Wednesday, June 9

Cyclists Are NOT Immune

In my previous post, I wrote, in part: "As far as I can tell, the hospital appears to be unrelated to bikes, and it should not keep me off a bike."  Well, I can no longer confidently say that the bike was unrelated to the hospital and, while it won't keep me off a bike, it may well change the way and some places I ride. For example, I'm thinking Cyclocross might not be a brilliant move this year.

I didn't go into details because, at the time, it wasn't exactly clear WHAT was wrong with me. Since then, the doctors all agree with each other that I had a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), likely caused by Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) coming from my right leg. I probably delayed the diagnosis because I told them I rode pretty much every day, whereas the condition is more often associated with airline passengers in economy class, truck drivers, bedridden people, and others whose legs must stay in one place for long periods. While I do work as an engineer in an office, I think few would characterize me as deskbound. They agreed it "didn't fit the pattern." Well, doctors may know a lot about medicine but mostly they don't know much about bike commuting in North Texas.

Because it does fit the pattern. As it turns out, Pro Cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke, aged 34, died of PE just last year. Tom Zirbel suffered a nonfatal PE in 2007. And there are others. What's more, this is a problem that is misdiagnosed and missed frequently. How can this be? As it turns out, it makes more sense than you might imagine, and, as a cyclist, there are very simple steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability to this.

For now, I just got home after five days in the hospital, so I'll go into details as to how it occurs and the simple things you can do to help in another post. So as not to keep you hanging, if you want some of the details ahead of time, here is probably the best source I've found. In the meantime, keep well hydrated!

12 comments:

Rat Trap Press said...

I was wondering what landed you in the hospital (osteoperosis, hystorectomy etc.). All kidding aside, I'm glad that you're back home and doing alright. Get back on the road soon.

cafiend said...

Uh oh. I'm not a big hydrator.

I wonder if a quick recovery rate and fairly low resting pulse and BP might actually contribute to a problem if you go from active riding to work-related sitting without elevating and draining your legs.

As for pro cyclists, doesn't EPO basically turn their blood into taffy?

cycler said...

Whoa! That's scary stuff.
I am so glad to hear that you're OK and home.
Back when I was a marathoner, my mom used to nag me about doing leg exercises on airplanes because it seems that DVT is something that happens more to athletes (especially people with big leg muscles) more than non- athletes.
I'm glad they figured it out (finally) and I hope that you're up and about soon!
Take care of yourself.

Oldfool said...

It's just old age coming on. If you live past getting old then being old is not so bad. Not. Actually it sucks.
Any Get Old. Better than the alternative. I think?
Do I seem wishy washy about this.

Pondero said...

I'm very sorry to learn about your hospital stay, and the medical condition. Hopefully, you'll recover completely and not suffer any significant restrictions. I'm looking forward to more details from you on this.

Rantwick said...

Thanks for this Steve. Thank God I'm overwieght and have slightly high blood pressure despite my cycling. All kidding aside, I'm gald you're gonna be alright and I will indeed hydrate more. Like Cafiend, I've never really done it the way I should.

[kesespa]

Ham said...

Do hope you make a speedy and full recovery; that is some scary shit. You also do a long commute, don't you? I know I rarely bother stopping for a drink, I really ought to start. And, I too sit most of the day in front of a computer.

Can anyone see what I did with my complacency? I'm sure I had it a little while ago.

Tracy W said...

Glad to see you're home and on the mend. I've got an employee out right now with that same problem. Scary stuff.....

Velouria said...

I am glad that they diagnosed it and I wish you a complete recovery. I too am surprised that this is something cyclists can be vulnerable to, and look forward to your next post.

Commute-a-sarus said...

Hang in there man! I hope that this doesn't stop the passion for the bike....but it does say that our bodies are designed to move not sit.

Craig said...

I was very interested in this post. I'm 63 and just getting into the trike thing. I recently rode my trike 40 mi. after my initial purchase and didn't take proper rest brakes or hydrate enough and, brother, did I pay the price. It didn't put me in the hospital, but I felt so poorly, I won't be making that mistake again! I knew nothing of the potential PE problem and will now be doubly motivated to take care of myself on the road! Thanks for the timely info!

Steve A said...

It is important to replace the salt you lose by sweating, in addition to the water, or the water may only serve to fill your bladder because your body will want to keep the balance right in your blood. If you get deep vein thrombosis, a PE is only one of the possible problems. If it goes to your heart, it is a heart attack. If it goes to your brain, it is a stroke. I suspect the heart item may be what happened to Bicycle Bill (you can find it via the blog updates with show all) just last weekend. I think the clue is his "clotbusters" allusion. Whareagle zonked out and had to get a saline IV to make himself functional again.

When I went to the doctor last Friday, I got to look at the x-rays for the first time. I mentioned we could have had worse outcomes. The nurse practitioner replied that THOSE outcomes meant I wouldn't have been there to see the x-rays.

As we get older, our bodies sometimes don't do everything exactly as we wish, so we have to make up for it by being smarter than when we were kids. One smart thing is to realize that when they say to be careful about salt intake, they usually aren't thinking that you're going to be working on a bike for four hours in the sun. Vary your salt intake depending on what's going on. It don't take much to watch TV. It takes a lot to ride the HH100.

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