Saturday, February 17, 2018
Health

DVT — deep vein thrombosis — sometimes results from long flights; it can kill

When I travel abroad, which I do frequently for work, I try to run every day for an hour. It gives me energy and a great look at my new surroundings. After starting a run in Manila recently, I stopped three minutes into it. My breathing was shallow and labored. I also had nagging pain in my calves. The discomfort had been with me since I landed in the Philippines four days earlier.

Back in Washington a few days later, I again was out of breath. But this time, I had just walked up two flights of stairs. I Googled "shortness of breath + calf pain + long flight," and found a possible cause: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clotting, that could travel up to my lung and cause a pulmonary embolism, a sudden blockage in a lung artery that could kill me.

I drove to the hospital and told the admitting nurse why I believed I had DVT. Fifteen minutes later an ultrasound technician was looking at the veins inside my right calf.

"Oh, my god," she said in a whisper.

"You found a clot?" I asked.

"Don't move," she said.

She had found two, one a large clot just below my knee. She was worried that if I moved, the clot could travel up to my lungs. A nurse quickly gave me anticlotting medicines.

A doctor came a few minutes later and said that based on my story, I had almost surely had a pulmonary embolism in Manila and again in Washington. And at that moment, he said, I probably had several clots in my veins. He told me that the anticlotting drugs would not break apart the clots — medications to do that can cause serious bleeding and generally are used only in life-or-death moments in the emergency room. Instead, he said, I would start a regimen of two medicines— Coumadin orally and daily shots of heparin — to prevent my clots from getting bigger and further clots from developing. I was not yet out of danger, and so I would be kept in the hospital for a few days for observation.

So began my education on deep vein thrombosis. I returned to Google and learned that 350,000 to 600,0000 Americans get DVT every year, and up to 100,000 die from it.

I found that the biggest risk factors for DVT include surgery, immobilization, smoking, obesity, genetic tendencies to form clots (see related box) — and long-haul flights.

I reached a Web-based clearinghouse of information on DVT, ClotCare. The founder, Dr. Henry Bussey, said that the few studies on DVT showed that long-distance flying could be a "substantial risk." He also said those with a tendency toward clotting were older people with poor circulation, women who were on hormonal medicine and people with a genetic condition that allows clots to form more easily.

After I'm off my anticlotting medicine, my doctor will test my blood to see if I have a genetic disorder. And when I need to fly, I'll take precautions and be observant (see box).

John Donnelly is the author of "A Twist of Faith: An American Christian's Quest to Help Orphans in Africa.''

Comments
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18
Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Three years ago, Dr. Philip J. Cheng, a urology resident at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nicked himself while preparing an HIV-positive patient for surgery.Following hospital protocol, he took a one-month course of Truvada, a cocktail of t...
Published: 02/15/18
Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

TAMPA — Nothing seemed wrong or out of place when it was time for Sam Cordero to make an appointment for a routine eye exam.The 57-year-old man from Tampa occasionally saw a few bright or foggy spots in his left eye, but thought it was just "floaters...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18
A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

LARGO — Keshava Persaud entered the room inside Largo Medical Center, his wife at his side. His eyes went right to the couple across the room. They looked so young, he thought. Tears welled as he handed the woman, April Scott, 49, potted white silk f...
Published: 02/14/18
Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health has hired a new executive position to oversee the six regional hospitals it operates along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Joseph Mullany has been appointed regional president and chief executive officer of Bayfront Health, and will overse...
Published: 02/13/18