as cause serious complications if the clot moves to a crucial part of the circulatory system, such as the lungs or the brain.
I read it’s normal for the body to produce clotting factors like platelets when a blood vessel is injured, to prevent an excessive loss of blood from the body. We experience this daily when we cut ourselves with a knife in the kitchen. But if this effect is overproductive it can obstruct the flow of blood and form an embolus that moves around the blood stream.
Prevention of Thrombosis
It’s important that movements are made regularly, particularly if susceptible individuals are likely to be sedentary for long periods of time, such as in bed or on an airplane. Compression stockings, which support the veins to inhibit the formation of blood clots are beneficial.
Ken shares his story…
A road trip to France instead of our annual flight to Italy seemed a great idea for our late summer holiday, especially as we had a new comfortable car to travel in, taking our time and avoiding the hustle of busy airports. This year we needed somewhere quiet so that could finish editing a novel we had been writing together.
The ferry transported us and we took a leisurely drive through Brittany to the charming coastal town of Paimpol.
The editing went well, and we finished it off in just two days. On Wednesday evening we went out for a celebratory meal, oysters to start followed by a beautiful steak, feeling proud of ourselves for completing a labour of love together. We had a lovely evening.
The following morning, we had planned to visit St. Malo, meeting up with my sister and brother-in-law for some site seeing but that changed abruptly when I found Gio on the floor of the bathroom, unconscious. She came around after a few moments and our initial reaction, once she was able to sit up again, was that she had eaten a bad oyster. After all, that seemed a likely explanation given that oysters have a certain reputation and anyway, when I made her a cup of tea, she was unable to keep that down so surely the shellfish was to blame.
This frightening change in her condition clearly meant I needed to call for urgent medical help. She slept most of the day but by late afternoon things took a terrifying turn for the worst. Attempting to get out of bed to visit the bathroom, Gio collapsed again, but this time in a much more serious way. Her eyes rolled back in their sockets and she began to foam at the mouth.
Ken’s story continues…
By now Gio had managed to come around again, albeit in a very distressed state, and we were instructed to sit her up to try to help her breathe better. She was struggling desperately for air at this point. She was also complaining of pains in her legs, but as Gio recently had a minor leg injury sustained exercising we thought that not important.
The paramedics arrived within minutes but Gio was really struggling for breath now. As soon as an oxygen mask was applied to her face, she became unconscious again.
At this point, her heart stopped. It stopped twice during the two hours that the paramedics and a doctor worked hard to save her, get air into her lungs, and keep her heart beating. I watched helplessly as they pounded on her chest, giving CPR.
What was happening, how had our holiday to France come to this? It was a nightmare and it was happening right before my eyes. How could a bad oyster be responsible for this?
Once stabilized Gio was transported to the nearest major hospital and intensive care. After what seemed like an eternity the doctor eventually came to inform me that Gio had suffered a DVT which had caused a pulmonary embolism in her lungs, her heart had also stopped for a third time. The shocking thing I was told next was that due to the seriousness of her condition, Gio was not expected to last the night. Making that phone call to my daughters back in England was the hardest thing I have ever been called to do.
Conclusion of the story…
But Gio rallied and due to the best efforts of the French medical staff she stabilized with different anti-coagulants pumped into her system. For five days she was in an induced coma, only alleviating slightly when our daughters arrived from the UK. She was a tough woman and we thought that she now had a fighting chance.
However, that was not to be. Just after 9:00 am on Tuesday 10th September 2019, the day which would have been our 42nd wedding anniversary, her poor heart gave out for the final time, and she passed away in France aged just 62.
How could it be that an apparently healthy woman, one who looked after herself and certainly didn’t look her age, could succumb to this dreadful condition?
Venous thromboembolism displays a number of confusing symptoms which can be easily misread. Long car journeys can induce problems just as bad as air travel can and maybe the minor injury Gio sustained to her hip a couple of months earlier had been a contributing factor? I guess I will never know, but coupled with her apparent fainting, I will always wonder what things I could or should have done at the time to detect things earlier. I guess I will have to live with that regret.
The book we were writing is now available to purchase on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats. All proceeds from Tell Me Your Sweet Lies, a romantic thriller will be donated to Thrombosis UK in memory of Gio.
Tell Me Your Sweet Lies by Ken and Gio Gregory is available on Amazon.
I hope next time you travel, you might recall the Gregory family’s story and consider moving around the airplane cabin. Or perhaps invest in a pair of compression socks. I dislike walking around a plane and I personally suffer from restless leg syndrome when being sedentary for any length of time. We’ll be purchasing socks for our next visit back to the States.
For more information about thrombosis
I truly want to thank Ken and his lovely daughters for allowing us to share their story. Ken just emailed me and reminded me how we met…
I’m not sure if I’m a believer in fate or whatever, but I found your first book by chance, subscribed to your blog and then had the pleasure of meeting you guys. You are truly a wonderful couple, and we are so pleased now to be able to call you our friends.Ken Gregory