Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I pick on Vice President Deferral Dick Cheney sometimes for being another White House warrior eager to send other people to do the fighting, while he himself wangled five deferments to avoid Vietnam service. ("I had other priorities," he was famously quoted as explaining).

But I'm sorry to hear the vice president has developed a blog clot in his lower left leg, a problem specifically known as deep-vein thrombosis. This can be a very dangerous condition, especially if a piece of the clot breaks away and migrates to the lungs, where death can be almost instantaneous through a pulmonary embolism.

Travelers, especially those middle-aged and older, should be aware of the condition, because deep vein thrombosis (called DVT) is often associated with the relative immobility imposed on the body and especially the legs by long-distance travel.

It has also been called Economy Class Syndrome because of the cramped conditions that tight seating on long-haul flights puts on the legs.

But DVD isn't associated only with coach travel.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed a former vice president, Dan Quayle, who suffers from the condition and was promoting awareness as a paid spokesman for a company that sells medication to treat it. Like a lot of people, Mr. Quayle travels in first class when he isn't flying in private jets -- and he still suffers from the condition.

Mr. Cheney, of course, travels in the splendor of a private government 747 with a bed and plenty of room to spread out. Yet he was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis shortly after his return recently from a grueling nine-day world trip.

Various travel sites give good advice on trying to avoid DVT problems while flying on long trips. Basically, you should get up and move around a bit from time to time (which obviously is a major challenge when you're wedged in a middle seat in coach). The primary symptoms are pain and swelling in the calf or ankle. Some travel-gear companies sell tight-fitting "flight socks" designed to keep blood from pooling in the lower leg during long flights.

www.economyclasssyndrome.net is one of the many Web sites with good advice and links.

It isn't something to fool around with, and it's very painful. We can only wish the vice president a speedy recovery.

--And note that with all those deferrals, he's luckily not a veteran, where he might have to worry about being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


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