Published on August 09, 2017

Blood clot threatens Shelsey's life

As a healthy 21-year-old, Shelsey Honer didn't think the pain in her hip was life-threatening. When it got worse and spread to her thigh, she thought she might have strained a muscle. But when the pain became much worse and caused her calf to swell and turn purple, she headed to the emergency room.

An ultrasound at Essentia Health-St. Mary' in Detroit Lakes discovered Shelsey had a massive blood clot that extended from her groin to her leg. Because such a clot can be life-threatening, prompt and aggressive treatment was needed. Shelsey was transferred to Essentia Health-Fargo and into the care of Dr. Richard Coursey, a vascular and interventional radiologist.

"I really couldn't process it, that this could be fatal," recalls Shelsey, who lives in New York Mills, Minnesota. "I felt like a little kid again and kept looking at my mom."

Lisa Honer says she wanted to make it all better, but felt helpless. The Honer family turned to Dr. Coursey and the Intensive Care Unit team. "All you can do is pray," Lisa says. "God answered my prayers through other people."

Dr. Coursey began treating Shelsey with a clot-busting drug. Over three days, the drug dissolved the newer clot in her leg but an older clot in her pelvis persisted. The residual clot needed to be removed to prevent Shelsey from developing another one.

Dr. Coursey turned to a new treatment called Angio Vac, which vacuums the residual clot out through a small catheter. The procedure requires only a few small incisions and the clot is filtered out by a device on a heart-lung bypass machine. Clot-free blood is returned to the body.

Shelsey chose the new treatment because Dr. Coursey explained it well and she had confidence in him. "I trusted him," she says. "Dr. Coursey laid out all the options and let me choose what I wanted to do. I suffer from anxiety but he was so relaxed and confident that I felt that it' OK. That everything will be OK."

A hematologist later discovered Shelsey has two genetic blood-clotting disorders.

Shelsey and Lisa praised the care they received from Dr. Coursey and the staff at Essentia Health-Fargo. "They all were a godsend," Lisa says.