Fayette County 18-year-old nearly dies from side effect of birth control

Local Health Alert

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – A Fayette County young woman nearly died from what was believed to be a birth control pill side effect.

From all accounts, 18-year-old Hailey Duncan, of Somerville, was a healthy 18-year-old when she was rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital last week.

Duncan said she hadn’t felt good over the weekend but shrugged it off.

“I just thought it was the heat or something. I was about to go shower and then I ended up passing out,” Duncan said. “Then my lung collapsed in the ambulance.”

She went into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated several times. Two blood clots were discovered near her lungs, believed to be caused by her birth control pills.

“She was just hanging on by a thread,” Baptist Memorial Hospital Cardiac Surgeon Brad Wolf recalls.

Duncan was too sick and weak to be operated on, nor could doctor give her blood thinners. Doctors opted to use a life-saving machine called “ECMO,” which replaces the function of a heart and lungs.

Wolf said it stabilized her within minutes. She’s one of the nearly 100 people that the hospital has used the ECMO on to save their life.

“We can put them on this machine, and we’ve had some remarkable results for people who you think are going to die, and they survive,” Wolf said.

ECMO takes blood from the body and oxygenates it and pumps it back into the body like a functioning lung and heart would. The procedure isn’t invasive and only requires a small incision in the groin to put the tube in, according to Wolf.

Wolf said blood clots are a known side effect to birth control, but Duncan’s case is still unusual.

“It’s pretty rare. It’s not rare for this to happen overall with birth control. I think it can happen in 1 of 1,000 people taking it, but usually it’s people who have other risks. Not people as healthy as her and certainly not people who are as young as her. It’s definitely unusual,” Wolf said.

Now in recovery, the weight of what happened hasn’t truly sunk in for Duncan.

“It hasn’t hit me. Nope. I’m just going to be like, ‘I almost died. It’s all good,’” she said with a laugh.

Duncan’s parents said they’re thankful to the emergency responders that transported their daughter. They said without their fast response, she wouldn’t be alive to share her story.

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