Well, I never expected to die that day, but I did, while I was feeling great.
No symptoms led up to the event. In retrospect, I should have made my bed and head better.
Monday night is my normal Stationary Bike date. I usually have 2 or 3 classes during the week.
One hour of biking, indoors, with music and direction from an instructor. I like some instructors for both the instructor’s music and their style, as some instructors like to scream at you. This night, I had a good one.
Instructors? Screaming is not motivation! It is just screaming! Like a person out of their mind.
Thankfully, my “death” was short. This time.
As a life-long exercise person, I have always been active.
My early life included boxing, swimming, biking, base and basketball, with tennis and table tennis thrown in.
(secret note: I was very competitive in table tennis and boxing, where I could not allow myself to lose)
I was part of running clubs for many years with all kinds of road series, 2.5k up to a marathon. Let’s say I ran a leisurely pace, as I am not competitive, I just want to play.
It is good to win, but I can handle a loss. (except as noted before)
10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis after an overseas flight, right inside leg, above my ankle. My age somewhere north of 50. (blood clot, causing swelling and pain)
Don’t let the big words throw you, DVT is a killer, and has been nicknamed the Silent Killer, as you might not have any outward signs that are coming.
False info thoughts include: out of shape, heart disease, high blood pressure, smoker, and so forth.
Very recent data DVT victims have low blood pressure and low heart rates to include marathoners, professional bikers, and other endurance athletes. Blood pooling or Statsis is at higher potentials in these people.
Real facts include, estimates 1 of every 1000 people can be affected. 10 to 30% would die within the first month after a clot breaks free. Many that live will have a repeat within 10 years. DVT victims can be from Teen years to later years, from post-surgery to no surgery, every gender, every race.
My hospital emergency room said that people in my state have about a 2% chance of living.
I was a 2% statistic! (not something to be proud of, however)
One of the emergency room techs had to come up my Intensive Care Bed and see me for herself, that I had lived. She stated she had never seen a survivor.
For scientific background, where the clot forms and breaks from is crucial.
The highway blood clot path is from the inside of your lower legs to your heart, lungs, or brain.
Heart attack, Pulmonary Embolism, Stroke are possible.
None of these three possibilities are good for you, they are all dangerous and life-altering.
Did you ever know anyone that took a long airplane flight and had a stroke or dropped dead an hour after the flight?
That was quite possibly DVT and went undiagnosed in most instances.
I don’t smoke, do not take steroids (adds to potential), I take vitamins and mineral supplements and I exercise. My resting heart rate is generally below 60, my blood pressure usually on the good side of low. I have a very high good cholesterol count, average overall.
“For my Age!” I am healthy.
Indeed, I had a full physical two months prior where all numbers were good.
My doctor of two decades said I “was boring.” The next time I saw him, I was not as boring, I think.
Why am I telling all of you this?
To scare you from taking Spin Class. Hell no!
Though there are growing instances of professional bike racers and other athletes having DVT that sometimes cause a life-changing event, it is likely because of low resting heartrates made troublesome by long car or airplane rides.
Think of blood pooling in your feet, not returning promptly to your heart. Blood Stasis.
I am recounting this because you might have the potential to die from it and never know of it. If you are reading this, I hope it causes you to read more and learn, and the next time you go to your doctor to talk to them about your potential for DVT.
Potential signs include unexplained severe pain or unexplained swelling, in an extremity.
If you are having trouble breathing, pop a baby aspirin and get to the emergency room.
It does not just pick out old white men like the cable news, it picks on everyone, young, slim or not.
There are all kinds of factors that feed into this including blood chemistry, genetics, surgery, which can cause clotting in the blood more likely.
But, there also factors like your family background, your DNA, a proclivity to clot. Physical attributes like low resting heart rate, how long your legs are, the size of your feet could be a variable.
The physical attributes can add to the blood pooling in your lower legs or feet, which is bad.
Sitting for long periods of time without moving your feet and legs is bad.
So, before a long airplane flight, I put on pressure socks, take my blood thinners and plan on moving those feet during the flight.
Now, back to my dying.
The class was an hour and it was very near the end. I had had a good session and was pushing my limits. According to witnesses, I fell off the bike like a bag of rice, hit my head on the adjacent bike and went down.
The instructor first thought it was a head injury from hitting adjacent bikes and started treating me for that until he noticed I was not breathing.
