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John Douglas

John Douglas is a pioneering FBI profiler who has tracked some of the most notorious criminals of our time. He has helped bring such criminals as the Unabomber, the Tylenol poisoner and the Seattle Green River Killer to justice. During his 25-year career in the FBI, John has faced some dangerous foes, but his biggest adversary turned out to be blood clots. John is not alone in this battle. According to the Council for Leadership on Thrombosis Awareness and Management, two million Americans develop blood clots each year and 200,000 die from pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs). As a chronic sufferer of blood clots, John wants to share his story to raise awareness of the overlooked health issue that nearly took his life.

My Battle with Blood Clots

I've tracked a number of insidious culprits, but my most formidable foe has been blood clots, or what my friends in the medical community call, "deep-vein thrombosis" (DVT). DVT is a blood clot in the large veins of the leg. If left untreated, the clot may travel to the lungs and kill you. I've had four bouts with this serious condition, and a couple of them nearly cost me my life. In FBI parlance, DVT in my book would be one of America's least wanted diseases.

I first developed blood clots in 1983, at the age of 38, when I was investigating the Green River Killer case in Seattle. One night in my hotel room, I collapsed and remained on the floor for two days until two fellow FBI agents found me. I was in a coma for one week! The clinical diagnosis was viral encephalitis, and I was lucky to be alive. While still hospitalized and immobilized from being in a coma and bed-ridden, I developed blood clots in my legs as a complication of the illness and so much time in bed. I felt as if I was struggling to get through every day. I had shortness of breath and tightness in my leg. Finally, the doctor told me that I had blood clots throughout my legs and they had traveled to both my lungs. A blood clot lodged in your lung is called a pulmonary embolism, and that can be fatal.

Apparently, I had one of the classic risk factors for DVT, an acute medical illness (in this case, a viral infection) that restricted my mobility. I've learned from talking with physicians that other risk factors include age, obesity, pregnancy, surgery, cancer and the kind of prolonged immobility caused by long plane flights.

I had three more incidents of DVT in 1987, 1994 and 1998. Each time, the blood clots in my legs traveled to my heart and lungs. Fortunately, I was released from the hospital during one bout in time to attend my daughter's wedding, but I was so weak that I was not able to walk down the aisle with her and give her away. To this day, I regret missing out on one of the most important father-daughter rituals.

I am now on medication to prevent future episodes of DVT and I take preventive measures to minimize my risk. I stay active and fit by jogging, and I move around as much as I can on flights. I know the symptoms well enough that I can "profile" myself and seek medical help when I have pain, swelling and tenderness in my leg.

Luckily, I have been "DVT-Free" for the past few years and I'm able to lead a full and rewarding life. Fortunately, advances have been made in the prevention, treatment, and awareness of this serious health problem. You can even treat blood clots at home instead of in the hospital.

For more information about blood clots, call 1-800-CLOT-FREE.

Created: 3/11/2002  -  John Douglas

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