Meet Brian Vickers

Soon after I was diagnosed with DVT and PE in June 2012, I began searching the internet for more information about blood clots – what they were, what happened and what it meant for me long-term. I had never felt more scared and alone in my life. I had no one to talk to who had been through what I had, and I felt like no one was talking about what I soon found to be a serious and all-too common public health threat. According to Stop the Clot (National Blood Clot Alliance), one person dies every six minutes in this country from a pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the lung. Every minute of every day, someone is diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis – putting them at risk for a potentially deadly pulmonary embolism. The majority of these deaths could be prevented, but too many people don’t know the symptoms and signs, including medical professionals. Blood clots kill more people than AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined in a year, yet they are virtually unheard of by the general population. One of the reasons I started BCRN was to not only help people through the recovery process, but to raise awareness about this life-threatening condition. Throughout my recovery, I watched many celebrities and athletes survive DVT and PE, yet not talk about what happened to them in a public forum. While I realize that is a very personal choice (just like I chose to talk about it), I had hoped someone would come along who had the platform for raising awareness across the country and globe. That person is race car driver Brian Vickers. Not only is Brian a two-time blood clot survivor, he is also a widely recognized NASCAR Champion who has been very transparent in sharing his story and raising awareness about DVT and PE. And recently, I had the opportunity to meet Brian Vickers.

I have been fortunate enough to speak with Brian on two occasions about how blood clots have changed his life and about how he is raising awareness on and off the track. Since first reading about Brian’s story, which I encourage you to do here, I have felt a strong connection between what he went through and what I went through. We both were young (under 30), athletes and had clots come out of nowhere, completely altering our current life paths (his racing and mine running and a new career). Brian describes a lot of the emotions I felt during my diagnosis in this video of his story (click Watch his story) – emotions of hopelessness and loss that I think many of you can relate to. Brian also delivers a message of hope and that is, we’re all dealt a particular hand in life, which we can’t help, but it’s what we make of the hand we’re dealt that counts. According to Brian, “The good news is your life is not over! It might be different or over as you knew it, but it is not over. Life is what you make of it. You have to get up and keep fighting. Explore your alternatives, know your options. One, look at the bright side, your life may change, but it is not over and that in and of itself is a blessing [read more from this one-on-one interview with Brian].” In terms of awareness, Brian often sports the No. 55 Dream Machine sponsored by Xarelto, the Official Blood Thinner of Nascar and has a new commercial talking about his experiences with the medication (click Watch Our TV Commercial). I don’t know about you, but when I watch the clips, I feel like Brian is talking right to me about blood clots and his story – because he is!

I am extremely grateful to Brian for the time he has given to talk to me and you, the readers, and recently had the opportunity to thank him in person at the Kentucky Speedway. Not only was I excited to meet Brian Vickers, but it was my first-ever NASCAR event, which was thrilling in and of itself. I was able to meet Brian, chat with him for a few moments, shake his hand and extend my gratitude for his efforts in raising awareness – from me and all of BCRN. It was an experience that I will surely never forget.

Here are some pictures from the weekend to share with each of you.

Driving (via golf cart) down to the garages and pits.

Driving (via golf cart) down to the garages and pits.

Welcome to the Kentucky Speedway!

Welcome to the Kentucky Speedway!

Me, right after we arrived at the grages.

Me, right after we arrived at the garages.

The garages and grandstands in the background.

The garages and grandstands in the background.

The No. 55 hauler.

The No. 55 hauler.

No. 55 Dream Machine.

No. 55 Dream Machine.

The No, 55 waiting for an inspection in the rain.

The No, 55 waiting for an inspection in the rain.

Me and Brian.

Me and Brian.

 

Reader Writes In. Is there someone you admire who has survived a blood clot and gone on to talk about it? Did you know Brian Vickers is blood clot survivor? Are you a NASCAR fan? Have you been to a NASCAR race?

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

NASCAR’S Brian Vickers is Raising Blood Clot Awareness

He has a pretty cool – not to mention heart-pounding – job driving race cars for a living  and when he’s not doing that he enjoys extreme sports such as sky diving, mountain road biking, boxing and riding motorcycles. He believes in living life to the fullest, with no regrets and loves second chances. His motto is to never give up, play the hand you’re dealt to the best of your ability and keep pushing forward in spite of life’s many challenges. And, on top of all that, NASCAR’S Brian Vickers is raising blood clot awareness.
Source

Source

At age 8, Vickers purchased his first yard-kart with saved allowance money. Not long after, a friend of the family suggested he move up to a real racing go-kart and start competing. By the time he was 17 years old, he participated in his first nationwide motorcar race and at just 20 years old, he became the youngest champion in any of NASCAR’s three top three series when he won the 2003 Busch Series. He then won three races each in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide series. Most things always seemed easy to Brian until racing – and life – became more difficult than he could ever imagine.

