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Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Awareness of deep-vein thrombosis can save lives

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

By Pohla Smith

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chris Gathagan, athletic director, physical education teacher and basketball coach at St. Edmund's Academy in Squirrel Hill, was having "a very tough time breathing" and "a really tough time going upstairs" over the Labor Day weekend of 2006. He also had a lot of pain in his left leg that felt nothing like the discomfort he'd suffered because of arthritis or injury that required three knee surgeries.

Jocelyn Mazzoni woke up one morning in mid-March 2004 and found one leg swollen to two to three times the size of her other and hot to the touch. Ms. Mazzoni, then 19 and a student at John Carroll University near Cleveland, also didn't feel well. "I felt very light-headed, very weak," she said.

David Bloom, an NBC war correspondent embedded with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division as it approached Baghdad in the war with Iraq, was suffering from leg cramps the night he called his wife, Melanie, in April 2003.

Different times; different places; different symptoms.

Same disease.

All three had deep vein thrombosis, which is a dangerous blood clot. DVT occurs most commonly in the lower leg or thigh but can occur in other large, deep veins.

In the cases of Mr. Gathagan and Mr. Bloom, a part of their clots broke off and traveled to the lung, a condition called pulmonary embolism.

Mr. Gathagan, who had pulmonary emboli affecting both of his lungs, was admitted to a hospital, treated with blood thinners and recovered. Mr. Bloom, only 39 and the father of three young children, died a few days after he told his wife about the leg cramps and before he could get help.

Ms. Mazzoni, who had multiple clots, also was put on blood thinners. However, she recently developed three new clots, one of which blocked the vena cava, and she said she had two stents surgically inserted to help keep blood flowing through what is the largest vein in the body.

Neither the three cases of DVT nor Mr. Bloom's death are unusual.

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, DVT and pulmonary embolism affect an estimated 350,000 to 600,000 Americans a year and contribute to at least 100,000 deaths. The Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis paints an even more dire picture, saying DVT occurs each year in about 2 million Americans, some 600,000 of whom are hospitalized. According to Mr. Bloom's widow, now the full-time spokeswoman for the coalition, some 300,000 of those who develop pulmonary embolisms die.

"It takes more lives than breast cancer and AIDs combined," Mrs. Bloom said. "It's incredibly serious ... [yet] nobody has ever heard of it."

Mrs. Bloom and the coalition are trying to change that. She travels the United States to tell people her personal story and the facts of DVT. This year she's often accompanied by the DVT RV, which is equipped to give tests assessing people's risk of developing the clots.

Both will be in Pittsburgh Saturday for a day of DVT-related events at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital and the Pittsburgh Mills mall.

The leading force behind the event was West Penn hematologist Dr. Margaret Kennedy, medical director of the Anticoagulation Management Center at the hospital and associate director of the hospital's Hemostasis and Thrombosis Laboratory. She describes herself as "passionate about this disease."

"Any chance we have to teach the public not to ignore the symptoms is a chance to save a life," Dr. Kennedy said.

"This disease can be very tricky," she added in an e-mail interview. "There can be quite a few other things to give you leg discomfort, redness, or swollen ankle. If a patient complains of chest pain, an EKG gets done first -- even a 25-year-old woman coming to the emergency room is mostly suspected of a coronary event."

The West Penn event starts with a 9 a.m. continental breakfast; Ms. Bloom will speak at 10 a.m., and after that, Dr. Kennedy will lead further discussion of DVT. Attendees also will be afforded demonstrations of venous Doppler technology, which can be used to detect DVT.

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.

From 9 a.m. to noon the DVT RV will be parked near the hospital's South Millvale Avenue entrance in Bloomfield and open to the public for computerized tests that will assess their risk of having or developing DVT. From 3 to 5 p.m., the van will be parked at Pittsburgh Mills.


Read more: "Awareness of deep vein thrombosis can save lives" - http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09140/971221-114.stm#ixzz0G4WPtiQR&A

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