In the back of her mind, Buda resident and Hays CISD Board Trustee Holly Raymond views Aug. 29, 2013 as a distant memory that seemed almost dream-like.
An 18-inch scar on her chest, however, pulls Raymond back to the reality that death, in fact, had once set foot on her doorstep.
Amid the fear, pain and recovery, Raymond views the scar as a daily reminder of how much she has overcome since then.
For Raymond, it’s the knowledge that she survived a bilateral pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lungs, and lived to tell the tale.
“I have that daily reminder of how far I’ve come and how much I overcame,” Raymond said. “It’s a good centering point.”
Raymond said her problems began as she was trying to leave her day job at Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Austin.
On that day, Raymond said she felt a pain in her leg as she was getting up to leave work. When she tried walking out to her car, Raymond said she began to feel short of breath.
When she sat down, however, Raymond said the pain and the breathing struggles went away.
“I just thought I needed more exercise,” Raymond said.
From there, Raymond drove back to Buda, picked up her children from school and made dinner for the evening. She also was preparing for a scheduled school board meeting that was taking place that night.
But all the while, Raymond continued feeling short of breath. Every movement she made exacerbate her problem.
It came to the point where she laid down for a short time prior to the meeting to try to recover.
But her breathing problems got progressively worse. It came to a head when she arrived at Hays High for the board meeting and was forced to park far from the Career and Technology Education (CTE) building.
“I had to stop a few times heading toward the building because I felt like I was going to pass out,” Raymond said. “When I stopped, my breath came back and I was fine.”
Eventually Raymond made her way into the air-conditioned building and sat on the dais as the meeting was called. But when the meeting was called into executive session, Raymond’s problems worsened to the point that help had to be called in.
Mark Winter, Hays High head athletic trainer, was working a junior varsity football game when he was radioed to help.
Winter checked Raymond’s vital signs and discovered her heart rate was at 122 beats per minute. Her blood pressure was also “high,” Raymond said.
While Raymond’s vital signs calmed after the closed session, Raymond continued to exhibit breathing issues.
“He said, ‘You are done. We are going to the ER right now,’” Raymond said.
Raymond was driven to Seton Hays in Kyle, where within ten minutes, she was diagnosed with a blood clot. It was discovered she had a blood disorder where her blood tends to clot on its own; it required her to take blood thinners.
For the next three days, Raymond was in the ICU at Seton Hays. Raymond said the clot was so big, that it went into both of her lungs.
The clot eventually parked itself in her left lung and stayed there. Doctors tried to dissolve the clot with medications, but to no avail.
Surgery was eventually called for, and for the next nine months, Raymond waited for a surgery that she hoped would save her life.
But she and her family also knew the risks as well.
The surgery involves doctors opening a patient’s chest and physically removing the clot from the lungs. Raymond said one out of 20 people die from that particular surgery.
An additional complication was the limited number of hospitals that perform such procedures. Raymond was forced to travel to San Diego, California to have her surgery.
But the most pressing fear Raymond had was for her husband, whose mother passed away from cancer at a young age.
“My biggest fear in all of it was that he would have to lose someone like that again, that he would have to raise our kids by himself,” Raymond said, tearfully.
On May 16, 2014, Raymond successfully went through surgery to remove a clot from her lungs. After several weeks of recovery from her surgery, Raymond went home.
Her drive to see her children pushed Raymond to have the second fastest recovery from the operation.
“All I wanted to do was get home to my kids,” Raymond said. “When I had the surgery, I wanted to get done and recover fast.”
Time has healed most of the wounds Raymond suffered, though she did suffer some permanent damage to her lungs that cannot be fixed.
Raymond feels she is fortunate to have a new lease on life.
She credits the work of the community, including Winter, with saving her life.
“If I would have gone back to that meeting, the clots could have released and I would have been done,” Raymond said. “Him being able to come in and press the immediacy of how important it was got me to the hospital.”