Whenever NBC correspondent David Bloom would leave for places like conflict-ridden Bosnia or the aftermath of a hurricane or war-ravaged Iraq, he would excitedly tell this wife that “this is the story of my lifetime.’’
It turns out that the story of the former NBC White House correspondent and Weekend TODAY co-anchor has made an impact well beyond his lifetime. Bloom was only 39 when he died from a pulmonary embolism caused by a condition known as deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) while he was covering the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003. Since his death, his widow, Melanie Bloom, has become the national spokesperson for The Coalition to Prevent DVT, greatly increasing awareness of a condition that kills more Americans annually than AIDS and breast cancer combined.
“We had braced ourselves for all the war-related dangers that that (Iraq) assignment entailed, but when I got that call (about his death), I had never heard of DVT myself and I don’t think David ever had,’’ Bloom told TODAY.com. “The more I learned, the more shocked I was. It wasn’t an IED or a bomb that took his life. It was this DVT.Video: David Bloom remembered (on this page)
“David lost his life informing the American people about things that were important. I felt like that was a great legacy for him and his memory to pick up that mantle and get out there and talk about this condition.’’
DVT is when a blood clot forms in the lower limbs and a fragment breaks loose and moves to the lungs, where it can block a pulmonary artery and potentially be fatal. More than two million Americans develop a clot every year, and 600,000 can develop the condition where the clot moves from the legs to the lungs, according to Bloom. Approximately 300,000 Americans die every year of a pulmonary embolism caused by DVT.
The Coalition to Prevent DVT coincidentally formed only a few months before Bloom’s death. In 2003, the American Public Health Association released a survey saying that 74 percent of Americans had never heard of DVT. Through Melanie Bloom’s efforts with the Coalition, that number is currently down to 60 percent.
“We’ve moved the needle of awareness,’’ she said. “It’s much better now, but we still have a long way to go.’’
A three-tiered effort of a grassroots awareness campaign, regular media appearances, and lobbying the government to help increase the visibility of DVT have shown Bloom how much her husband meant to so many people in his life and with the awareness that his death brought to DVT. Melanie is also currently writing a book with the working title of “The Story of a Lifetime,’’ about David’s life and the DVT cause. She hopes to get it released in time for the 10th anniversary of his death in April 2013.
“I got over 80,000 letters and emails in the first year after his death, many saying they loved his work,’’ Bloom said. “A lot of the letters also had the same line running through it, which was, ‘Your husband saved my life. I had pain in my leg, I got checked out, and I had a clot.’’’
Bloom has done numerous appearances at hospitals and community events across the nation, sometimes accompanied by one or more of the three daughters she had with David.Video: Know the warning signs of DVT (on this page)
“It’s just so wonderful to know that he is remembered for the body of work he had, and now also for shining a spotlight on this condition,’’ she said. “These community events kind of gave all of us a place to put this grief and do something positive with it. We know we’ve helped others.’’
During his career, David was known for his boundless energy and fearlessness in reporting on stories like the war in Iraq, Hurricane Andrew and the Colombian drug cartels led by Pablo Escobar. Away from the spotlight, he was a devoted father who cherished his family right up until his final hours. On the day of his death, he called Melanie and told her that he had sent her an email that she did not end up reading until a few days later.
“He wrote in that email everything that anybody would want to say to their loved one if they knew they were going to die,’’ she said. “It’s a gift. It’s so touching and poignant, and brings so much comfort. Frankly, I don’t know what prompted him to do that. It was almost like a premonition.’’
A spiritual man, he had a book of daily devotions on him the day he died. The pocket volume fell out of his flak jacket as rescue workers tried to resuscitate him, according to Melanie.
Bloom reported on serious topics but also had a lighter side that included being a tennis junkie who would take a racket wherever he traveled in the hopes of a quick pick-up game. He enjoyed hikes with his daughters and was a big fan of Broadway musicals.
“He would be making breakfast for us, flipping pancakes while belting out a Broadway tune,’’ Melanie said. “People didn’t know that side of him. He was kind of adorably dorky.’’Story: David Bloom, 39, of New York
His playful side also came out during his time as co-anchor of Weekend TODAY. He previously had served as NBC’s White House correspondent.
“I remember we all thought, he’s been covering the White House, is he really going to want to do a dunk tank (on Weekend TODAY)?’’’ said Soledad O’Brien, who was a co-anchor with Bloom. “Is he really going to want to do the ice bike race around the rink? Is he going to want to dress up for Mardi Gras? Yes. More than anybody else, he’s a big, giant kid, and really just full of fun.’’
'Everybody was in tears'
O’Brien remembered getting the call at 1 a.m. from the president of NBC News that Bloom had died in Iraq, and she was asked to appear on TODAY later that morning.
“Cameramen were crying, production assistants — everybody was in tears,’’ she said. “It was awful. But I remember thinking, the best way to do this job is to deliver it for him, and don’t let his family down, so that I could get through it.’’
Bloom never took a journalism class in his life, according to his wife. He earned a political science degree from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., and was a debate champion, but he became a decorated journalist while reporting from all types of conflicts.
“He was an amazing field reporter, probably the best field reporter I've ever seen on television,’’ said former Weekend TODAY co-anchor Campbell Brown. “The image that comes to my mind and probably everyone else's is David, on the tank, the Bloom-mobile, going through the desert. He had this presence in those moments to bring you in as a viewer in a way that made you feel like you were experiencing it.’’
“I just remember the smile on his face,’’ said Weekend TODAY anchor Lester Holt. “It stood out in many ways because he was a role model for me in many ways when I eventually became host of this show. The most interesting and exciting times we have are not in the studio, they're out there, out in the field. He really embodied that notion. So in many ways David was a role model for me for both what happens in the studio and what happens outside the studio.’’
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints