David Bloom -- an NBC news correspondent -- called his wife from a few miles
outside Baghdad, resting on the fender of a tank. It was April 2003, and Bloom
had spent several weeks traveling in military vehicles across the deserts of
He casually mentioned that he was having leg cramps, but neither he nor his
wife, Melanie Bloom, thought much about it. "Cramps didn't seem unusual, since
he was sleeping most nights inside a tank with his knees up to his chin.
Everyone was having aches and pains," she tells WebMD. Besides, Bloom -- who
was 39 -- had always been in excellent health.
DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in one of the body’s deep veins, usually deep within the leg. The biggest danger of DVT is that part of the clot could break off and travel to the lungs, where it can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism, or PE, says Marc Passman, director of the vein program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Your doctor will talk to you about how much of a risk your clot poses.
What they didn't know is that Bloom had developed
deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in the leg -- partly the result of
dehydration and traveling in cramped conditions. A few days later, as
troops prepared a final push across the Baghdad border, David Bloom collapsed
and died. The clot had traveled through his bloodstream to his lungs and killed
Melanie Bloom had many fears about her husband being in Iraq. DVT was not
one of them.
"He did everything he could to stay safe," she recalls. He wore a chemical
suit, and at times a flak jacket and a
gas mask. "But the irony is that despite all those precautions, it was
something inside his own body that took his life."
Deep Vein Thrombosis: An Unrecognized Danger
Like most people in the U.S., Bloom knew nothing about the condition. "Prior
to the midnight phone call when I found out that David had passed away," Bloom
says, "I had never, ever heard of DVT."
A 2002 survey conducted by the American Public Health Association found that
74% of U.S. adults knew little or nothing about it. But everyone needs to be
aware. Tragically, David Bloom's story is not unusual. Every year, 2 million
people get deep vein thrombosis and up to 200,000 of them die.
"DVT kills more people every year than
AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle
accidents combined," says Geno J. Merli, MD, director of internal medicine at
Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. "Most patients, and even many
physicians, don't realize that."
"There's no question that DVT is underreported," says Samuel Z. Goldhaber,
MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and cardiologist at
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "For every one case that we know about,
there are probably five that we don't."
The tragedy is that most of those deaths could have been avoided with simple
precautions or treatment. According to the American Public Health Association,
deaths from deep vein thrombosis may be the most common preventable cause of
But not enough people -- or doctors -- are truly aware of the risks.