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Experts, survivor raise awareness over life-threatening blood clot

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Experts, survivor raise awareness over life-threatening blood clot

The revelation that Nollywood star, Mr. John Okafor, aka, Mr. Ibu, who passed recently died of blood clot, has brought new concern about the medical condition. Medical experts and the survivor of blood clot related health conditions have raised awareness over the life-threatening conditions caused by the formation of blood clots that manifest silently.

Thrombosis is a medical disorder that occurs, when blood clot blocks blood vessels, thereby blocking the flow of blood in the arteries or veins. It is one of the leading causes of sudden death and could be triggered by health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell, and cancer among others.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a health condition that occurs, when blood clots block the deep veins in the body, such as the legs, thigh, or pelvis, while pulmonary embolism (PE) is a life-threatening condition, where blood clots block the arteries in the lungs. However, a combination of these two conditions is called venous thromboembolism (VTE).

A report by the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), the founders of World Thro tree ccc c eec cd vbosiss Day, revealed that an estimated 10 million clots hospital cases occur annually across all countries in the world, including low, middle, and high-income countries.

In Nigeria, it is estimated that about 200,000 people die from thrombosis every year. In Europe, 500,000 people die from VTE each year. In the United States, 100,000 to 300,000 individuals die due to VTE annually and VTE is associated with more than 500,000 hospitalizations.

Following the passing of a popular Nollywood actor, John Okafor, a Cybersecurity expert, Charles Awuzie shared his experience on his Facebook page after he was diagnosed with DVT and Pulmonary Embolism.

“This was three years ago. I lived with undiagnosed DVT for several months. Then it dislodged and traveled to my lungs, causing Pulmonary Embolism. I almost died. Breathing was like stabbing myself with every draw of air. Already, walking was almost impossible. At one point, I couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain. Doctors couldn’t find what was wrong. Blood tests and X-ray couldn’t find anything. This is where many Africans become superstitious and conclude that they are being ‘pursued by village people’. I was undiagnosed until the day I almost stopped breathing. I remember walking into my GP’s room that morning. Immediately he saw me, he ordered a D-Dimer blood test. This is a test that checks for blood clotting problems by measuring the amount of the D-dimer level in your body. My result came out positive and he ordered an ambulance to take me straight to hospital,” he posted.

Awuzie, who barely survived the illness, described the size of the blood clots in his lungs as massive, adding that he was discharged from the hospital after 10 days of fighting for his life.

According to him, ,”I could drop dead any moment from then if I wasn’t admitted in hospital. I told him I needed to see my family and kiss them goodbye before being taken to hospital. I drove myself back to the house, packed my laptop and few clothes, said my goodbyes to the family and drove myself to the hospital. It was during COVID, so hospitals were filled with COVID patients and it took longer to get me admitted. Once fully admitted, they injected me with CLEXANE. My oxygen level was dropping. I was taken in for a CT scan and boom, it was confirmed that I had clots in my lungs. I was diagnosed of Bilateral Massive Pulmonary Embolism. The size of the blood that clotted in my lungs is what was described as massive.

“It was then that my physician told me I would have died in two days if I didn’t make it to hospital. At that point, everything lost value. I knew I could die any moment. I called a few friends and prepared them for my potential exit. I contacted business partners and shared every necessary information they need for continuity. I blocked my mind from thinking about my son as the thought of him in this world without me was killing me faster than the massive clot in my lungs. But I had faith in medical science. I trusted the process. I surrounded myself with friends in the medical field – from Dr. Idee in the UK, who first mentioned I should be checked for DVT/PE, sister Joy in the U.S, Dr. Adetola in the U.S and others. On ground, I had the best specialists monitoring me closely. After 10 days of fighting for my life in hospital, my physician discharged me and said I cheated death. According to him, blood clots kills faster yet few people are aware of it,” he recounted.

In a bid to raise awareness about the health condition, Awuzie stated some risk factors of DVT and Pulmonary embolism and he further warned against the common belief that an undiagnosed condition is a spiritual problem.

