I got the idea of this post while being wheeled through Metropolitan Hospital’s Emergency Room in the middle of the night. I’m writing it so maybe someone can learn from my stupidity and maybe it’ll save a life, who knows?
See, a few weeks ago, one of my comedy friends called me up and said she was taking a trip to Tokyo, her first to Asia ever. For those of you that haven’t booked a flight to Asia, here’s how your first one plays out in your head. First thought: WOW, This will be incredible! I wonder if it will live up to my expectations!! What an adventure! To the other side of the world we go!
Second thought: I have to be in a plane for HOW LONG?
So when my friend calls me up and asks, “Brad, how the hell am I going to survive a 14 hour flight?” I tell her have no fear, I've done this lots of times, I know juuuust what to do:
In case you can’t tell by now, yes, I’m talking about blood clots. I have always known blood clots are a thing that can happen, and that certain people can get them on long flights, but, you know…..other people. Not a healthy 32 year old man. But here I am, sitting at the moment in the ER, after several days of leg pain and a bulging, hard vein after landing from Bali via Shanghai. Once I started getting chills, I knew something was up. An ultrasound shows I do, indeed, have a blood clot in my leg, but it’s superficial and I’m not at high risk of much more dangerous complications. But I’m one of the lucky ones. One of my best friend’s sisters had one with life threatening complications, and just a couple weeks ago, a woman died on a flight from Hawaii to Dallas from a pulmonary embolism, which is where the clot travels to your lungs. She had stopped breathing by the time the flight landed. She was a 25 year old newlywed nurse. My leg’s been been bothering me for a few weeks. God, I’m so incredibly lucky.
It’s a bit ironic because I’ve been working on a piece entitled How Travelling 100,000 Miles In a Year Showed me How Small the World Is. But that’s a bit naive. Yes, it boggles my mind to think how the past 6 decades years of commercial travel has shrunk the planet, but it would be short sighted of me to not acknowledge that travel can kick your ass sometimes, and not just the “Papa needs a grande cafe con leche today” kind of kick-your-ass. I’ve spoken to a few of my professional travel friends since this incident, and I was shocked to find out I’d been left in the dust on this. My friend is a travel and alcohol writer and says she doesn’t touch the stuff on a flight. “Heellll no, gotta stay hydrated.” Another pro traveller friend told me he takes aspirin on every long haul flight he takes. Period. I should perhaps mention his aunt died from a blood clot.
It turns out I’m not the only one that’s been in the dark on this. 100,000 to 300,000 deaths from blood clots occur each year, which is greater than the total number of deaths caused by AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle crashes combined. Yet in the United States, only 57 percent of those surveyed were aware of deadly blood clots, while about 90 percent were aware of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, according to the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis (voted world’s sexiest magazine 3 years running!) Yeah, there’s a reason they have those videos of people rotating their ankles and flexing their calves on long haul flights.
So, from here on out, I’ll be the guy getting up every couple hours to do laps in the aisles, passing up wine for water (or as I call it, the Reverse Jesus), and wearing my sweet sweet compression socks with pride. Will I ever watch Baywatch, though? Eh, that probably can’t be good for my health.