Wood’s blood-clot trauma

Tom Wood was left in agony and strug­gling to breathe by an em­bolism that ap­peared in the Northamp­ton flanker’s lung

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Daniel Schofield deputy rugby cor­re­spon­dent MeatEater.

Eng­land and Northamp­ton flanker Tom Wood has re­vealed how he was dou­bled up in pain as the re­sult of a blood clot which mi­grated to his lung. The 33-yearold says the pain was so se­vere that his wife was even check­ing his life in­sur­ance pol­icy and will. He is hop­ing to re­turn to ac­tion in the Pre­mier­ship semi-fi­nals.

With his mat­ter-of-fact de­liv­ery, Tom Wood sounds like he is de­scrib­ing a rou­tine in­jury rather than a pul­monary em­bolism, which left the Northamp­ton flanker un­able to lie down for five days and had his wife check­ing the life in­sur­ance pol­icy.

A pul­monary em­bolism is the re­sult of a blocked blood ves­sel in the lungs, which can be life-threatSo, en­ing if not caught early enough. It is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with smok­ers, long-haul fliers and those who lead a seden­tary life­style.

Wood fits into none of those cat­e­gories. The 33-year-old had come out of lock­down in su­perb shape, post­ing pic­tures of him­self lift­ing home­made log bar­bells on­line.

So, there was no hint of a warn­ing sign a month ago when he went to bed on a Tues­day night. A deep sleeper, Wood woke at 5am with a sear­ing pain in his chest that he was un­able to shift.

An­other thing to note about Wood is that even within rugby cir­cles, he is known for hav­ing a ridicu­lously high pain thresh­old that has al­lowed him to ac­crue more than 200 ap­pear­ances for Northamp­ton and 50 Eng­land caps. He has bro­ken more bones in his body than many peo­ple knew ex­isted.

when he says the pain he ex­pe­ri­enced that day was “right up there”, it is safe to as­sume this rep­re­sented the purest form of agony.

“Symp­tom-wise, it was real hard chest pains,” Wood says. “I couldn’t stand up straight. It was fold­ing me in half. I was hunched over and pant­ing, like I had been winded. I couldn’t sit up and open my chest.”

Taken to Northamp­ton Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, Wood un­der­went a bat­tery of tests.

“It took them til about 2pm to find the prob­lem and I was be­gin­ning to feel like a fraud by then as I was sat there feel­ing good on the mor­phine, but all the tests came back neg­a­tive,” Wood says.

“I was think­ing, ‘Blimey, I’ve wasted ev­ery­one’s time and made a big fuss over noth­ing’. Then they did a con­trast CT scan where they in­ject con­trast dye into you, and they found the clot. It wasn’t a scar­ily big one, but de­cent enough that they found it and put me on blood thin­ners straight away.”

A clot that orig­i­nated in his calf had lodged in his lung, known as an “in­farc­tion”. As he was oth­er­wise healthy, Wood was dis­charged that af­ter­noon, in part be­cause he was next to the Covid-19 ward. How­ever, he soon found that the painkiller­s he was pre­scribed were in­suf­fi­cient to stem his dis­com­fort.

“I don’t think it touched the sides,” Wood says. “I could have prob­a­bly taken dou­ble or triple. I couldn’t lie on my back and sleep. I was in too much pain. I had to work un­be­liev­ably hard to get con­trol of my breath­ing. I was pant­ing and I had to re­ally work to get con­trol of it, so I could re­lax.”

De­spite his sit­u­a­tion, Wood in­sists he re­mained pretty calm, even if his fam­ily were fear­ing the worst.

“A lot of peo­ple have said you must have been ter­ri­fied or scared or what­ever, but I wouldn’t de­scribe it as any of those things,” he says. “I am al­ways pretty mat­ter of fact about it. I don’t get too worked up about those things – it is more about my mum and my mis­sus who have been a bit be­sides them­selves. The mis­sus checked the life in­sur­ance and the will and ev­ery­thing was in or­der pretty quick.”

Af­ter his stay in hos­pi­tal, Wood was con­fined to his sofa for the bet­ter part of a week, mainly spent watch­ing Net­flix’s “I couldn’t get off the sofa without hav­ing an episode,” Wood says. “I didn’t sleep in my own bed for four or five days be­cause I couldn’t lie down. I had to sleep up­right.”

Af­ter that scare, Wood has suf­fered no fur­ther symp­toms. Within a week, he was back train­ing with his usual fe­roc­ity, but he is not al­lowed to en­gage in con­tact ses­sions be­cause of his blood thin­ners.

His re­turn date has been pen­cilled in for the Pre­mier­ship semi-fi­nals, although he is hop­ing to per­suade his con­sul­tant to sanc­tion an ear­lier come­back. Oth­er­wise “I just need the boys to do a job and then I will come in and do a John Terry at the last minute”.

‘I was hunched over and pant­ing, like I had been winded. I couldn’t sit up’

Road to re­cov­ery: Tom Wood has re­turned to Northamp­ton, but has not yet re­sumed con­tact train­ing

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