What should have been a short flight home from Las Vegas turned into five consecutive hours and a long airline delay for Jim Durkin. When the Woodridge resident finally stood up to exit the airplane, he had excruciating pain in one leg. Here's his story.
|HEART STORY: JIM DURKIN
At first, Jim Durkin took over-the-counter medications to tolerate the pain, but when the pain began traveling up and down his leg, he knew something was wrong.
Durkin's primary care physician referred him to Zev Davis, MD, cardiac surgeon. Dr. Davis requested a Doppler ultrasound of Durkin's leg, which revealed an eight-inch blood clot from the knee to the thigh.
"Dr. Davis saved my life," says Durkin. If the clot had moved to his lung, heart or brain, Durkin would suffer a pulmonary embolism, massive heart attack or stroke. In all three cases, sudden death would have likely been the outcome. He was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and admitted to Edward for intravenous heparin treatments to quickly thin his blood. The clot dissolved and surgical intervention was not necessary.
According to the American Heart Association, up to two million Americans are affected annually by DVT. Complications from DVT kill more than 200,000 Americans each year, more than breast cancer and AIDS combined, yet few people are aware of the risks and symptoms.
The media has nicknamed DVT "economy class syndrome" because one of the risk factors is prolonged sitting such as on a long plane or car trip. Although your chance of developing DVT while flying or driving is relatively low, the American Heart Association offers these common sense tips: get up periodically and move around, drink plenty of water and avoid drinking alcohol.
More common causes of DVT include prolonged bedrest, orthopedic surgeries such as hip or knee replacements, childbirth within the last six months, taking birth control pills and obesity. DVT symptoms include unexplained pain, tenderness, swelling, increased warmth or redness on one leg.
There are also inheritable blood-clotting disorders that make some people predisposed to DVT. It was discovered that Durkin has one of these disorders called the Factor V Leiden gene. Before the age of 40, he has experienced DVT four times. His first episode was at age 27, when his left calf swelled to three times its normal size. At that point, he thought the calf pain and swelling were the result of an injury from exercising. Calf pain is a classic symptom of DVT, and it can often feel like cramping or a "charley horse." DVT also runs in his family - one of Durkin's cousins died at age 36 from complications of the disease.
"Complications from DVT are one of the most preventable causes of death but we must increase the public's awareness of the symptoms and risks," says Dr. Davis.
Today, Durkin is on a mission to raise awareness of DVT. He is the author of two fictional novels in which key characters have DVT. Durkin exercises regularly to keep himself healthy and reduce the risk of blood clots. And, he is training to break the world record for continuously walking on a treadmill for over 50 hours.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of DVT, you should contact your physician. For more information about DVT or other vascular diseases, call (630) 527-3016.