If you have to wear an elastic stocking why hide it?

The Stoker and her DVT in her own words

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In January 2001 I was inflicted with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and at times thought I might not be able to cycle again. If this brings to mind designer illnesses and jetting off to sunny climes think again. Just before Christmas 2000 I slipped off my bike while putting a letter in a letter box and got a small bruise on my leg. In the new year 2001 I went on a long coach journey to the North of England and Scotland. While I was away my leg hurt and was swollen and on my return I went to my GP. He had me in Dorset County Hospital that afternoon for a scan and I was admitted immediately with a DVT. A couple of weeks and some anticoagulants and you will be as right as rain they said. Two months later, most of which I spent as an inpatient, I realised how wrong they were. Having been on 50 mile club rides at Christmas, I could now only walk with difficulty to the end of the road. The doctors said I would need to take anticoagulants for life to deter it from happening again. I also have to wear a support stocking as the main vein is blocked and circulation bad. They had no real idea how much fitness I could expect to achieve, the only figure available simply gave mortality which it seemed I had not achieved.

In May 2001 on one of my frequent visits to my GP he asked if I was back on my bike. When I said no he said why not? Fortunately for me he is a cyclist. In the meantime Ken had been having new ideas for cycling mobility almost every week. In the end I managed my solo fine and he converted the rear of the tandem to have a freewheel. Now, on the tandem, I only have to pedal if I want to. Itís a stokerís dream and works fine although it does take great lengths of chain.

During the summer of 2001 I gradually built up my cycling fitness and in October we went on our first short tour in Spain on the tandem. The cycling was fine but my anticoagulation level, always volatile, was at a dangerous level when we returned home. Unless something could be done it ruled out any long trips away from home let alone cycle tours. It seemed that most travellers are tested at local hospitals and vary their anticoagulants dependent on the results. This is not very practical for cycle tourists. After some research I found that we could buy an electronic machine which did an optical measurement based on a drop of blood taken from my finger. It cost nearly as much as an average bike but was worth a try. We proved it was reliable and convinced the GP that I could self prescribe my warfarin while we were away.

The left side of the tandem showing the Stoker's free wheel

In February 2002 I had my final signing off meeting with my consultant. I went confident and came back totally dejected. I mentioned cycling with the club and longer trips. This upset him quite a lot and me even more. He was the one who had said a year before that I would be back on my bike in no time. By now I was beginning to learn how to work the system. Give me your authorities I said. He had a look on the internet but could find nothing to say cycling was bad. I discussed it with my GP. It seemed to be a trade off. I needed to exercise, could not walk very far but by now could do 30 miles on my solo. So cycling exercise was good for me. On the other hand the consultant thought the extra strain on the veins still working in my leg would be bad. Damned if you do and damned if you donít I decided to carry on improving my cycle mileage through the spring and prepare for a long tour.

The main difference between long tours now and previously is that we now have to be more organised and disciplined. We try to cycle no more than four hours a day and always take at least one day off a week. I always try to get my legs up and rested for a couple of hours each day. This is to persuade the blood to return to its rightful place. Almost worse I have to wear a helmet. I know they do no good in a crash but even a minor knock on the head can be dangerous for me. Ken tries to keep the speed down and avoid taking risks though he sometimes forgets. We also always have a mobile phone and would not like to travel to places where a helicopter could not be called out quickly. We would also call a taxi if things got too difficult though we have not yet had to resort to this.

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This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.