21st Jan 2001, 16:58
SA Pilots Suffer DVT
From today's Johannesburg Sunday Times:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Pilots suffer deep-vein
SAA medical expert blames rise in 'economy-class syndrome' on growing
number of passengers in various states of health
SAA has revealed that two of its pilots have suffered deep-vein
thromboses - one of them twice - and that an air hostess is receiving
treatment after suffering one last year.
The pilot who had two clots suffered the second just two years ago.
The other pilot was diagnosed about three years ago. Both have
The airline's director of medical services, Dr Eric Peters, says that,
as far back as the late 1970s, a newly wed passenger in her early
20s died of a suspected pulmonary embolism on an aircraft just
before it landed in Paris.
"But I must stress that passengers in all classes, not just economy,
are at risk. It depends on the passenger."
He added that the condition was becoming more common because
more people in various states of health were flying. He could not say
if any SAA passengers had suffered thromboses, although he did
not discount the possibility. "You can only say for sure after a
postmortem," he said.
Meanwhile, a South African woman's life has become a nightmare
after she survived a deadly "economy-class syndrome" blood clot.
Marie Erasmus, 47, of Kempton Park, about 20km east of
Johannesburg, believes she suffered the deep-vein thrombosis after
flying to the Comores in June last year. She is now considering legal
action against Yemen Airways, which operates the Johannesburg
service to the Indian Ocean islands.
A thrombosis, which can develop into an embolism, and death, is
believed by many to be caused by sitting in a cramped position for
hours at a stretch.
Erasmus's doctor, who says she is lucky to be alive, has
recommended she stays on blood-thinning medication "indefinitely".
She has to sleep on a tilted bed, wear an orthopaedic stocking and
have her blood tested frequently. She cannot travel long distances
without stops or sit for any length of time.
"But even worse . . . if I cut myself my doctor says I can bleed to
death," says Erasmus, who used to run the family's busy
guesthouse and was active in the kitchen.
Erasmus only realised that her thrombosis could have been caused
by the flight to the Comores after reading an article in the Sunday
Times last week.
The article reported that an Australian law firm would represent
about 1 000 passengers who believe they suffered thromboses after
travelling on international airlines.
Erasmus said: "At the time my doctor was puzzled. Not only was I
too young but it was also not hereditary."
Erasmus says the first symptoms of the clot appeared a few days
after the return flight.
"The pain in my leg was incredible. I couldn't walk. A clot was
Her husband, Trevor, says his wife did not move out of her seat for
the almost four-hour flight.
"At no stage were we warned to exercise regularly. She could so
easily have died from the clot," he said.
Without referring to thromboses, SAA's latest in-flight magazine
shows passengers how to exercise in their seats, and plans are
afoot to introduce a video before takeoff warning passengers of the
dangers of not exercising during the flight.
Peters advises passengers uncertain of whether they are prone to
thromboses to consult a doctor before a long flight.
"Otherwise stay away from alcohol, don't take any hypnotic drugs,
like sleeping pills, exercise your legs at regular intervals and don't
pack bags under seats that may restrict leg movement," he said.
Ashford General Hospital, near Heathrow Airport in the UK,
estimated this week that about 2 000 passengers worldwide die
annually from post-flight thromboses, according to reports. </font>