Serena Williams' Doctors Wouldn't Listen To Her After She Gave Birth And She Nearly Lost Her Life

Jordan Claes
Serena Williams and daughter.
instagram | @serenawilliams

Serena Williams isn't just a champion — she's one of the greatest athletes of all time and has been the proverbial face of women's tennis for the past 25 years.

But of all her historic achievements and countless accolades, Serena's greatest triumph didn't come on a tennis court — but rather in a hospital room. And when doctors refused to listen to her, it was up to Serena to save her own life.

A fairly recent trend among sports fans and sports analysts alike is trying to determine who is the G.O.A.T.

Photo of a goat.
Unsplash | Edgar Chaparro

Some point to NBA legend Michael Jordan; others say it's Lebron James. An overwhelming majority believe it to be Tom Brady, while a small minority still point to Wayne 'The Great One' Gretzky.

Yet one name that isn't mentioned nearly enough in the debate for the greatest of all time is renowned tennis champion, Serena Williams.

Serena Williams sitting on a railing.
instagram | @serenawilliams

Serena has won 73 singles titles (so far) in her career.

She won her first Grand Slam title when she was only 17-years-old.

Serena Williams

How impressive is that? And at 35, Serena became the oldest woman to be ranked #1 and win a Grand Slam title.

But of all her innumerable accomplishments, Serena's greatest feat was known to only a handful of doctors and nurses — until now.

Serena Williams selfie.
instagram | @serenawilliams

Back in 2017, Serena came incredibly close to dying in childbirth, and more than likely would have were it not for her own intervention in the matter.

"In 2010, I learned I had blood clots in my lungs —clots that, had they not been caught in time, could have killed me," Serena penned in an essay to 'Elle'.

Serena Williams playing tennis.
Giphy | Wimbledon

Serena went on to say that the blood clots weren't a one-off situation.

She's a high-risk candidate and ever since that time has lived in fear that they might return.

Serena Willaims
Giphy | US Open

After Serena's baby was successfully delivered via C-section, she asked her nurse why they hadn't started her heparin drip.

So, immediately, Williams knew she would have to push for answers.

Serena and her daughter, Olympia.
instagram | @serenawilliams

Heparin is a blood thinner that's used to help prevent blood clots. The nurse calmly told Serena that they weren't sure if heparin was what she needed at the moment.

All of a sudden, Serena started coughing uncontrollably and wound up bursting her stitches.

Serena Williams in grey sweater.
instagram | @serenawilliams

"I wasn’t coughing for nothing; I was coughing because I had an embolism, a clot in one of my arteries," Serena explained. Three surgeries later, Serena felt as if she was dying.

In a state of panic, Serena began desperately trying to explain to the nurse what had to be done.

Serena Williams on the tennis court.
Giphy | Tennis Channel

“I need to have a CAT scan of my lungs bilaterally, and then I need to be on my heparin drip,” Serena pleaded.

“I think all this medicine is making you talk crazy,” came the nurse's reply.


In spite of being told that she was crazy and being made to feel as if she was stupid, Serena persisted.

Which is unfortunate that she had to do that at all, but it's a very good thing she did.

Serena Williams and her daughter, Olympia.
instagram | @serenawilliams

"Finally, the nurse called my doctor, and she listened to me and insisted we check. I fought hard, and I ended up getting the CAT scan."

The doctors would then discover that Serena did in fact have a clot in her lungs and that it was dangerously close to reaching her heart.

Serena Williams and Olympia Williams in pajamas.
instagram | @serenawilliams

"I went into the same operating room so many times that I started to say, 'I’m baaaaaack!' each time they wheeled me in."

By this point in time, Serena was understandably exhausted and ready for this entire ordeal to be over.

Serena Williams at a press conference.

"My personal OBGYN was amazing," Serena made sure to mention. "She never made me feel dismissed. Another doctor was supposed to be checking in but I didn’t see him very much. In fact, I saw him only once."

Serena goes on to say how Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die during/after childbirth.

Serena Williams selfie.
instagram | @serenawilliams

What's even worse is the bulk of these deaths are considered preventable. Serena's persistence is quite literally the only reason why she's still alive.

Which is daunting to think about.

Serena Williams
Giphy | WTA

"I know those statistics would be different if the medical establishment listened to every Black woman’s experience," she concluded.

Hopefully, her story inspires change.