Having lost my beautiful mum to pulmonary embolism (PE) I am very much aware of getting regular physical exercise. One sunny afternoon, mum was innocently sitting reading the newspaper and got up to answer the phone. At that moment, both of her ankles broke and she was rushed to hospital. She was released and sent home later that day, only to pass away suddenly less than 5 minutes after I had spoken to her on the telephone that night. My mother was a vibrant, healthy and very active woman. She had not been sick a day in her life aside from the usual cold or flu once every two years. The shock of losing her was almost more than I could take. Sadly, it was more than my dad could handle, and we lost him, too, just a year and a half later after he suffered a massive stroke (more clots and stress).
I am not publishing this article for sympathy. You need to know that PE is the third biggest killer of people in the United States alone. It knows no boundaries either. It matters not about your age, race or sex. It claims almost one quarter of a million lives every year. PE is said to be the largest cause of unexpected death, and there are several things you need to know to protect yourself from becoming yet another victim.
I am offering you information which I have learned from my mother’s situation, and from research I have done over the years since. I hope to prompt you to take precautions to save your own life. It is not my intention to cause alarm, just awareness. I find it frightening that most people know nothing about it or have not even heard of such a thing as either PE or DVT. I feel that more advertising and education needs to be available not just on the internet, but in your face on television, on billboards and on your radio advertisements.
DVT, or deep vein thrombosis and PE are not exactly the same, but you can have both. If you have had a surgery, if you are not particularly mobile, if you sit for long periods without physical exercise , for example – at the computer – then you need to get up and move at least every hour for 10 minutes. Sometimes we are not able to move, and if for medical reasons you cannot then you can speak to your Doctor about any concerns you might have regarding DVT and PE. Once, after a car accident I was hospitalized for almost one year, and bed ridden due to major leg injuries. Each day the Doctor would come by and give me some injected medication to prevent clotting in my extremities.
As well as being immobile, if you feel any chest discomfort or difficulty breathing at all please call 911 immediately. Never mind your age or whether you have health insurance, or the fact you’re 24 years old and not 64, just go. You may not have had any symptoms although you have been to the Doctors many times. PE and DVT can and do go unnoticed unless proper testing is carried out. Both conditions can be difficult to detect, even in a hospital. Most find out the hard way.
Since being bound to sitting or laying down can increase chances of clots occurring, there is also what has come to be known as “Economy Class Syndrome”, where people who are flying have developed clots. I can tell you now that I am not, and have never been afraid of flying, but I am afraid of this condition. Cabin crews will encourage you to get out of your seats and walk around, and provide you with appropriate exercise instruction in case you are unable to leave your seat. I am always astounded, and angered to see most people do not adhere to in-flight instruction regarding this. Most will sit for hours on end without so much as a bathroom break.
You are able to learn more about how to care for yourself when flying by visiting here:
On this site, you can also listen to a podcast.
If you are a doctor or practitioner who can offer advice on this subject, please publish it because we need to know what you know, now. DVT and PE creep up on us and rob us of our loved ones.
Please visit the Coalition To Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis to learn more and find out how you can help yourself, your family and others. I urge you to send this link to everyone you know.
Coalition To Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
Donald Schreiber, MD, CM, Associate Professor of Surgery (Emergency Medicine), Stanford University School of Medicine
Symptoms of PE and DVT