In 2010, Brian Vickers’ life took a drastic turn. Taken to the emergency room, the doctors thought he was suffering with pneumonia. Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon. Blood clots are one of the most under-diagnosed conditions that individuals face.
On Wednesday, in association with Blood Clot Awareness Month, Vickers and Dr. Jack Ansell, a leading blood clot specialist and Professor of Medicine at Hofstra-North Shore/LIJ School of Medicine, held a web seminar to bring awareness to the illness.
Vickers was diagnosed with his first blood clot in 2010 at the young age of 26. Missing the remainder of the 2010 NASCAR season, Vickers fought hard to dissolve a blood clot in his left leg, lung and finger. He underwent heart surgery later that year to repair holes in his left and right atrium, a condition called May-Thurner Syndrome that he discovered he had.
With MTS, individuals are prone to more clots and for Vickers, more clots developed. In 2013, he was sidelined yet again with another blood clot and missed the rest of the season. He is back in 2014, now behind the wheel of the No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing full time and bringing Blood Clot Awareness to the forefront of his campaign.
“It’s something that very few people really know or understand the science and symptoms and take the time to research it,” Vickers said during the web seminar. “At the end of the day the most important thing you can do when you think something is wrong is go see your doctor. But taking the time to learn some of these symptoms and going to sites like TreatMyClot.com and learning more is critical.”
For Vickers and Dr. Ansell, raising awareness and helping people understand the signs and symptoms of a blood clot is their main goal.
Dr. Ansell explained that a blood clot in a deep vein, like Vickers experienced, is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) with signs and symptoms of
- Pain or tenderness
- Warmth or redness of the skin on the affected leg
A DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a blood clot that travels to the lungs, also something that Vickers suffered from in 2010.
For Vickers, experiencing shortness of breath and weakness were unusual but not alarming in 2010, until he finally went to the doctor and discovered the true cause of his symptoms. News of his first clot left him wondering if he would ever race again.
“The first time they started very subtle. I had shortness of breath, no real pain associated with it, I was just weak. The strength I had for normal physical activity was diminished and just really short of breath and didn’t know why,” Vickers said.
“I just thought, it’s an off day, and I just kept going and ignored it. Then that shortness of breath turned into pain and that pain became more and more often and more and more severe and even when it was painful, I largely ignored it. Just pure stubbornness and hardheaded, I thought I was young and invincible and clearly I wasn’t. Finally it got so bad that I had no choice but to go to the emergency room. I could hardly breathe and every breath was extremely painful, fortunately I did get there in time but I no doubt cut it close.”
Vickers and his doctors worked out a treatment plan to get him healthy and back in the car. Taking Warfarin, a blood thinner, and changing his diet, he worked hard and got back to racing. When the symptoms started resurfacing again in 2013, Vickers new he had to step back and take care of his health in order to be ready to race full-time in 2014.
In just a few short weeks, Vickers and MWR head to Fontana, California to compete in the Sprint Cup Series event at Auto Club Speedway. The No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota will partner with TreatMyClot.com and feature a purple paint scheme to raise awareness of blood clots.
“We’re really excited about that, it’s an amazing cause. We really hope to continue to raise a lot of awareness through the support of a lot of folks. If you think something is wrong, go see a doctor,” Vickers said. “That’s the biggest message, if you think something is wrong go see a doctor and encourage others.”