Following high school, she attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, to study business, and then ended up at UC to become a registered dietitian. After completing her dietetic internship at a local community hospital, she came to UC Medical Center in 2014. Since 2015, she has worked as the dietitian in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU).
Outside of work, she continued to make running a part of her everyday life. “Prior to COVID-19, I was a marathon training coach with Beyond Exercise’s ‘BE Run Project,’ where I helped runners complete specific workouts and kept pace for all runs, whether it was a speed workout or long-distance runs,” Erin said.
Erin spent the majority of her childhood watching her mother train and run over 75 marathons. In 2008, she decided to join her mom for a marathon-training season – from there, she was hooked. Erin’s first race was the Columbus Marathon. Since then, she has run in 18 marathons, including the Flying Pig six times, the Columbus Marathon five times, the Indianapolis Monumental three times, the New York City Marathon two times and the Chicago Marathon one time.
“If COVID-19 hadn’t cancelled nearly all of the races so far this year, I would have been training and completing my 20th marathon in Chicago again this fall,” Erin said.
But it wasn’t just the pandemic that brought Erin’s competition to a halt.
In the first few weeks of May 2020, Erin noticed that she was struggling with her normal exercise routine. She was having some difficulty breathing, and was unable to run her usual pace and distances without having to stop frequently to catch her breath.
“I initially thought the humidity or air quality was the issue and didn’t think too much of it,” she explained. “I also thought that maybe I had iron deficiency anemia again, which I had initially in 2016 after running a lot of marathons and half marathons plus chronic blood loss.” A common issue that many female runners experience.
This time around, she was experiencing similar symptoms that she had in 2016, but pushed them aside for the first week of May since it only happened with exercise. After about 10 days without improvement, Erin decided she would take a break from running and instead, use her mother’s spin bike inside.
Still, Erin was experiencing shortness of breath with exercise, so she knew something was off. It was at that point she decided to make an appointment with her primary care physician.
On May 21, 2020, 6:30 a.m., the morning of Erin’s appointment, her mom talked her into taking a run. Not even a quarter-mile in, the fervent marathon runner had to stop two times just to catch her breath.
“I was starting to get frustrated and almost panicky since trying to run was a challenge,” Erin recalled.
She decided to walk 3 miles instead of running her usual 5-6 mile route. Even while walking, she noticed a shortness of breath.
That afternoon, Erin got her blood drawn at her primary care office. After an assessment, her physician considered a few causes for her symptoms: an iron deficiency (low likelihood); COVID-19 diagnosis (low likelihood); or possibly a blood clot (higher likelihood).
Leaning more towards the possibility of a blood clot, Erin’s physician ordered a D-Dimer lab draw on her; a test that is used to help rule out the possibility of a blood clot. While Erin was there, they went ahead and gave her a COVID-19 test to rule that out – which, as suspected, came back negative. Erin went home and waited for the D-Dimer test results.
That night, at 11 p.m., she received a call from her doctor’s office informing her that her D-Dimer lab value was significantly elevated and that she needed to get to the emergency room immediately. There was a high likelihood that Erin had a blood clot in her lungs.
Erin called her parents to take her to the hospital.
“We decided UC Health would be best since I work there, know a lot of people and my dad used to work for the Emergency Department for 40 years before he retired,” Erin said. “Also having worked in the CVICU for more than five years, I knew there was a chance I would end up in my own unit depending on how bad the possible blood clots were.”
They arrived at UC Medical Center’s Emergency Department entrance. Due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions, Erin was essentially dropped off at the front door.
From there, Erin was given an IV and she immediately was taken to get a CT scan, a more thorough X-ray of the body, showing tissues, vessels and bones.
“The CT scan results came back and confirmed I had large bilateral pulmonary emboli in both lungs and there was evidence of right heart strain,” Erin explained. There were blood clots in both sides of her lungs.
She was then given a blood-thinning medication to treat and prevent more clotting. After being assessed by the Pulmonary Embolism Response Team (PERT) and cardiology team, sure enough, Erin was admitted to her unit, the CVICU, for overnight observation.
“The UC Health PERT Program, established in February 2018, consists of a multidisciplinary team focusing all of their efforts on the care of patients who present with intermediate to high-risk pulmonary embolisms.” said Suzanne Bennett, MD, UC Health anesthesiologist, director of critical care medicine and associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the UC College of Medicine. “This multidisciplinary approach allows for the streamlined evaluation of patients, formulations of comprehensive treatment plans and rapid mobilization of resources to provide the highest level of care in our region to those patients suffering from these life-threatening pulmonary embolisms.”