“I knew at that point that the universe wanted me to use my story to raise awareness about this killer but unpopular medical condition. If you sit long hours in flights or at work, you are at a risk of developing a blood clot. If you have high blood pressure, cancer or on cancer therapy, your risk of clotting is high. If you have a sibling or relative, who suffered blood clot, please investigate the possibility of a genetic clotting disorder.

“And finally, if you’re sick and multiple blood tests do not show what’s wrong with you, do not conclude that the condition is spiritual. You just haven’t been tested correctly. Some laboratory tests or radiological scans may also not be available in your city. A lot of Nigerians die because they mistook a medical condition for a spiritual problem. My name is Charles Awuzie and I just wanted to raise awareness about blood clots especially after learning that Mr. Ibu died of clot related complications,” he shared.

In an interview with our correspondent, Dr. Adesola Adegun highlighted the various risk factors associated with DVT and Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which include sedentary lifestyle, pregnancy, obesity, smoking, family history, and advanced age, to mention but a few.

“The first risk factor is the sedentary lifestyle, which means sitting or lying down in the same spot for a very long time. People, who are always on long flights or people whose jobs involve them sitting for a very long time are at risk of having DVT. For example, Drivers, because they are always sitting for a very long time. Also, people who are confined to the same spot due to illnesses like stroke, or after a major surgery are at risk of having DVT.

“Pregnancy and Obesity are other factors. Pregnancy and Obesity cause venous stasis, which predisposes individuals to DVT. Smoking is another risk factor. It is not good for the blood vessel and it causes a lot of damage to the blood vessel. Oral contraceptives, Family history, and advanced age are other factors. Research has proven that people who are more than 60 years old are at risk of having DVT. Some medical conditions like cancer or heart failure, injuries in the veins of the leg can also cause DVT,” she expatiated.

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She further explained the signs and symptoms of DVT, and PE as well as the required treatment process for these health conditions.

“The signs and symptoms of DVT include pain in the leg or cramps for some people, a swollen leg, which is called edema, changes in the skin colour, the colour might be slightly red, or purple, it depends. When doctors touch that spot of the skin, it is usually warm for all DVT patients when compared to the other leg.

“The first test required to investigate this health condition is the D-Dimer test. Then the Doppler ultrasound and the coagulation profile. In medicine, we usually treat illnesses from the source. The problem here for DVT is that there is a blood clot. The patient needs two things. First, medication that will prevent more clots from forming, and medications that will dissolve the blood clots that have formed. The medication that will prevent blood clots from forming are called anticoagulants while the ones that dissolve blood clots are called thrombolytics.

“There are some procedures that can be done on the patient, for instance, inferior vena cava filter, which simply means, a filter will be inserted in one of the deep veins in the leg, which would allow blood to pass easily. The blood clot will be trapped in the filter and won’t go to any other part of the body because there is a possibility that the blood clot will move from the leg to another part of the body, this is called PE,” she stated.

She talked extensively on PE, its symptoms, and treatment procedures adding that delayed intervention could lead to sudden death.

“After the treatment of DVT, it can silently proceed to become PE. This usually happens to patients, who have been lying down on the hospital bed for a long time and without taking prophylactic to prevent PE. PE simply means the blood clot in the leg dislodges from the veins in the leg and goes into the lungs. When this happens, the patient starts finding it difficult to breathe, and the patient will start experiencing chest pain. This is because the lung is responsible for respiration. If interventions aren’t taken quickly, the patient can die from the condition. Other symptoms are coughing blood, feeling dizzy, and heart palpitations.

The same solution that applies to DVT also applies to Pulmonary embolism which involves preventing blood clots and dissolving the ones that have formed through the use of anticoagulants and thrombolytics. If interventions aren’t taken immediately, it can lead to sudden death,” she said.

Adegun emphasized the importance of compression socks, taking a walk for patients on a long hospital admission, and exercising, especially for people, who are obese. In addition, she recommended measures to prevent DVT and PE.

“When a patient is on admission for a very long time, doctors usually tell patients to walk around and sit up to prevent DVT. Any patient that will be on admission for too long should always wear Compression socks to prevent DVT and PE. Exercise is also very important. People, who are obese should exercise and every individual should maintain a healthy weight.”

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