In 2010, he was the top NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Contender when a blood clot in his leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) derailed that and changed his plans for the future. He went on a pretty standard treatment of blood thinners and after that, returned to racing in 2011 when another blood clot, this time in his lung (pulmonary embolism or PE), caused him to have to stop racing once again. Brian returned to racing this year, once again a contender in the Sprint Cup Chase, and  is raising blood clot awareness, including promoting some simple steps you can take during Blood Clot Awareness Month and afterwards to help others going through this type of devastating event.

“I am going to do everything I can to raise awareness, and I am very fortunate to have a platform to do that with my job because not everyone has that,” Vickers said, “There are a lot of very courageous people out there who have gone through a lot, experienced a lot and have a great message to deliver. The one thing I would ask is that you just raise awareness. You reach out. If people have questions you send them to sites like TreatMyClot.com so they can learn more and educate themselves and educate others. But, at the end of the day, I think the important thing is, if you think something is wrong, go see a doctor. That is one resounding message. If you think something is wrong, go see a doctor. That is the biggest thing people can do, not only for themselves, but to encourage others to do that as well.”

Dr. Jack Ansell, MACP, whose areas of interest and research include a special emphasis on thrombotic disorders and antithrombotic therapy, concurs that most people simply do not know what a DVT or PE is.

“Just about everyone understands the concept and what the word blood clot is,” Dr. Ansell states, “ but when you start talking about deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism the percentage of individuals who understand drops to about 25 percent or so.”

Brian agrees he had no idea what a DVT or PE was until it happened to him and knowing, in fact, can make a difference.  Everyone needs to know the signs and symptoms of blood clots.

The signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can include swelling; pain or tenderness; and warmth or redness of the skin on the affected leg. DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE) or a blood clot that travels to the lung and the symptoms can include shortness of breath, pain with deep breathing and coughing up blood. People who believe they are experiencing a DVT or PE should seek help right away. Knowing your body and what signs to watch out for is the key to taking care of yourself.

“Misdiagnoses of a blood clot is unfortunately common,” as in Brian’s case initially and Dr. Ansell further explains, “When people do go to the emergency room or to their doctor, the first thing on anybody’s mind is not necessarily a blood clot. With shortness of breath and chest pain a more common situation is pneumonia. We need to increase awareness to physicians as well. It’s not always the fault of the physician because these things are tough and not always as simple as we’ve described, but if you know about blood clots and you are very concerned and you bring that question up to the doctor by saying, ‘Doctor, could this be a blood clot in my lung or leg?’ the physician will usually exclude it if he thinks it could be a possibility. If you are not aware of the condition, you may never bring it to the doctor’s attention and if the doctor doesn’t see it as a possibility than it might get misdiagnosed.”

There are also a variety of risk factors for blood clots and understanding those can help people take steps to reduce their risk. You are at risk for a blood clot, including DVT or PE, if you have previously experienced a DVT or PE; sit in a plan or car for a long period of time; smoke, are overweight; have had a recent surgery; take birth control or hormone therapy; have a family history of DVT or PE; are pregnancy or are in the first six weeks after birth; are receiving cancer treatments; or are over 60 years old.

While sitting in a race car for long periods does not specifically put Brian at risk because his blood is constantly flowing due to the motion of the car (enough that he loses 5-7 pounds each race!) and movements he is able to make in his legs, he did take a long plane ride before his second clotting incident, which is believed to have put him at a higher risk. And while Brian currently stays active and fit by running, weight –lifting and yoga among other things, he and Dr. Ansell cannot stress enough that a blood clot can happen to anyone.

“Everyone is at risk for blood clots,” Dr. Ansell says, “Athletes and non-athletes alike. Some people have a predisposition, which could be hereditary, but for those sports and particularly athletes who are at risk for leg injuries like race car drivers like Brian or football players – or really any sport – if you fracture, injure or sprain an bone in your leg or ankle and are immobilized for any period of time, those are significant risk factors. While you would think being an athlete would decrease the risk, they actually do risky things that can increase it. The bottom line is we are all at risk for developing a blood clot.”

Brian recalls there was a time early on in his diagnoses where doctors were not sure if he would race again and that healing from this has been tough physically and emotionally.

