DVTs get worse? They Should Have a Sign for That.

by Neil Anderson
 

Had I known you need to seek treatment for a DVT, I like to think I would have gotten it. I knew DVTs were a thing. There are signs everywhere saying you can get them. I saw signs in the airport. I saw signs on the airplane. Hell, I even think the guy giving the announcements about buckling/unbuckling my seat belt and locating my floatation devices said something about getting up and moving about the cabin from time to time. I figured this was advice related to the DVT thing. What they don't tell you is what happens if you don't.

They should have a sign for that.

Come to find out, if you happen to develop a DVT while on a flight (or while any place else) you're in pretty serious trouble. It won't stop at just being a pain in your leg. And it won't go away on it's own. Not all the way away. You need treatment. If you don't get it treated it'll get worse. Like, pulmonary embolisms worse. It could mean the most excruciatingly painful three days (likely more - I was lucky) of your life and expensive hospital bills. That is, if you live through it. Not everyone does.   

Any of the above would have gotten my attention. Any of it would have made for a good sign.

In retrospect, a sign telling you to get your DVT treated seems redundant. The simple fact that the airlines are making such an understatement of this mysterious medical condition should have set my Spidey senses to tingling. Afterall the airlines coined the term "water landing." Sensational drama isn't really their strong point. That they even mentioned it - is a sign, right?

But honestly, I didn't know.

Our flight to Tahiti on May 9th left from LAX at nearly midnight. Super cool, I thought, because I'd just get a good night's sleep and upon awakening, we'd be there! Glorious merriment would soon thereafter ensue! I was right. Slept like a babe (this is bad - I should have gotten up and moved around every hour) and glorious merriment, in fact, DID ensue with the dearest of friends. 

I was having way too much fun in this new land with old and new friends to pay much attention to that trifling pain behind my R calf. After a couple of days, it was all swollen and feavery (I feel certain this is a word). But it wasn't horrible. I've had WAY worse. And I didn't ignore it.

I mocked it.

I have cartoonish calves anyway, so to see one of them appearing all red and around 2X the size of the other - is kind of funny.

A couple of weeks later, it went away. Or, it seemed like it did.

Understand, it is in NO WAY hyperbole that I was able to "tough it out" due to the fact that I am generally impervious to pain and also rugged as hell. I'm a John Waynanite (Wayniac?). A man's man. I can't be bothered with something as frivolous as a bit of pain in a calf. Maybe I should also mention, a very small part of it might have had something to do with my uber sucky and expensive health insurance. Thanks Obama?

In case they don't post signs before your next flight, take this little story as a cautionary tale. A DVT is not something to be "toughed out." It isn't like a flu virus, or a sprained ankle. If you get one, or suspect you might have one, get on your horse ("hurry") and get it diagnosed & treated. Don't think, just because you workout you are not at risk of getting them, or of suffering complications from them. Trust me. You are. This can happen to you. 

If you ignore it, you'll be lucky to get of with just a lung infarction and multiple pulmonary emboli. You'll be lucky to discover a new "worst pain ever." You'll be lucky to give yourself daily shots and take pills that thin your blood and make you feel like crap (I hope that's why). You'll be lucky to forgo your favorite hobbies (like mountain biking) for several months for fear of crashing and bleeding out. You'll be lucky to get away with only scaring the holy living hell out of everyone who loves, or cares about you. You'll be lucky to find out that the medical staff at the local hospital is capable of saving your life, or that your doctor, who is a good friend, is a highly skilled healer and lifesaver (thanks AF & Lakeview hosp.). 

Yes, you'll be lucky to experience any of it, because if you aren't lucky - you'll be dead.

So, If you've got one, or even if you think you might - go get treated. Yes, yes it is much better to prevent them in the first place. It's the only smart thing to do, but this story isn't about prevention. There are plenty of places to learn about prevention (link below). All of which are more credible and complete than anything written here. This is a cautionary tale for the dudes and chicks who think they are too tough (read "have bad insurance") to get a seemingly inconsequential little pain in the calf looked at. 

Now, who do we have to talk to about getting those signs made? 

How to Prevent DVTs on Your Next Flight