Deep vein thrombosis - Real stories 

'I got DVT from flying' 

Journalist Mark Pownall from north London developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) on a long-haul flight from New Orleans to London.

He had been in the US for a medical conference in March 2004, reporting on topics including DVT. The night before his journey home, Mark had a few drinks.

The flight was hard work, with a six-hour transit in Washington DC because of delays. "Door to door, it was a 20-hour trip," says the 46-year-old from north London.

"I arrived at Heathrow feeling like I'd slept quite badly. I felt a cramp in my left leg, and it got worse over the next few days."

It was only when Mark began limping because of the pain that he got medical attention. And that was only at the insistence of his wife, Jill.

"My leg was hot and swollen," says Mark. His GP diagnosed DVT and Mark was sent to the Whittington Hospital in north London, where he received an ultrasound that found a blood clot stretching from his calf to his mid-thigh. "The clot had spread quite a bit," says Mark.

He was kept in at the hospital and had to remain there for a few days. He received daily injections of the anti-clotting treatment heparin and was put on a course of warfarin tablets to prevent further blood clots.

"It's ironic that I got DVT after attending a conference on it," says Mark. "I should have known better and gone straight to my GP."

Doctors were puzzled by Mark's DVT. He didn't have any of the risk factors: he was male, a non-smoker, was a healthy weight and there was no family history of DVT. They said the long flight, dehydration and a lack of movement contributed to it.

After six months, Mark stopped taking warfarin because doctors thought he was unlikely to have another clot.

But he did. In June 2007, Mark developed pain in the same leg. And the consequences could have been far worse.

"It was a dull muscular pain, which came and went," says Mark. But even then, despite having experienced DVT, Mark didn't realise what it was. "I think I was in denial,"  he says.

After a few days, he developed severe chest pains. He went to hospital, where a spiral CT scan found five blood clots in his lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). "Part of the clot in my leg had broken off and got into my pulmonary artery," says Mark. PE is a potentially fatal condition.

He was in hospital for four days, where he was treated with heparin and warfarin. "I was very lucky," says Mark. "I was healthy, and that's why I’m still alive.

"With the first DVT I just thought I was unlucky, but with the second one it was the first time I had come face to face with my own mortality.

"Doctors blamed the PE on the fact that I was sitting down for hours on end at my desk without moving, and not drinking enough water," he says.

Mark is now in a high-risk category and he'll probably need to continue taking warfarin for the rest of his life. When flying, he wears compression stockings to boost the circulation in his legs (flight socks have a similar effect).

"During the flight I make sure I drink water regularly, don't drink alcohol or coffee, and exercise," he says. "I try not to fall asleep either, because that means I'm not moving."

Page last reviewed: 03/02/2014

Next review due: 03/02/2016


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Drakesmaster said on 03 July 2013

Having read Mark, Helen's and Jeremy's stories I thought I would put together my story regarding DVT. I was first diagnosed with a PE just over a year ago following a painful left calf which I thought was a muscle strain after a game of golf. I used a battery operated massager on the calf to ease the strain and my leg felt quite comfortable afterwards. I started to take my dog for his usual daily walk and within the first 10 minutes became short of breath and returned home and called the emergency services. I had a week in hospital and diagnosed with DVT fortunately the clots had not caused too much damage. I was diagnosed with clots in Lungs,Heart and Liver. The week in hospital sorted my bloods out and the following 6 months Warfarin kept my bloods in check. When I looked up the causes of DVT on the internet I did not fit into any of the categories, I had not had any long flights,no operations, certainly not pregnant or HRT or Cancer treatments in fact the only thing I could put a cross to was getting older. I have always kept myself fit, I walk everyday with my Springer Spaniel and play golf 3 times a week. I am definitely not a couch potato so DVT's can affect anyone. I have been clear for 8 months but just last week I had a new clot in the same calf, fortunately this time I went to the hospital straight away and started on the meds again. Hopefully this time investigations will take place to identify what has caused the clots but the treatment will be the same for the rest of my life Warfarin and more Warfarin but if it keeps the clots at bay hey whats a couple of tablets a day.

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