SCRANTON — It was four years ago when former Exeter Mayor Cassandra Coleman-Corcoran was rushed to the hospital after experiencing shortness of breath.
What she didn’t know was that the condition could have been fatal.
Coleman-Corcoran had multiple blood clots in her lungs. She was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania Intensive Care Unit to dissolve clots that took up 100 percent of one of her lungs.
After 32 days in the hospital, she was sent home, but not without lingering effects, including memory loss.
Since then, the current Northeast Regional Director under Gov. Tom Wolf has helped enact legislation declaring March as Blood Clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis) Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
Coleman-Corcoran, now 28, with the help of former state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, worked to get legislation passed in March 2013 to officially adopt Blood Clot Awareness Month. The legislation was passed on the anniversary of the day Coleman-Corcoran was stricken with the clots in 2012.
Since that ordeal, she’s been an advocate for awareness.
“What could I do in my position of mayor and with the networks I have built?” she said. “I never had a personal experience before my issue — now being able to tell my story and talk about the risks and the awareness of being vigilant about your own health is important.”
Now, she said she is “110 percent and now living healthy.”
Coleman-Corcoran said she’s maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercise to help prevent any future clots.
After her month-long stay in the hospital in 2012, Coleman-Corcoran had to spend another six months in a wheelchair. Doctors told her she might not be able to have children.
When doctors said she was healthy enough to get pregnant, she and husband Jim Corcoran did just that. The couple now has a healthy 18-month-old, Jimmy Corcoran IV, who was born while Coleman-Corcoran was working on Wolf’s campaign.
A week later, Wolf and the younger Corcoran got a photo together, which sits in Coleman-Corcoran’s office in Scranton.
“(Wolf) was amazing with me knowing my history and my health scare,” she said. “He never questioned if I needed time and he was always so accommodating.”
Wolf and other members of state government have been promoting Blood Clot Awareness Month throughout March.
“Blood clots can affect anyone and I encourage everyone to learn if they are at risk. Though blood clots are dangerous, they are also preventable with early diagnosis and management,” said Wolf in a prepared statement.
Lt. Gov. Mike Stack has lit the state capitol’s balcony lights red in honor of Blood Clot Awareness Month.
“Since many blood clots are dangerous but preventable, it is important for everyone to understand his or her risks, recognize potential symptoms, and know what steps to take to avoid problems,” Stack said in a written statement. “Knowing someone personally such as Cassandra, who was affected by the condition, helps us to realize that it can happen at any stage of life, so we have to be mindful of this all-too-common threat.”
Prior to working for Wolf, Coleman-Corcoran worked for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Coleman-Corcoran said all of her bosses, including Casey, have been supportive through the whole process and always worried about her well-being first.
“…Cassandra’s experience with blood clots was frightening for her, her family and all of us who know her,” Casey said in a prepared statement. “It’s no surprise that Cassandra has come back from her illness stronger than ever and ready to help others. We’re all thankful that Cassandra was able to get the medical help she needed when her blood clot struck.”
Know the signs of clots
Coleman-Corcoran said she can’t stress enough how important it is to know the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. At the time of her medical scare, she didn’t think it was possible for such a young person to get this kind of diagnosis. It can affect anyone, she said.
“When it happened to me, it was always, ‘She’s 24 years old,’” Coleman-Corcoran said. “When I got involved I learned that it’s not that it’s so unheard of for young folks to experience this.”
A medical emergency can occur when a blood clot develops in a vein deep in the body. These types of clots typically develop in lower legs or thighs, but they may also appear in the upper body, such as arms or other locations. Pieces of a clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, often referred to as pulmonary embolism.
Remembering Exeter roots
When Coleman-Corcoran was elected as mayor in 2008 at 20 years old, she was one of the nation’s youngest female mayors. Growing up, Coleman-Corcoran worked the polls with her grandfather Joseph Coyne, who later became Exeter’s mayor. When Coyne passed away while serving, Exeter Borough Council appointed Coleman-Corcoran to fill the term. At the time, she was a junior in college.
Coleman-Corcoran was one of Wolf’s first hires in his campaign for governor, and in February 2015, she resigned from her post as Exeter mayor to take the job working as Northeast Regional Director under Wolf.
She said she still misses governing Exeter as her family has been involved in Exeter politics for almost 40 years.
“Resigning from Exeter was very bittersweet for me,” she said. “My emotions were all over the place. I knew that this was a great opportunity.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick