Serena Williams says she "almost died" after giving birth to her and Alexis Ohanian's daughter, Alexis Olympia, crediting her life to a team of doctors who removed a large hematoma from her abdomen.
The tennis champion wrote in an op-ed for CNN that Alexis Olympia's heart rate plummeted during contractions, requiring an emergency C-section on September 1. The surgery went smoothly, "but what followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty."
Williams says she suffered a pulmonary embolism, which is when a blood clot blocks one or more arteries in her lungs, something Williams says she has a medical history with and "lives in fear of." She contacted medical professionals, but the coughing from the embolism got so bad, her C-section wound popped open and she required another surgery.
"The doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs," Williams said.
After finally being safely discharged from the hospital, Williams was ordered to spend the next six weeks in bed.
"I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren't for their professional care, I wouldn't be here today," Williams wrote.
She went on to cite a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that lists black women in the U.S. as more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.
She then related the statistic to black women around the world, where "thousands of women struggle to give birth in the poorest countries." Williams wrote that when they have complications like hers, "there are often no drugs, health facilities or doctors to save them. If they don't want to give birth at home, they have to travel great distances at the height of pregnancy. Before they even bring a new life into this world, the cards are already stacked against them."
She went on to argue that "every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. And you can help make this a reality."
Williams encouraged readers to to "demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives." She encouraged readers to donate to UNICEF to "become part of this narrative."
"Together, we can make this change. Together, we can be the change," Williams concluded.