The Fifth Vital Sign blog is a place for people to share stories about reproductive health. It's our belief and experience that stories are medicinal. However, these posts do not always reflect the goals, intentions, or perspectives of The Fifth Vital Sign.
This is Theresa's story, told by her mother, Laura Femia Buccellato.
WHAT EVERY MOTHER AND TEENAGE GIRL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL: the hidden dangers and facts that the Doctors and Pharmaceutical Companies chose not to disclose
My only child, Theresa, came to me a month before her sixteenth birthday and told me she had sexual intercourse for the first time. I was not happy about it, but I was very happy we were close enough that she knew she could come to me about it. I spoke my mind about how I felt she was too young, but I also knew deep down my words would not prevent her from having sex again. Theresa asked about going on the pill. I had been on the pill in my 20's and had no side effects from it. I told her I would make an appointment with my OBGYN that also delivered her, and we would discuss the options with her first.
Theresa had an exam by the doctor and then I joined them in the doctor’s office to discuss birth control. Our doctor mentioned the pill first. My first reaction was to ask about other contraceptives but the doctor felt the pill would be the best for Theresa. She said she would put her on one of the lowest doses of pills called Othro-Cept. I was aware of some of the side effects of the pill like gaining weight, blood clots, and danger if you smoke (Theresa did not smoke). Our doctor did not go over any of the side effects with us or what to look for if something were to go wrong. I trusted my OBGYN because I have been with her for most of my life and she had four children so I never felt she would put Theresa in any kind of harm. She also was aware of my family medical history and that my mother had a stroke at 32 years old.
Theresa was on the pill for a month and a half and never complained to me about it. On August 15th, 2010, Theresa and I spent the whole day at the mall putting the final touches on her Mardi Gras Sweet 16 party. She was having her party in October instead of her birthday month in July because she wanted all her friends back from summer vacation so they could attend. Theresa always dreamed about her sweet 16 party, it was the day she felt she would be a Princess and her start of becoming an adult. That night after shopping we stayed up all night ordering the masks for her Mardi Gras party. When I went to bed that night I had no clue our lives would end the very next day. That instead of watching my daughter’s dream party happen, it would be a memorial concert on her party date instead.
August 16th, 2010 started out as a normal day. I woke up and got ready for work. Theresa was still asleep so I did not wake her to say goodbye. Around 1:00 in the afternoon she called me at work to ask if she could go out with two of her friends. I said yes and that her dad or I would pick her up at 9:00 PM. I told her I love you and we hung up. Those were the last words ever spoken with her.
Her dad decided he would pick her up that night. I remember just getting out of the shower when my phone rang. It was her dad telling me Theresa was sick and he called an ambulance. I did not even wait for details, I got in my car and headed to the pizzeria he told me they were at. I was there within 10 minutes and saw a huge crowed outside the pizzeria along with an ambulance. I rushed into the pizzeria and saw Theresa on the stretcher out cold. I remember looking around the pizzeria and it being packed with people. As soon as we got into the ambulance I saw the paramedics rip open Theresa's shirt and start CPR. I was in a daze and in shock, I had no clue what was happening, but I knew I was losing my child. When we got to the hospital the doctor on call continued CPR and made me and my ex husband leave the room. A couple of minutes later the nurse came out to tell me to come in and hold her hand. I already knew Theresa was gone. The doctor then had me go out of the room and then told us Theresa was gone. He said her pupils were not dilated, and their is no indication it was caused by any kind of substance. That I already knew, Theresa hated drugs and did not do them. I remember walking back in the room to be by my daughter. She was lying on the table with her eyes wide opened. I will never forget that picture. Theresa had the most beautiful green eyes and she was so proud of them. I remember blurting out I wanted to donate them. Everything after that is a total blur.
My 16 year old daughter was dead and I had no clue why. She was a very healthy, athletic, young girl. I always thought we were blessed because if I took her to the doctor more than once a year for feeling ill, that was a lot.
