In her first public comments related to the pulmonary embolism and hematoma that led to her hospitalization Serena Williams makes it clear just how serious her condition is.
NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams still has blood clots in her lung but hopes to return to tennis this summer after recovering from a pulmonary embolism, which she called the "scariest moment in my life."
The 13-time Grand Slam champion spoke on NBC's "Today" show Wednesday from Los Angeles, saying she hasn't left her house much since going to the hospital nearly three weeks ago.
"I had a lot of swelling in my leg, which really is a telltale sign of an embolism, and I could not breathe," Williams said.
She said doctors couldn't find anything in her leg and then ordered a CAT scan of her lungs.
"That's when they found several blood clots," Williams said. "They told me that they had to check me in immediately or else ... it wasn't going to be a good result."
Treating the blood clots required Williams to inject herself with a blood thinner, she said. Feeling a need to get out, she didn't let her condition deter her from attending several Oscar parties.
"I had been through so much in the past eight months," she said. "Just really kind of low on energy, but I was like 'I've got to do something, kind of just to get my spirits up."
Then she wound up back in the hospital on Feb. 28 because of a large hematoma on her stomach. The gathering of blood under the skin grew from a "golf ball" to the size of "a grapefruit."
"I apparently must of hit something," said Williams, who was injecting herself twice a day. (The doctors said) 'We can't drain this, we have to surgically remove it.'"
Her absence from tennis could stretch to almost a year since she won the Wimbledon title last July. Williams has had two surgeries on her right foot since cutting it on glass at a restaurant shortly after Wimbledon.
Her comeback has been delayed repeatedly by complications from the injury. The second surgery was in late October, and she said she spent 10 weeks in a cast and 10 weeks in a walking boot.
Surgery is among the risk factors for blood clots, as are prolonged periods of inactivity and long airline flights.
Williams said she wasn't "moving and not doing as much as I normally do. I started flying a lot ... thinking I was OK. And obviously, I wasn't."
The 29-year-old Williams realizes it was a dangerous situation.
"Mine went from my leg to my lung and it traveled fast," Williams said. "I still have several clots in my lung. They're just there, and they have to eventually dissolve. So I'm just taking it one day at a time. Just on the road to recovery.
"I said I wanted to return this summer, and I was hoping to return way sooner than that. Being so close to ... the scariest moment in my life, I really just want to come back and be able to do well."
I'm guessing that this is detailed enough for the haters out there who think anytime Serena and her sister Venus Williams say they are injured they're punking tennis. These are the same people who take any blather from other players as gospel truth.
The bizarro world reactions had gotten so ridiculous that Emma Carmichael spoke about them in an article posted on the online sports site "Deadspin".
A few summers ago, Serena Williams was a part of an exhibition match on Randall's Island, and I went to see her play. The infamous Jason Whitlock column — the one that "seriously" asked, among other things, "how else can Serena fill out her size 16 shorts without grazing at her stall between matches?" — had been published just a few days before. I asked her how she felt about the column, especially after having spent the afternoon teaching forehands and volleys to self-conscious sixth-grade girls from around New York City. She gave it approximately two seconds of thought: "It doesn't bother me."
I thought of Serena's reply during the hubbub over her most recent round of medical woes — a hematoma caused by a pulmonary embolism, which required emergency medical treatment last Monday and which will sideline her indefinitely.
The initial response to the injury was skepticism, with maybe a hint of the usual grievance that Serena is a malingerer who holds herself at a haughty remove from the sport and its press. Nothing that is said about her seems to bother her, and that bothers the media to no end. She has been covered in this vaguely petulant way for so long that, when news of the injury broke in People magazine, of all places, the first instinct for a lot of people was to roll their eyes. "More Serena drama," as one of L. Jon Wertheim's readers put it. It was as if she'd just blown off a date because she had to wash her hair.
Williams, along with her sister Venus, has always been subject to intense media scrutiny — not least because she is a muscular black woman who has once or twice let her emotions overrun tennis's conventions, but also because the only time she will not regard the sport with a cool detachment is when she is playing. Because of this, people in media have attempted engage Williams over the years — sometimes with thoughtful commentary, but mostly with what amounts to public taunting. It is said that she's too focused on fashion. That her clothes are distracting. That she grunts too loudly in matches. That her ass is too big. That she should really play in more meaningless matches for cash and publicity. That she's not properly dedicated to the cause of American tennis or of tennis in general, as if 13 Grand Slam titles weren't commitment enough. That her injuries "need explanation," as if seven months in a cast weren't explanation enough. That she cares too much about fame, as if the press weren't the machine that made her fame possible in the first place.
With any luck, the next few months will provide a brief reprieve from that scrutiny. Maybe the initial skepticism will pass, the rhetoric will shift, and Williams will settle into the unlikely role of victim in the case of Tennis v. Serena. You can see that happening in places. She faces her "toughest battle yet," according to The New York Times, and there's a mounting fear that tennis will lose her for good to something beyond anyone's critical control. A pulmonary embolism and a hematoma represent an entirely different kind of distraction than, say, a new fashion line.
Carmichael ends her piece, which appeared before Serena's comments on NBC's Today Show hoping that Serena will return to the sport that so desperately needs her.
I hope that Serena takes whatever time she needs, and pays attention to what her doctors tell her. What this fan wants is for Serena to complete her regimen and then see where she stands in terms of the sport she loves and any possible return.
As for the haters, to the left. Now.