When I travel abroad, which I do frequently for work, I try to run every day for an hour. It gives me energy and a great look at my new surroundings. After starting a run in Manila recently, I stopped three minutes into it. My breathing was shallow and labored. I also had nagging pain in my calves. The discomfort had been with me since I landed in the Philippines four days earlier.
So that morning I ran, walked, ran and walked for 30 minutes. I was confused, but I dismissed it as lingering jet lag and a byproduct of the intense heat. I decided to stop running for the rest of my trip, and wrote later in my running blog about how I was pushing myself perhaps too much.
Indeed, I was.
Back in Washington a few days later, I again was out of breath. But this time, I had just walked up two flights of stairs at home. Something was wrong. I opened my laptop computer, connected to Google, typed in “shortness of breath + calf pain + long flight,” and found a possible cause that turned me cold: deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clotting, that could travel up to my lung and cause a pulmonary embolism, a sudden blockage in a lung artery. And that, I read, could kill me.