Ten years ago while covering the war in Iraq, journalist David Bloom was struck and killed, not by a stray bullet or roadside bomb, but by a clot that traveled to his lungs and blocked blood flow. The clot had started in Bloom’s legs as a deep vein thrombosis and then traveled silently up to his lungs until it lodged in an artery there.
Bloom’s family was stunned when they heard the news.
“We had braced ourselves for all the war-related dangers that that assignment entailed,” his wife, Melanie Bloom told TODAY.com. “But when I got that call, I had never heard of DVT myself and I don’t think David ever had. 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.”
As a way of finding some meaning in her husband’s death Bloom set out to educate the public about DVT and has been working to alert everyone to the danger.
Thursday, she told TODAY how far that effort has come.
“In the past ten years we’ve established March as national DVT awareness month and we’ve raised awareness by about 20 percent, which is quite significant because the year David passed a study showed that 74 percent of Americans were completely unaware of DVT,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.
DVT can be treated and pulmonary embolism sometimes averted, Dr. Geno Merli, a clinical professor at Jefferson University and co-director of the Jefferson Vascular Center, told TODAY. Merli is also a paid consultant to Sanofi-Aventis, which makes a DVT therapy.
Further, we can lower our risk of dying by changing the way we live and by knowing the warning signs that a DVT is developing, Merli said.
“There’s a personal risk through obesity, and age, which of course we can’t change,” Merli said. “And there are some, such as cancer, medications that could cause [a DVT] or immobility, say from the fracture of a leg.”
Other risk factors include injury, surgery, illness, pregnancy, smoking, and prolonged immobility, which can occur if you’re sitting on a long plane trip without moving your legs.
DVT warning signs include pain, swelling, tenderness, discoloration or redness of the affected area, and skin that is warm to the touch. Symptoms of pulmonary embolisms include shortness of breath, an apprehensive feeling, chest pain, rapid pulse, sweating, or a bloody cough.
However, “50 percent of the time there are no symptoms,” Bloom said, “so it’s important to know if you fall into any of those risk categories.”
DVT and pulmonary embolism strikes about 300,000 to 600,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Surgeon General’s office estimates that more than 100,000 people die each year as a result of DVT and pulmonary embolism.
Five years after her husband’s death Melanie Bloom remarried and had two more children in addition to the three she had with Bloom. Still, “we think about David every single day. It’s been so cathartic and wonderful to know we’ve saved lives in his memory and in his honor,” she said.