On January 31st 2020 Ken Gregory published his first novel written jointly with his wife, Gio.

Tragically, in the final days of completing the novel, Gio passed away due to a pulmonary embolism.

Ken shares their story, and his decision to launch the novel in memory of Gio, with all proceeds raised being donated to Thrombosis UK.

A road trip to France instead off our annual flight to Italy seemed a great idea for our late summer holiday, especially as we had a new comfortable car to travel in, taking our own time and avoiding the hustle and bustle of busy airports. This year we needed somewhere quiet and restful so that could finish editing a novel we had been writing together.

The ferry transported us the Cherbourg and we took a leisurely drive through Brittany to the charming coastal town of Paimpol.

We had a lovely evening

The editing went well, and we finished it off in just two days. On the Wednesday evening we went out for a celebratory meal, oysters to start followed by a beautiful steak, feeling proud of ourselves for completing a labour of love together. We had a lovely evening.

The following morning, we had planned to visit St. Malo, meeting up with my sister and brother-in-law for some site seeing but that changed abruptly when I found Gio on the floor of the bathroom, unconscious. She came ‘round after few moments and our initial reaction, once she was able to sit up again, was that she had eaten a bad oyster. After all, that seemed a likely explanation given that oysters have a certain reputation and anyway, when I made her a cup of tea, she was unable to keep that down so surely the shellfish was to blame.

This frightening change to her condition clearly meant I needed to call for urgent medical help

She slept most of the day but by late afternoon things took a terrifying turn for the worst. Attempting to get out of bed to visit the bathroom, Gio collapsed again, but this time in a much more serious way. Her eyes rolled back in their sockets and she began to foam at the mouth.

This frightening change to her condition clearly meant I needed to call for urgent medical help. The owners of the B&B we were staying in called for an ambulance and a doctor stayed on the phone whilst the ambulance was dispatched, giving us instructions on what to do best to help Gio remain conscious.

By now Gio had managed to come ‘round again, albeit in a very distressed state, and we were instructed to sit her up to try to help her breath better. She was struggling desperately for air at this point. She was also complaining of pains to her legs, but as Gio recently had a minor leg injury sustained exercising we thought that not important.

The paramedics arrived within minutes

The paramedics arrived within minutes but Gio was really struggling for breath now. As soon as an oxygen mask was applied to her face, she became unconscious again.

At this point her heart stopped. It stopped twice during the two hours that the paramedics and a doctor worked hard to save her, get air into her lungs and keep her heart beating. I watched helplessly as they pounded on her chest, giving CPR.

What was happening, how had our holiday to France come to this? It was a nightmare and it was happening right before my eyes. How could a bad oyster be responsible for this?

Once stabilised Gio was transported to the nearest major hospital and intensive care. After what seemed like an eternity the doctor eventually came to inform me that Gio had suffered a DVT which had caused a pulmonary embolism in her lungs, her heart had also stopped for a third time. The shocking thing I was told next was that due to the seriousness of her condition, Gio was not expected to last the night. Making that phone call to my daughters back in England was the hardest thing I have ever been called to do.

She was a tough woman and we thought that she now had a fighting chance

But Gio rallied and due to the best efforts of the French medical staff she stabilised as that pumped different anti-coagulants into her system. For five days she was in an induced coma, only alleviating slightly when our daughters arrived for the UK. She was a tough woman and we thought that she now had a fighting chance.

However, that was not to be. Just after 9:00am on Tuesday 10th September 2019, the day which would have been our 42nd wedding anniversary, her poor heart gave out for the final time and she passed away in France aged just 62.

How could it be that an apparently healthy woman, one who looked after herself and certainly didn't look her age, could succumb to this dreadful condition?

Venous thromboembolism displays a number of confusing symptoms which can be easily misread. Long car journeys can induce problems just as bad as air travel can and maybe the minor injury Gio sustained to her hip a couple of months earlier had been a contributing factor? I guess I will never know, but coupled with her apparent fainting, I will always wonder what things I could or should have done at the time to detect things earlier. I guess I will have to live with that regret.

I will always wonder what things I could or should have done at the time to detect things earlier

The book we were writing is now available to purchase on Amazon in both kindle and paperback formats. All proceeds from 'Tell Me Your Sweet Lies,' a romantic thriller will be donated to Thrombosis UK in memory of Gio.

‘Tell Me Your Sweet Lies’ by Ken and Gio Gregory is available on Amazon.

All proceeds raised from the sale being donated to Thrombosis UK.