“This was a difficult process to go through because I did not know anything and had to educate myself. Physically it was difficult because there were so many unknowns. On the emotional side, it takes a toll because it is a life-threatening experience you are moving on with and this knowledge of having gone though it is always in the back of your mind.”

Dr. Ansell goes on to say that people recovering from a blood clot can expect to take several weeks to recover, if not longer depending on the body and healing factors.

Throughout his recovery, though, Brian has exhibited an unparalleled courageous spirit and the will to “Never Give Up,” which has indeed become his motto while raising blood clot awareness.

“It is difficult at times, but you have to have faith that things happen for a reason. I took this opportunity to learn, raise awareness for this issue and focus on the positives. When you are lying in that hospital bed, it is hard to find positives, but keep your eyes open, have faith, look and listen and something will come along. Not maybe when you want it to come along, but it will. You try to make the best of it, focus on what you can do to control it. You can’t control the hand you were dealt, but you can control how you play it. In the real world it is unlikely that you get a re-deal. You just make the most of what you got and keep charging forward,” Vickers said.

Vickers goes on to say, “It has changed a lot of things in my life. I look back at the things I experienced and I am very grateful. I’ve become aware of just how fragile life really is in my faith and also in my appreciation for my career. I think that in some ways it’s a blessing. I think every breath is a blessing for every single one of us. Whether it’s a major medical incident or not, the ones who have had something like that happen are lucky enough to realize just how fragile each of those breaths are.”

And he has indeed passed on that spirit of gratefulness to his fans, which he credits for supporting him through one of the toughest times in his young life.

“How I interact with my fans has changed dramatically,” he said, “I have to give a shout out to the fans because they are brave for what they have gone through too. I have met so many courageous individuals out there who have gone through so much like me and they just don’t have the voice or the platform that I do and certainly hearing those stories has touched me and inspired me in a lot of ways.”

Brian is taking his given platform and used it to further awareness about education and blood clots. The 55 Dream Machine will make a new appearance this weekend at the Fontana race and fans might notice the new color scheme is purple and white with TreatMyClot.com across the hood. And that’s exactly how NASCAR’S Brian Vickers is raising blood clot awareness.

“I am fortunate enough to have a really cool job that people want to hear about,” Vickers said, “I’m hoping to raise support through awareness from a lot of folks. I hope this makes a difference for thousands if not hundreds of thousands.”

Source

Source

For more information about Brian visit:
For more information about blood clots, including signs, symptoms, risk factors and what you can do to help raise awareness visit:
Sources:
Thank you to Janssen, Brian Vickers and Dr. Ansell for this opportunity to discuss Blood Clot Awareness Month with you.

 

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

 

Recovering with Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers Cover with flags

When I was first diagnosed with at DVT and subsequent PE in June of 2012, I had never felt more alone in my entire life. Once I reached out to some support group online, my loneliness turned into a desire to help bring awareness to blood clots and the life-threatening dangers they present. Ever since then, I have hoped that someone who had experienced a blood clot and someone who was well-known too, would choose to raise awareness and help bring education to the subject. Celebrities, athletes, actors and musicians have all experienced blood clots – none are precluded from the danger – but few have chosen to use their experience to make a difference.

All of that changed when Brian Vickers, one of the most diverse drivers in motorsports, experienced not one, but two blood clots that completely altered the course of his career – and he decided to make awareness a part of his passion. Brian Vickers  is the driver of the No. 55 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as well as the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series. He was the 2003 Busch Series champion, and at age 20, became the youngest champion in any of NASCAR’s three top-tier series.

Source: //www.facebook.com/BrianVickers

Source: //www.facebook.com/BrianVickers

Brian most recently missed the end of the 2013 Sprint Cup season after being placed on blood thinners for a blood clot in his right calf. Before that, he missed the final 25 races of the 2010 season while recovering from blood clots and heart surgery. Through it all, Brian has remained positive and optimistic about racing in 2014, living life to the fullest and racing in the upcoming Daytona 500. Just under 30 years old by the time he experienced his second clotting incident, Brian decided that to give up and give in, was just not an option and he has been fighting ever since, including personally supporting Clot Connect to raise awareness about blood clots and the associated dangers. He encourages his fans to do the same in supporting a noteworthy cause. Brian believes education is paramount in the fight against blood clots and that each day we are here to continue living is a blessing. While life after two blood clots may be different for Brian, it hasn’t stopped him from chasing his dreams and doing what he loves – both on and off the track.

Source: //www.aaronssports.com/

Source: //www.aaronssports.com/

Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a few moments to speak with Brian about his clotting incident and his road to recovery, including his return to racing. Here is what he had to say.

