Serena Williams Almost Died In September

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

In September 2017, Serena Williams and husband Alexis Ohanian welcomed daughter Olympia into the world.

But it almost cost the life of the 36-year-old tennis legend.

“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter,” she wrote in an essay published by CNN on Tuesday. 

The 23-time major singles champion suffered a pulmonary embolism shortly after giving birth to Olympia by way of emergency C-section.

“First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism,” Williams wrote. “I returned to surgery, where 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. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.”

The pulmonary embolism picked the wrong woman to mess with—Williams kicked its ass like the health scare was a wild-card qualifier and she was back to competitive tennis a mere five months later.

Despite her brush with death, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time feels lucky.

“Around the world, thousands of women struggle to give birth in the poorest countries,” she wrote. “When they have complications like mine, 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.”

Williams concluded her essay by telling readers what they can do to make her victory over a life-threatening pregnancy a reality for the less fortunate.

“You can demand governments, businesses and health care providers do more to save these precious lives,” Williams wrote. “You can donate to UNICEF and other organizations around the world working to make a difference for mothers and babies in need. In doing so, you become part of this narrative — making sure that one day, who you are or where you are from does not decide whether your baby gets to live or to die.

“Together, we can make this change. Together, we can be the change.”