A slip on some tiles near a pool brought a halt to Melbourne mum Anna Bowditch’s holiday fun in Hawaii. But neither Bowditch nor her husband Steve could have suspected that the slip would set off a chain of events that would eventually result in her death.
The poolside slip, in 2014, left Bowditch with a broken leg. She flew back to Australia with her leg in a cast, propped up on her young daughter Natalia’s fold-down meal table. About a week after arriving back in Australia, Bowditch had surgery on her leg, but there were complications. She died a few days later, following a stroke believed to have been caused by a clot in her brain.
According to a report in The Age, it’s believed that the flight from Hawaii caused Bowditch to develop deep vein thrombosis – also known as economy class syndrome – which involves blood clots forming in the legs.
A coronial inquest into Bowditch’s death will be held next month. Her family are suing her Australian orthopaedic surgeon and anaesthetist, saying they should have taken DVT into consideration before they operated.
The family’s lawyer, Tom Ballantyne from Maurice Blackburn, told The Age that Bowditch had so many of the risk factors for DVT.
“I would say that’s something that is pretty well accepted by everyone involved in the case,” he said.
The doctors involved in the case declined to comment to The Age.
A link between long-distance flights and DVT was first suggested decades ago. It’s regularly made the news over the years.
In 2014, 32-year-old UK woman Liz Cooper died just three hours after stepping off a flight from the Canary Islands. Celebrities aren’t immune, either. In 2011, tennis player Serena Williams was hospitalised with a pulmonary embolism believed to have been caused by DVT.
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In 2015, an inquest was held in South Australia into the deaths of two people, Philip Byrne and Jacqueline Weaver, from DVT. The inquest recommended that more consideration should be given to long-distance flights as a risk factor.
Melbourne GP Dr Nick Carr says DVT is “quite common.”
“It happened to a friend of mine who got pulmonary emboli after a long-haul flight and it could have killed him,” he tells Mamamia.
Dr Carr says there are several groups of people that are at higher risk. These include anyone has recently had an operation on their leg, leaving it immobilised.
“So that’s where [Anna Bowditch] was at risk, because her leg was in plaster,” he adds.
Smokers, women on the contraceptive pill, people who are obese and people with cancer are also at higher risk. As well, the risk increases with age.