Image: Melanie Bloom
Dorothy Shi
Melanie Bloom is spokesperson for the Coalition to Prevent DVT.
By
NBC News
updated 10/6/2009 1:11:47 PM ET 2009-10-06T17:11:47

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with Melanie Bloom, spokesperson for the Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis.

DVT is a potentially fatal condition in which a blood clot forms in a vein that is deep inside the body. Bloom has worked to raise public awareness and further health education about DVT since losing her husband, NBC News correspondent David Bloom, seven years ago. David Bloom died suddenly from DVT-related complications while covering the war in Iraq.

The coalition has created a video, 2009 Coalition to Prevent DVT PSA, to educate people about DVT.

Melanie Bloom is among the featured participants Wednesday, Oct. 7, at New York Presbyterian Hospital's Women's Health Symposium on DVT. The hospital recently launched an initiative aimed at reducing the incidence of DVT.

Question: Can you tell me about deep-vein thrombosis?

Bloom: Deep-vein thrombosis is essentially a blood clot that usually forms in the legs, and it can become, and usually is, fatal, when that clot breaks free, travels to the lungs, blocks the flow of oxygen into the lungs and becomes what is called a pulmonary embolism, or a PE. And are they usually fatal? The statistics are staggering. Up to 2 million Americans each year develop DVT or the blood clot; out of that, 600,000 go on to hit the lungs or become a PE. When that happens 50 percent of the time it’s fatal. Three-hundred-thousand deaths each year are attributed to this. My husband was one of those.

Q: Could you tell me about your involvement with this cause?

Bloom: Back in 2003, my husband, David Bloom, was an NBC News Correspondent. He was embedded with the troops in Iraq. He was with the 3rd Infantry Division, covering the war live, as it happened. The bitter irony is that he did lose his life covering this war but it wasn’t a bomb or a bullet, but actually something inside of his own body, it was this blood clot. I’ve oftentimes referred to that clot in his body as the bomb that lied within his own body. So, unbeknownst to us, the clot developed.

One morning they were going to roll and take Baghdad. His photographer looked over and David had collapsed on the desert floor. They tried to revive him, to no avail, and it was because the clot, that we didn’t even know was there, had traveled up to the lungs, and hit the lungs and took his life. He was only 39 years old. We had three little girls at home at the time. It was devastating on so many levels. But to find out it was something that could be prevented, and something that effects so many people, was news to me. I had never heard of it before I got the call that he died from it.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Women’s Health Symposium at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, and why the Educational Resource Center at the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center has been chosen to benefit from the event?

Bloom: Their Educational Resource Center is benefiting from this symposium because they do kind of what I’ve been doing for these past six years, which is trying to raise awareness — not just about DVT but about a variety of diseases and provide information that’s really vital to all of our well-being. It’s just a great place to get up-to-date information and cutting-edge resources. It helps people make educated decisions about their own health care. That’s sort of my mantra, too: for people to be proactive in their own health care because knowledge is power. The Educational Resource Center has that same philosophy.

The Women’s Health Symposium is a wonderful lecture series. And I’m just completely honored that they asked me to speak about my personal experience with DVT to try to have my story resonate with people, so that people understand that it can impact anyone at anytime in their lives. Since 2000, over $300,000 has been raised by this Women’s Health Symposium for the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center. So it’s a very worthy endeavor. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.

Q: Have you had a particularly moving experience, while working with this cause?

Bloom: There’s been so many moving experiences that it’s hard to pick one, but I’ll tell you one very recently. I was in Sacramento doing an awareness event at a hospital. The day that I arrived, the doctor with whom I was giving the presentation told me that that very week he had two DOAs, dead on arrivals. One was a 13-year-old girl, who had broken her ankle, had leg pain, but of course, she had a broken ankle, so no one thought anything about it. But then, by the time she reached the shortness of breath stage, they rushed her into the hospital, but she didn’t make it, even to arrive in the emergency room. That same week, a 31-year-old woman pulled over to the side of the road with shortness of breath. By the time the ambulance got her from the road and drove her into the hospital, she was gone. And I had this horrible sense of getting there too late.

I know that sounds crazy, but when I do these events, I do go on the local media, and I speak at the hospitals, and I try to get my message out there so that people will pay attention to their bodies and to the warning signs and symptoms. The flip side of this story is that then that day we did our presentation and I went on the local news. Two of the people who came to the hospital for a risk assessment ended up being admitted into the hospital with a clot that had hit the lungs, and they lived. For me, it was just a microcosm of the work I’m doing.

There’s still more people to reach, and to reach them in time. Also the joy of knowing the people, by the way, who came into the hospital and said, “Oh, we saw you on the news this morning!” One woman drove for two hours to get to the hospital, she had been having symptoms. It wasn’t until the news program, with my story about David, that it prompted her to come. It’s meeting people like that really moves me and inspires me to keep on doing this work.

Q: What are the important facts people should know about this condition?

Bloom: When we do our events we encourage people to find out their level of risk for DVT. That’s so important because preventing the clot is the best way to not be one of the statistics of this condition. I’ll just give you a few of the more common risk factors: hospital stays put you at greater risk; people with cancer; or people undergoing orthopedic surgery of any kind: hip replacement, or I mentioned the girl with the broken ankle; obesity; smoking; age — the older you get, the greater your risk; women, actually, are at significantly higher risk when they’re taking the birth control pill, or when they’re pregnant, or if they’re on hormone replacement therapy. Another important thing to note is it takes a combination of risk factors, having three or more should be enough for you to go speak to your doctor about your level of risk.

I forgot to mention immobility. Sitting for long periods of time, whether it’s in a car, or in an airplane, at your computer. My husband, for example, was in a tank with his knees pulled up to his chin night after night. Anything that restricts the flow of circulation through your legs. The combination of those risk factors is when it becomes very urgent to know if you fall into that risk area.

Another important thing to know is how to prevent it. Simple ways are moving around on that airplane, or getting up from your desk or the computer, drinking lots of water, staying hydrated. There are more aggressive forms of prevention like compression stockings; the doctor can fit people for those stockings if your risk is high. Then there are even more medications and things that can be given for people at very high risk.

Another important fact I will say is to maybe go to our Web site, preventdvt.org, that would be great for people to do because the risk assessment tool is right there. There’s a wealth of resources also on the Web site for people to take a look at and learn more.

Q: What can people do to help?

Bloom: We’d love for people to come to the symposium and listen to the speakers and the other physicians who are speaking. Visit our Web site. Be proactive in your own health care. That’s, again, my message to people because I really don’t want anybody to learn about DVT the hard way, the way that I learned and my three little girls learned about it. DVT can be prevented if you just know what it is and know whether you’re at risk.

More on: David Bloom   |  deep-vein thrombosis

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