My GP told me I just had a chest infection – to this day I have no idea why I nearly died | The Sun

WHEN healthy Rachael Stewart started suffering from discomfort when breathing, she thought it was an innocent chest infection – and her GP backed this up.

But when her chest pain got worse ten days later in February 2019 – after five days of antibiotics – her doctor sent her to A&E. 

Within 24 hours, Rachael, 28, from Glasgow, who had previously run a half marathon, was told she had a blood clot and her lung had started to collapse and she needed urgent treatment.

Rachael’s world was turned “upside down” – she spent the next few days in hospital and the next two years building up her strength again.

Now, the commercial account handler competes in pageants and raises awareness of blood clots as she accepts she’ll be a hospital patient for the rest of her life. 

Rachael said: “The last healthy breath I took was some time in January 2019, and I never even realised it. 

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“There were points where I thought, am I going to die? It was shocking to go from healthy, to being told life might never be the same. 

“To this day, doctors have no idea what caused this to happen to me. 

“My right lung is still partially collapsed and is at 60 per cent capacity – doctors are confident it will never improve, but I accept my health and have adapted my life and routine to suit my needs.

“I’ve realised that by sharing my story I can help others to know what life looks like on the other side – to give them hope.”

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Rachael had always prided herself on being fit and healthy. 

She had previously gone to the gym regularly, ran a half marathon in 2016, and walked 10K multiple times per week. 

So when she first felt unwell and had pains in her chest in February 2019, she visited her GP who prescribed a five-day course of antibiotics for a chest infection.

When her symptoms worsened, her doctor referred her to A&E at Monklands Hospital, where an X-ray revealed Rachael’s lung was collapsing and she would need to be kept in. 

It also showed a pulmonary embolism – a sudden blockage in your pulmonary arteries, the blood vessels that send blood to your lungs – had appeared.

Rachael said: “I had gone from having my mind put at ease by my GP, to within hours of arriving at the hospital, finding out I had started losing blood supply to my lung because there was a sizable blood clot in my body.

“I just sat there in silence as they explained everything to me. 

“At 23 I was told I’m losing blood supply to an organ that's pretty much required for everything. 

“They also found that I had an inflamed lymph node and an unknown growth.

“Obviously being told that your lung has collapsed and you're losing blood supply, I knew it wasn’t good. 

“I messaged my dad and said I was in hospital and it was more serious than I thought.” 

Rachael questioned if she was going to lose her lung, but she wasn’t given a definitive answer.

Her doctors were confident they’d caught the blood clot in time, so she went straight onto blood thinning injections and was prescribed a course of blood thinners for six months to take daily. 

She stayed in hospital for two days before returning home to continue her recovery. 


But life was very different when she returned home, as things she used to do easily, like go to the bathroom or walk downstairs, were now difficult. 

She felt tired, breathless and the pains in her chest remained for months. 

She stopped attending the gym and running and instead was limited to short walks to build her stamina back up. 

Rachael’s recovery took a year as she kept catching chest infections and she required two weekly check ups at respiratory, GP checkups and regular CT scans. 

She had to sign a disclosure to say she understood her risk of cancer was increased due to the amount of scans she needed. 

Rachael said: “My life had turned upside down. I’d never known anyone to have a blood clot, so I was unaware of everything. 

“I used to be someone who did lots of exercise but my life very quickly did a 360. 

“It was insane. I would try and walk 100 metres after the first couple of weeks and I would struggle. 

“I was literally just walking at a snail's pace and even then I was having to come back because my lungs felt tight, I was breathless or just tired. 

“There was a lot of pain in my chest for a while. I was constantly out of breath even just from getting up and walking to the bathroom. I was sleeping about 14 to 16 hours a day.

“I didn’t know if my lung would recover or if this would kill me.” 

Rachael still went to work, but her social life diminished. 

Single at the time, she felt as though she couldn’t be honest with dates, and wasn’t able to drink alcohol due to her medication.

She said: “I would sometimes tell people I was dating that I was on blood thinners and they’d almost run away like it was a red flag. I had to explain that it's not contagious.

“But it seemed like I had baggage, so I ended up never telling people and kept it to myself. 

“Otherwise people looked at me in a different way and felt sorry for me. They acted like I was a broken, destroyed person. 

“Yes, my life has changed but I’m alive and can deal with it!”

Rachael started chatting to a woman through her Instagram page who was looking for others with pulmonary embolism and Rachael realised she could help and show others what life looks like on the other side. 


She’d always wanted to do beauty pageants and grew up watching Miss Congeniality. 

Her blood clot scare made her realise life could be taken away in a second, so she decided to sign up to her first pageant in August 2022 and came fourth.

Rachael said: “2020 was the year I decided to take the time to learn to be OK with myself and get over what happened.

“I wanted to show people suffering that it can be fine, you can be normal, and show young people like me that life will be OK. 

“Then I started thinking about pageants – something I’ve always wanted to do. I now know that life can be taken away at a moment's notice. 

“If I hadn’t gone to the doctors when I thought I had a chest infection, I probably wouldn't be here. 

“So I thought, I’ve always loved Miss Congeniality, I'm going to give it a go and pretend I know what I'm doing! 

“I went into the Miss United Kingdom finals as Ms North Lanarkshire 2022 then came fourth in the Royal International Miss United Kingdom finals. 

“I love every single moment of pageant life and will be signing up to more and continuing to raise awareness.”

Now in 2023, Rachael is grateful for the position she’s in. 

She’s in a happy relationship and loves spending her weekends exploring the great outdoors on lengthy walks. 

She also works with a personal trainer to continue working on her fitness journey and is learning to love herself. 

But life is still somewhat different as she’ll likely never have full function in her right lung. 

She said: “Yes, I have less lung function, have had an unknown number of CT scans and MRIs, multiple failed biopsies, and a few hospital stays, but I'm the healthiest I've ever been.

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“Mentally and physically, I'm proud of myself for going through all of it and not giving up. 

“I’m living proof that it does get better eventually.”

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