I called our OBGYN the next day to tell her Theresa died. I still had no thought in my head that the pill had anything to do with her death. I actually thought she had an aneurysm because her friends said she complained about a headache an hour before she died. Two days after her death our OBGYN called me that the autopsy results were already in. She said Theresa died from a blood clot that burst in her leg and caused a pulmonary embolism. I was then told Theresa had a blood clot disorder called Factor V Leiden. Dr. Melgar told me that everyone in my immediate family and my ex-husband’s immediate family had to be tested for it because this disorder is generic. She told me a simple blood test would determine if anyone in the family carries this disorder.
I immediately went and had blood work done and found out I have Factor V Leiden. Theresa got it from me, and I never even knew this disorder existed. My sister had her four children tested for it and two of her children turned out positive. My nephew has it and one of my nieces has it from both her parents, which is very serious.
I started doing research on this and that was when I found out the pill Theresa was put on was not the same kind of pills I was on in my 20's. Hormonal contraceptives now have much more estrogen in them and are called Third Generation pill. I also learned if Theresa had a blood test the doctor would have known about her having a blood clot disorder and would have never been allowed on any kind of birth control. After reading all this I drove straight to the doctor’s office to find out why the blood test was never mentioned. Dr. Melgar explained to me that the blood clot disorder is rare and insurance companies will not pay for the blood work so doctors do not mention it to their patients. She did not even give us the option to pay for it out of pocket. The insurance companies feel it is not cost effective to run this test on people going on birth control.
A simple blood test (that I would have paid for) would have saved Theresa's life. Instead, because she died from this, everyone in my family and my ex-husband‘s family had to be tested and insurance had to cover it. The insurance companies now had to pay for about 100 tests (we have a big family).
Theresa's life to the medical industry did not matter. She is now just a statistic to them. For Theresa she lost her life, her future. She was a promising young woman that wanted to either become a veterinarian or work as a social worker with Project Children. She wanted to make a difference in this world. As for me and her father, we might be living, but we are both dead inside. We lost the only important person in our life, our future. We will not see our daughter graduate from college this year, get married, or ever have any grand children. The medical industry stole everything from Theresa and us, just by not mentioning a simple blood test.
Since Theresa's death I have been trying to spread the word to others about this blood test. I am not against birth control at all, but I am against the facts not being revealed. I feel people need to know about this blood test. In Theresa's memory I will tell people about this test over and over again. Many people I have talked to have had this test done after hearing of Theresa's death. So many people have turned out positive with Factor V Leiden. I have come to find, this disorder is not as rare as the medical industry wants us to believe it is. Actually talking to different doctors, I have found they are very ignorant to this disorder, and they have not been educated about it. It is up to us to fight for this blood test and make it mandatory for all females to be tested for it. Unfortunately a lot more people will probably die before it does become mandatory.
I am hoping by telling Theresa's story, this will bring awareness to others. Please insist on the blood test if you or anyone you know is going on any kind of hormonal birth control. You need to watch all signs in your body for complications. Have you had many miscarriages? A swollen leg, that’s painful, red, and warm to the touch? Trouble breathing? These are all signs that you might have this disorder (being a carrier is the same) or a danger sign about your birth control. The number of people having strokes, PE, and dying have been increasing every year and it has all been caused from too much estrogen in birth control. The medical industry no longer cares about saving lives. They have teamed up with pharmaceutical companies to get as many profitable drugs on the market so they can benefit from it, instead of patience benefiting from it. They need to be stopped and only we can do that with our voice being heard. I have written many, many times to Dr. Oz to do a show on this, but my emails have been ignored. Finally I found Ricki Lake and The Fifth Vital Sign..............they care about woman and their choices. They will hopefully make a huge difference with their voices being heard on behalf of all those that suffered complications and death from hormonal birth control.
In conclusion, if one person’s life is saved from sharing Theresa's story, then at least her death will not be in vain. I miss my child every second of every day. I lost my future, my best friend, my child and WHY? Because the medical industry felt she was not important.