Fear of Flying

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Liz Gibson was spending a lazy Sunday in her home in eastern England last year when she noticed a strange, tugging sensation in the left side of her chest. The pain — which Gibson, then 48, likens to a pulled muscle — worsened throughout the day, leaving her puzzled and fearful. By nightfall she was finding it difficult to breathe. Early the next morning, she was in the emergency ward of her local hospital surrounded by staff trying to establish the cause of her distress. After they had given Gibson oxygen and tested for a heart attack, one of them asked her, "Have you recently been on a long-haul flight?"

Yes, she had. Five days earlier Gibson had taken an 11-hour trip back to Britain from a holiday in New Orleans. Based on this information, hospital staff quickly diagnosed a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal lung complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — blood clots in the veins — a condition that is often prompted by prolonged periods of immobility. Some experts believe DVT can affect as many as one in 20 aircraft passengers. Gibson stayed in the hospital for five days receiving anticoagulants. It didn't put her off flying altogether, but it did make her aware of some of the unexpected hazards of air travel. "I'm fortunate to be alive," she says. "Airlines can't just bury their heads in the sand. They have a duty to inform people of the risks of flying." Full Story...