BCRN: What is your story?

Brian: For me, it started back in 2010, everything was normal and then one day I had shortness of breath and pain in my legs and I ignored it, not knowing what it was, until it was almost too late and I could hardly breathe. Thankfully, I made it to the hospital. I was originally diagnosed with pneumonia, before they figured out it was a blood clot in my leg and lung. It was a shocking experience. Then, late this year [2013], I had to wear a boot for a month after spraining my foot, which lead to a clot in my right calf. This time, I had pain and slight swelling and due to better education and knowing what was going on, I called my doctor right away. I got treatment and now I am taking medication once a day.

BCRN: I can’t imagine going through what I did twice, how have you been able to handle it?

Brian: Speaking to a doctor is important, especially the second time around. For me, it was shocking and difficult to go through twice, but the second time was easier than the first.

BCRN: What has your treatment been like after your second clot and how has that impacted your career?

Brian: Being on blood thinners has kept me out of a car for the remainder of this season. Right now, I am on a regiment to finish treatment at the end of January and start racing again in February on the track to the Daytona 500. In health and in life, anything can happen. I could fall down the stairs tomorrow, but in a few months I can go back to racing and I am very much looking forward to that.

BCRN: Do you worry about having another clotting incident requiring you to take blood thinners for an extended period of time?

Brian: Having a clot twice, you can’t argue that I might be more prone than someone else, but at this point and after talking to my doctor’s, being on or off blood thinners could go either way – both carry their own risk. I prefer not to be on lifelong blood thinners due to my love of action and the outdoors. My goal is to get off blood thinners and get back to living my life. It will always be in the back of my mind, but I try not to let it be there.

BCRN: Any great health and medication management tips for people taking blood thinners?

Brian: I use Care4Today to manage my medication and it helps a lot. At first I was taking shots, which was horrible; then Coumadin, which required weekly draws and dietary restrictions; and now I am on Xarelto, which I love due to the lack of monitoring and restrictions. I get busy and Care4Today helps me stay on track.

BCRN: How have you handled your recovery over the last several months?

Brian: I was dealt a hand in life and I’ve been getting through it with support from family and friends. My wife has done phenomenal job of helping me get back on track. I have great doctors that have allowed me to keep doing some of what I love doing.

BCRN: What do you love to do (besides racing, of course) and how have you been able to still live an active life on blood thinners?

Brian: I love to skydive, race cars of course, kayak and snow ski. Some things I can do and some things I can’t while I am on blood thinners. I can’t be in a race car on blood thinners. I had a lot more restrictions in the beginning of my recovery than I do now, though. You will always have some restrictions while on blood thinners, I think, but you find things you love to do and do them.

BCRN: How have your experiences inspired you to be an activist bringing awareness to the dangers of blood clots?

Brian: Thanks to people committed to raising awareness about clotting there comes an understanding and a level of comfort that comes with knowledge. You reach a certain level of comfort that you can go out and live your life again. Knowing the signs and symptoms of blood clots – check it out if you have a concern and get it taken care of before it becomes a life-threatening issue. That makes a huge difference for me. I want to raise awareness so people can go and live their lives and even reaching a few people matters.

BCRN: What, for you, is the key factor in raising awareness?

Brian: We’re all doing a small part to raise awareness. Hearing stories like yours makes me motivated to get the word out. It is very serious, but it can be managed and you can live a life and an even better life than you used to! Education is the most important factor to me. Go to the doctor, talk to your doctor, and know your risks and your own body.

BCRN: What would you say to someone who is struggling to get their life back on track after experiencing a blood clot, like many of my readers may be?

Brian: The good news is your life is not over! It might be different or over as you knew it, but it is not over. Life is what you make of it. You have to get up and keep fighting. Explore your alternatives, know your options. One, look at the bright side, your life may change, but it is not over and that in and of itself is a blessing. And two, talk to your doctor about what makes sense to you and what you are battling, look for alternatives if something is not working for you. It feels like a constant battle and the world is against you at times, but don’t ever give up.

BCRN: What advice would you give to aid someone in recovery?

Brian: I want to help people get back out and do. Everyone goes through what they have to and can only do what they are comfortable with, but you can still do what you love. Talk to your doctor and live your life doing what you love.

Visit the links below to learn more about…

There is hope for healing and you are not alone,

0-BLOG SIGNATURE SARA

Thank you to Brian and his team for arranging this interview with BCRN! I am beyond grateful that you took time to not only answer my questions, but help promote awareness for blood clots. Best of luck to you this racing season!