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COVID zapped UVA hoops: I almost got taken out by blood clots

chris graham blood clotsMy weird Friday started, like a lot of yours did, with the news that Virginia was out of the 2021 ACC Tournament.

Jumping ahead: I’m writing this Friday night from a hospital room, where I’m being observed overnight after doctors discovered that I had two rather impressive blood clots in my lungs.

It was these blood clots that had been making me cough through my last several broadcasts for ESPN+ and my sports podcasts for AFP.

They could very well have killed me, according to the specialist who is in charge of my treatment, if not for my overall strong cardiovascular health.

My father died in 2008 from a blood clot, so I’ve had my eye on anything resembling issues with clotting since.

This recent episode somehow still caught me by surprise.

It began four weeks ago with what I had assumed was a common chest cold.

I ruled out COVID – the doctors did as well, earlier today – at the outset for me, it was because I had no other symptoms, no fever, no loss of taste or smell.

Just the coughing.

And an interesting bit of fatigue, which for me would be relative.

I’ve reinvented myself in recent years into being an elite distance runner and cyclist, running three marathons, getting an hour-plus of cardio in every day – dropping from 300 pounds back in early 2014 to my fit 180 today.

So when I say I’ve been experiencing fatigue lately, again, relative.

My runs were slower, my Peloton rides less strenuous.

But of late, I’d begun noticing that I would be out of breath climbing stairs, which of course made no sense.

I run marathons.

Stairs are a challenge now?

This was some chest cold.

I broke the cardinal rule, began searching the googler to try to figure out what else it might be.

Blood clots only came to mind a couple of days ago.

I remembered early in this episode having sharp pains in my left calf that I couldn’t explain from an injury.

Could that have broken up and traveled up my leg to my lungs?

Turns out, yep, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went to the primary care doctor this morning assuming that I’d be told, you’re fine, here’s a Z-Pak, or whatever.

It shocked me that I was hooked up for an EKG, and then an internist came in to tell me something involving the word ischemia.

The office was calling an ambulance to take me to the hospital, no questions asked.

I looked up ischemia, and then it hit me: um, this can lead to a heart attack.

Two cardiologists greeted me at the ER, explained to me what would happen if they needed to make a call to transfer me to UVA.

I mentioned my web research into blood clots and my family history, and it was decided to put me through a CT scan to rule that out.

Which it did, by pinpointing the blood clots.

A later ultrasound then confirmed the origin in my left calf.

The treatment: blood thinners, which will probably be a part of my life for the duration.

Blood clots are usually an issue for people who are bed-ridden, obese, smokers, maybe travel long distances on a plane or in a car without moving.

I’m none of those.

This is hereditary, what killed my father, basically.

I made my lifestyle change a few years after his passing basically thinking that I needed to do something to try to buy myself a few extra years.

Dad died at 54; I’m 48.

The specialist is amazed that I was able to get out of bed this morning with the blood clots they uncovered in the CT scan.

The reason I’m here is my fitness.

All those miles on roads, on bikes.

Sweating on 90-degree days, dodging snowflakes.

Made it possible for me to continue functioning as these clots were conspiring to choke me out.

My everlasting gratitude to the staff at Stuarts Draft Family Practice, the doctors, specialists, nurses and others on staff at Augusta Health.

Twelve hours ago, I honestly thought ….

I dunno.

I’m still here.

And at some point soon, what’s going on with Virginia Basketball will be important again.

Can’t wait.

Story by Chris Graham


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