Thursday, August 23, 2007

Be aware. Be afraid... DVT is real

It's been a while since I've posted. While the Hammerhead Research domain still exists, and the email is still active, I've not done active competitive intelligence research in about two years. Since then I've run a Cyber Threat Intelligence group for Northrop Grumman where my team and I chase very skilled attackers, attempt to understand/mitigate new threats and trends, and in general, keep a team of free-range thinkers producing really cool analysis products.

As you might imagine, a job like this requires travel -- not long distance, just a lot. I live in NH, work in MD, and fly to just about anywhere in the US that houses a Northrop Grumman location, partner, or customer. I'm not necessarily a million mile flier, but my card is Gold and the trips might range from a simple 2 hour flight to four or more.

So, on to the main subject of the story... Two weeks ago I flew round trip to LA, then home to MHT, to BWI a day later, New Orleans, drove to Mississippi, and then flew home. Three days later I flew back to BWI for meetings in the DC/BWI area and realized I had a low grade leg cramp in my lower right calf. I had no other symptoms other than the leg cramp and gave it no thought. I'm a black belt in karate. My legs are generally sore, sometimes with cramps. I figured with a couple of Tylenol the cramps would go away, so down go two Tylenol, followed by a quart or so of water and a One-a-day. The cramps went away.

Three days later the cramp reemerged.. no in two places. Again, no other symptoms other than the cramps, so back to the Tylenol, water, and multi. This time the cramp didn't go away. Just after noon I headed to lunch... two flights of stairs down, cross the street to another building, down one more to the cafeteria. The return trip to my office nearly cost me my life. After twenty minutes to recover and catch my breath, I packed up my laptop and headed to the emergency room. The CT scan revealed multiple blood clots had left my right leg moved north to the heart, passed through the pulmonary artery, and ended up in both of my lungs. I spent three days in the hospital on heavy blood thinners, followed by a re-admittance two days after release for another 48 hours. I'm told most people don't survive multiple pulmonary embolii. I'm lucky.

Why would I post this here? I found out that a colleague at another Aerospace company left a meeting we both attending (the week before I went into the ER). He left half way through to go the the ER with leg cramps. His never hit his lungs, but did pose a heck of a risk.. it was his second time.

I'm married to, and know several RNs. They tell me that most people die from this because they don't recognize the signs early enough. For me it was a cramp on the lower calf at the sock line and another behind the knee. For my colleague it was a cramp on the surface, painful to the touch, also behind the knee.

This is real stuff guys. Don't ignore the leg cramps if you're sitting or traveling for periods longer than an hour.

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