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Running For Health Casts Light On Serious Medical Issue

Tom Renner, running in a race in Norwalk last year, used the activity to help diagnose a life-threatening situation due to clotting.
Tom Renner, running in a race in Norwalk last year, used the activity to help diagnose a life-threatening situation due to clotting. Photo Credit: Photo by Kathryn Stoker

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Running became my life partner 40 years ago. Like most long-term relationships, we have had ups and downs, even a brief separation many years ago. Recently, however, another health crisis reminded me how lucky I am that our marriage has endured.

Last weekend, I spent two days in Danbury Hospital with blood clots in my leg and lungs. “It was a very dangerous situation,’’ said my primary care physician, Dr. Byron Thomas. “You’re a lucky man.”

The path that steered me to seek medical attention came from running. In late February, I planned a run approaching 12 miles. Every Sunday, I ran double-digit mileage for training. I believed my fitness level was as good as it ever has been.

This time, though, I couldn’t finish 3 miles. I tried everything to continue. I walked to regroup, but it yielded little. I finished 5 miles and figured it was fatigue.

After a week of similarly lackluster workouts, I decided to stop for a week. I thought a long winter of training had caught up with me. After a day or two, my left calf become considerably swollen. I finally set up an appointment with Dr. Thomas – which is tantamount to waving the white flag for me – and sought his opinion.

He immediately figured clots had returned. I had endured clotting two years ago but thought we had the problem solved. I came off of thinners late last year. There were no indicators that clots would return.

After a scan of my left leg revealed deep venous thrombosis (DVTs), Thomas asked that I go to the emergency room for a chest scan to be certain clots had not spread to my lungs. I figured I’d be home that night. An MRI of my chest revealed multiple clots in my lungs. I wasn’t going anywhere. I stayed in the hospital for two days and am on blood thinners, probably for life. Doctors are unsure why the clots returned.

This is not the first time running saved me from serious health situations. When I had clots two years ago, I endured leg pain for nearly a month before figuring out, finally, that it was unrelated to running. On two other instances, I didn’t feel quite right in training and decided to get medical attention. Potentially serious situations were warded off by prompt attention.

Many espouse the benefits of fitness. For me, it has been helpful in knowing when things are right or wrong. I'm fortunate my relationship with running has endured all these years. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

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