What was reported as a non-serious health issue brought a premature end to Chris Jericho’s tour of the UK with his band, Fozzy, in December.
Turns out the health issue was quite serious: pulmonary embolism, blood clots that typically form in other parts of the body and make their way through the bloodstream to the lungs, and if left untreated, can be fatal.
Jericho’s PE was closer to the possibly fatal range than maybe even he knows.
“I found myself searching for breath and gasping for breath during the songs to where it was hard to even sing all the lyrics,” Jericho said, describing the first signs of the health scare on his “Talk is Jericho” podcast.
He felt short of breath after another show, and his doctor then told him to go to the hospital, he said, though he didn’t listen, and continued on the tour, and continued having issues.
He finally had a doctor visit him at the Hard Rock in London.
“About an hour later, I get a call, ‘You have blood clots. We can tell by the blood that we drew. You have to go directly to the hospital,’” Jericho said.
He could “barely walk” into the hospital, he said.
“Walking across the lobby to get to the car to go to the hospital was a real task. It was terrifying. Three steps, and I was just huffing and puffing, and heart is pounding,” Jericho said.
A subsequent CT scan revealed his lungs were filled with blood clots.
That’s the PE.
I know a lot about PEs because, like Jericho, I’ve lived through one.
I was diagnosed with a PE in March 2021. In my case, I’d had a persistent cough for a few weeks, but I thought it was just a lingering cold.
I’d feel a little winded when I’d walk up steps, which was odd, considering that I’m a marathon runner and serious Pelotoner, but again, I thought it was just a cold.
Frustrated that it just wouldn’t go away, I finally went to my primary care physician to get checked out, and was told after a brief exam that I was having a heart attack, which turned out not to be the case, but still, that moment scared the s— out of me, and would for months thereafter.
Jericho was similarly “freaked out” when his reality began to sink in.
“It was horrible,” he said. Oxygen levels “are supposed to be 100, you know, 98, 99, 100. Mine was down to 92, and they said, ‘If this goes lower, we’re going to have to put you on a breathing,’ not a breathing tube, but put you on oxygen.”
He was eventually put on oxygen, which shows how bad the situation was.
“I was just thinking, ‘Give me some pills, and I’m on my way’,” Jericho said. “They tell me very soon after, ‘Yes, you’ve had a pulmonary embolism.’ ‘What does that mean?’ ‘It means that your lungs are filled with blood clots, and you are now staying in the hospital.’”
Fortunately for me, my situation never got that bad. I remember my oxygen levels being in the 94-96 range, but I did get the warning that I would need to go on oxygen if they were to go lower.
They didn’t. I had an overnight stay and was released the next morning.
Jericho had an extended hospital stay, and then was told that he wouldn’t be able to fly home for the holidays because his oxygen levels still weren’t stable.
Walking out of the hospital “was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Jericho said, “because I was like, OK, I’m out of the hospital, I made it,’ and they were concerned about a lot of things, but at least I was out.”
Pulmonary embolism, if untreated, is fatal in an estimated 30 percent of cases, according to the National Institutes of Health, so, yes, walking out of a hospital after experiencing one is a life-changing kind of thing.
My father died in 2008, at the age of 54, from a pulmonary embolism.
I was 48 when I had my PE episode. Jericho was 51.
Post-PE treatment is a prescription blood thinner, and for those like Jericho, and like me, who have a hereditary gene that contributes to the formation of blood clots, it’s typically something that we’ll be on for the rest of our lives, to prevent future blood-clot episodes.
I was back running and Pelotoning within a week. Jericho took a couple of months off from wrestling, which is a bit more involved, using the time to shed weight – dropping from 241 pounds at the time of his PE to the 209 he weighs in at today – before returning to the ring on Feb. 16 for a tag match on AEW “Dynamite.”
He said on the podcast that he goes off the blood thinner 36 hours before a match, which I can confirm is a necessity – I had minor jaw surgery in December, and needed to go off my thinner a day before, just to prevent any excess bleeding.
Keep this in mind next week when you watch Jericho and Eddie Kingston in the barbed-wire match on “Dynamite.”
For the first few weeks after my PE, I was scared to cut myself shaving. Jericho is out there doing “Blood & Guts” matches, with Kingston promising to drink his blood.
I took my PE experience as a wake-up call.
Jericho did as well.
“It’s just good to know that when I had this warning about my health from God that I was able to really take advantage of that and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
One last note from Jericho that I would wholeheartedly endorse and reinforce:
“I’ll end it off with this. If you guys are having any warnings for anything, please go get checked out.”
Pulmonary embolism: What you need to know
Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have underlying lung or heart disease.
Common signs and symptoms, courtesy the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Shortness of breath. This symptom typically appears suddenly and always gets worse with exertion.
- Chest pain. You may feel like you’re having a heart attack. The pain is often sharp and felt when you breathe in deeply, often stopping you from being able to take a deep breath. It can also be felt when you cough, bend or stoop.
- The cough may produce bloody or blood-streaked sputum.
Other signs and symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Excessive sweating
- Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf caused by a deep vein thrombosis
- Clammy or discolored skin (cyanosis)
When to see a doctor
Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or a cough that produces bloody sputum.