Jefferson University Hospitals

Local Triathlete Survives Pulmonary Embolism


Maryam Sadaghiani was 27 and an amateur triathlete when she was diagnosed with blood clots in her lung, also known as pulmonary emboli (PE).

For this extremely healthy young woman, the diagnosis came as a shock.  She had none of the common risk factors.

“We often see blood clots develop in patients who are inactive, have restricted mobility, are over 40, suffering from cancer, obesity, congestive heart failure and respiratory distress, have had a recent surgery, smoke or have a family history of venous diseases,” says Geno Merli, MD, co-director of Jefferson’s Vascular Center and Maryam’s physician.

A deep vein thrombus (DVT) is caused by the formation of a blood clot in one of the large veins, usually in the lower limbs, leading to either partially or completely blocked circulation in that vein. The condition may result in complications such as a pulmonary embolism (PE), whereby the clot travels to the lungs and can result in death if not diagnosed and treated effectively.

Sadaghiani had been feeling increasing fatigue following a string of workouts in late summer of 2009 but attributed the minor pain and exhaustion to her rigorous physical training program.  She often rose early in the morning to run, bike or swim before work.

Late one evening in early September, after leaving her work as a therapist for patients with substance abuse problems, she experienced sharp chest pains.  “I wasn’t able to exhale,” recalls Sadaghiani, “and knew something was not right.”  She went straight to the Emergency Room at Jefferson where a chest X-ray and a CT scan identified several large clots on both sides of her lungs.  She was placed on blood thinners, diagnosed with a rare clotting disorder and monitored in the hospital for three days.

“Maryam is one of many patients who experience “silent” symptoms.  Her body gave no indication that she had a DVT or a developing pulmonary embolism, making it extremely dangerous,” says Dr. Merli.  “Common symptoms, when present, can include pain, swelling or tenderness in the affected area or skin that is warm to the touch.

With the assistance of blood thinners, Sadaghiani’s clots dissipated and after extended bed rest and a bout of pneumonia she started on the road to recovery.  She was given the green light to slowly increase her physical activity and regain her strength.

Dr. Merli attributes much of her recovery to her superb physical health.  “Her heart and lungs were in excellent condition, which helped her tremendously in surviving her PE,” says Merli.  

Now 30 and healthy, Maryam ran the 2011 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, plans to hike the Grand Canyon in late April with her dad, and will run her first full marathon in Portland, Oregon in October.

She wants to make others aware of their risk for DVT and PE.  “If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone,” she says.

The Jefferson Vascular Center provides care for the diagnosis, management, treatment and prevention of disorders affecting the peripheral circulatory system including peripheral artery disease (PAD), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), lymphedema, edema, pulmonary embolism (PE), varicose veins with leg pain, aneurysms and thrombotic (clotting) disorders. The center also provides care for vascular wounds, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  The Center has locations in Center City and South Philadelphia (Methodist Hospital).

Media Only Contact:
Lee-Ann Landis
Jefferson University Hospitals
Phone: 215-955-6300