I am lucky in that that health club has portable paddles to shock and allow the heart to beat again.
Again, I was lucky that that club attracted an assortment of doctors, nurses, EMTs, fire safety and so forth.
If I had made it to my car in the parking lot that night, I would have likely died for good.
Dependent upon who you talk to from the scene, I had no pulse from 5 minutes up to 14 minutes. (That is easily brain damage territory. I am leaning towards the lighter time period since I am obviously coherent.)
The paddles and CPR were applied quickly, the ambulance arrived in less than 10 minutes. I have no doubt the ambulance ride was another abusive operation trying to keep me alive, followed by the emergency room and trauma center.
I lost myself Monday 6:20PM and did not find myself again until Wednesday 2PM where I was in a different place filled with pain, and what the hell happened?
Additionally, aggressive CPR generally breaks bones around the sternum.
Upon waking, most of my pain came from the sternum area where they would have applied back of hands and muscles trying to get and keep the heart beating. In my case, it is very likely how the clot in my lungs was finally broken up via very aggressive CPR action.
Have you ever had a Charlie Horse in your legs? You know, those muscle spasms that catch you in the middle of the night with complete pain that takes minutes to go away?
Medical personnel kept warning me my Sternum would be “sore”.
Sore is when you noticed you strained something.
What I felt stopped my breathing, thinking, and caused me to try to scream.
This was not “sore”.
For the next 4 days I had Charlie Horse activity to my sternum. It was excruciating! Sometimes lasting minutes while I tried to scream. Heavy duty pain pills did NOTHING. On the fourth day, I asked a friend to get me a warm compress. That is the only thing that helped my sternum-based Charlie Horse.
According to wife and friends that saw me soon after the event in the emergency room, they could not recognize me by my face, my wife had to use the scars on my feet to know it was me.
Likely this distortion of the face came from the chemicals put into my body during the ambulance ride, and the damage to my face from crashing into nearby bikes during my event.
During my hospital stay of almost 6 days, I met half a dozen doctors that were scratching their heads, while pulling every test they could think of. They did not have a clear culprit.
Heart – perfect, no damage, better than most 20-year old. (Cardiac arrest only)
Brain – ok, it would never be perfect, but appeared to be mine. (no Stroke)
Lungs – needed oxygen assistance. (Obvious damage due to PE)
Sternum – nutts in a vice controlled by someone else, was my best description. (Warm compress)
By my 4th day, I had brought up DVT as a possibility a few times. It had also been brought up during my emergency room stay via a friend,
“Doc, what about a DVT?”
Professionals responded, “Yeah, we could probably run that test.” But, the Doctors did not, for some reason. Likely because my first chest X-ray did not include contrast die, therefore my PE did not show clearly.
But a lady doctor came in, on my fifth day. I repeated my concern for DVT, and it went from probably to yes, “We will run that test.”
Doppler tech came in looking down and a bit angry. Apparently, my concern had upset his schedule.
“What makes you think you know what a DVT is?”
“I had one diagnosed some 10 years back.” I said.
“Whempf” was all he said.
He ran acoustic gel down my legs and began to doppler the region of my inside right leg where your first painful symptom might come from.
Ten seconds in with Doppler, he said,
“There is one clot, sure enough top of calf…. there is another clot lower calf…. let’s try the other leg.” “Well, there is another!” Three clots, two legs.
I said, “Dude, you might have saved my life!” I said that because the other doctors seemed stumped.
Doppler tech left the room with his head held high, but I bet he was calculating whether I would live or not.
So, they ordered a chest CAT scan with Contrast dye, and boom, there it was for all to see.
Now, we had a smoking gun. A Pulmonary Embolism.
All of the doctors had relief now, and my treatment went from guesswork to pinpoint, and that is good, John boy.
Summary, we all need to learn more about DVT whether a college kid, an old guy, a young girl from India or a dude from the Bronx. It can impact someone out of shape or in, it can impact a long-distance airplane flyer or the couch potato.
I lived because I quick reaction when the clock alarm sounded. Since I had previous knowledge, my medical route went from broad based to pinpoint.
Ignorance will cause an aftermath of pain, and the aftermath is huge.
Please do not be ignorant! You could die.
Update: recent studies indicate long distance bikers and runners have a higher incidence of DVT. Likely caused by lower than normal heartrates, reduced blood pressure, and long transportation times increase Blood Stasis in the feet.