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Family raising awareness of blood clot danger

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Pulmonary embolism kills one in three blood clot patients, like Carroll native Jamie Gravley. He died last year, and his loved ones are spreading the word about an often overlooked medical condition.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Despite having some nagging pains, Jamie Lee Gravley, 22, soldiered on, continuing to put together his son’s toddler bed on June 19, 2012.
Wife Melanie Gravley described it as a normal day for the young married couple that had set up their home in Mount Airy, N.C.
Jamie Gravley, a former JROTC Cavalier Battalion cadet and 2009 Carroll County High School graduate, stayed upbeat and energetic right up until the end.

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While she and her husband prepared to assemble son Jayson’s new "big boy" bed, Jamie carried on and joked while he worked, as usual, she remembers.
But, then, Jamie stopped and complained that he didn’t feel good.
Jamie went to the bathroom — he felt like he was going to throw up — but collapsed there instead.
Just like that, he was gone.
“He died of a pulmonary embolism, is what the autopsy said,” Melanie recalled.
A blood clot had gone to his lung and cut off his flow of blood and his heart gave out, she later learned.
Jamie had been suffering from unusual pains — they were bad enough that he sought a medical professional’s opinion at a local Mount Airy clinic.
This was odd for a young man that rarely felt under the weather, his family members said.
Two weeks before his heart failed, Jamie went to see a doctor for a pain in his leg.
The answer he got was that he had pulled something.
“Then, he went back a week after that complaining of chest pain,” she said.
But because Jamie was a young man and physically fit, doctors didn’t find what turned out to be his real health problem, say Melanie Gravley and Samantha Gravley, Jamie’s younger sister.
The doctors decided it was a respiratory infection, instead. “They gave him antibiotics and sent him home.”
Jamie continued to have problems and went back to the clinic on the day he died. Melanie said the workers there gave him a higher dose of antibiotics about an hour before he died.
Both Samantha and Melanie worked as certified nursing assistants at the time, and they say Jamie’s respiration and heart rate were double what they should have been.
They wish it would have occurred to the doctors to check for a blood clot or heart problem, because he showed all the symptoms, Samantha and Melanie said.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Jamie first complained of a pain in his leg, the family members say.
“A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot typically in one leg that can break loose and travel to the lungs as a pulmonary embolism (PE), a medical emergency that can result in death in about 1 of every 3 people with PE,” according to Stop the Clot, a website for blood clot education.
“We believe it started in his leg,” Melanie said. “The autopsy doctor couldn’t say for sure, since they took some of leg muscle and veins for organ donation.”
Blood clots are treatable with a timely diagnosis, according to information on stoptheclot.org.
In life, Jamie loved his mom and took care of her and loved his son and his family, Samantha said.
A jack of all trades and mechanically minded, Jamie could do anything but sit still for longer than five minutes, his sister recalled.
Jamie put his family and his friends first  — he’d give his shirt off his back to help others.
He’d quickly shrug off problems and move on with his life, Melanie said.
“Put him anywhere and he fit in,” Samantha said.
Now, family members want to remember Jamie and raise awareness about blood clots and heart ailments at the same time.
They have contacted stoptheclot.org and hope to arrange a softball tournament for June, near the anniversary of Jamie’s death and when the couple first met.
To get that done, they need to find volunteers, sponsors, suppliers for concessions and participants.
“We want to try to get it out there that it can happen to anyone,” Melanie said.

To help, call Melanie at (336) 415-9076 or Samantha at (276) 733-1720 or e-mail memoriesbymelanie@yahoo.com.